The Death Race (Universal) vs. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) weekend battle I was expecting has not materialized. Instead, Anna Faris as The House Bunny (Sony) has managed an upside surprise with a well-above-expectations $5.9M on Friday. Industry tracking pointed toward a strong opening for the Jason Statham action picture and something softer for the PG-13 comedy Bunny, but that audience research does not always pan out.
For Faris, the always-funny star of Scary Movies 1 thru 4, this represents a box office breakout . In fact, it is her all-time best non-Scary Movie opening, topping Just Friends ($9.2M). Still, The House Bunny will almost certainly be front-loaded with Females Under 25 showing up on opening day, and it is likely to sink to #2 for the weekend with an estimated $14.4M.
That opens the door for a repeat win for Tropic Thunder, which grabbed an estimated $4.9M on its 2nd Friday. Michael Phelps and NBC’s Olympics coverage has clearly been a drag on the performance of this very funny, critically well-received movie industry satire, but it will finish with about $15.8M for 3-days as the Summer Games wind down, representing just a 39% drop from last weekend. That will push the Ben Stiller-directed film to over $65M domestic by Monday morning.
Jason Statham is proving to be a decent, but not sure-fire Hollywood action star, as Death Race managed a somewhat disappointing $4.3M on its opening day. With a cast that also includes Oscar nominee Joan Allen (The Contender) and Golden Globe winner Ian McShane (Deadwood), Death Race will likely ride to just $11.9M for the weekend and a 3rd place finish.
Death Race 2000, produced by the prolific Roger Corman and directed by Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul), was released in 1975 with David Carradine starring and Sylvester Stallone in the role of Machine Gun Joe. This slick update seemed to provide an excellent vehicle for Statham and Tyrese Gibson (Four Brothers, Transformers) in the Stallone role, but the results are a bit lackluster.
If the $11.9M number holds, Death Race will be stronger than recent Statham openings The Bank Job ($5.93M), Crank ($10.4M), WAR ($9.8M) and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale ($3M), but it will be well off the top 3 openings for the action star behind The Italian Job ($19.4M), The One ($19.1M) and Transporter 2 ($16.5M).
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) continues to soar, adding $3.02M to start the weekend, and with its usual strong Saturday matinee bounce, the Batman Begins sequel will likely hit an estimated $10.12M for the frame, lifting TDK to about $489M. That will be more than enough to out-pace the disappointing Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Bros), which fell to $1.75M on its 2nd Friday and will stagger to just $5M for the weekend. The LucasFilm animated pic will probably drop about 66%, and its cume by Monday will likely be shy of $25M.
MGM’s The Longshots, starring Ice Cube, picked up just $1.4M on Friday, and this family-friendly movie will finish in the $4.25M range, #10 for the weekend. The results are disastrous for the Rainn Wilson comedy The Rocker (Fox). After a dismal take of $2M on Wednesday-Thursday, the picture could only muster $1M on Friday, and it seems headed for just $2.9M. For Fox, it is another disappointment in a tough summer that has included The Happening, Space Chimps, Meet Dave and The X-Files, although the studio did score a modest hit with last week’s genre pic Mirrors.
EARLY FRIDAY ESTIMATES
1. The House Bunny (Sony) – $5.6M, $1,462 PTA, $5.6M cume
2. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $4.9M, $1,462 PTA, $54.46M
3. Death Race (Universal) – $4.3M, $1,699 PTA, $4.3M cume
4. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) – $3.02M, $955 PTA, $481.89M cume
5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Bros) – $1.75M, $507 PTA, $21.08M cume
6. Mirrors (Fox) – $1.62M, $609 PTA, $16.82M cume
7. Pineapple Express (Sony) – $1.46M, $558 PTA, $69.78M cume
8. The Longshots (MGM) – $1.4M, $670 PTA, $1.4M cume
9. Mamma Mia (Universal) – $1.35M, $581 PTA, $121.5M cume
10. The Mummy 3 (Universal) – $1.29M, $536 PTA, $91.03M cume
*The Rocker (Fox) – $1M, $359 PTA, $2.05M cume
EARLY 3-DAY ESTIMATES
1. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $15.8M, $4,714 PTA, $65.63M
2. The House Bunny (Sony) – $14.4M, $5,306 PTA, $14.4M cume
3. Death Race (Universal) – $11.9M, $4,702 PTA, $11.9M cume
4. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) – $10.12M, $3,200 PTA, $488.99M cume
5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Bros) – $5M, $1,448 PTA, $24.33M cume
6. Mirrors (Fox) – $4.62M, $1,737 PTA, $19.82M cume
7. Pineapple Express (Sony) – $4.6M, $1,757 PTA, $72.93M cume
8. Mamma Mia (Universal) – $4.32M, $1,860 PTA, $124.47M cume
9. The Mummy 3 (Universal) – $4.3M, $1,785 PTA, $94.04M cume
10. The Longshots (MGM) – $4.25M, $2,034 PTA, $4.25M cume
*The Rocker (Fox) – $2.9M, $1,042 PTA, $3.95M cume