Paramount/Dreamworks says that they have been expecting a soft opening for Tropic Thunder, but I am a bit surprised. Last night, I reported that the film generated $7.5M in Wednesday ticket sales, and, as it turns out, the real number is $6.5M. Given that Pineapple Express (Sony) topped $12M last Wednesday, I was expecting at least $9M on day 1, even with direct competition from the Beijing Olympics.
Thunder has received 83% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and the movie has a lot of buzz according to industry tracking, so why softer than Pineapple Express? The obvious answer is that the Under 25 “stoner crowd” showed up last Wednesday in big numbers, resulting in a front-loaded 5-day. In fact, opening day was easily the best box office performance for Pineapple Express. That will not be the case with Tropic Thunder.
The Ben Stiller-directed movie-within-a-movie comedy will likely follow a more traditional weekend model with a big Friday, a slight increase on Saturday and a summer Sunday dip of 20%-25%. Ultimately, the size of Tropic Thunder‘s 5-day will be determined by how big its Friday number is. A $7M Friday would likely translate to $22.5M for the traditional 3-day and a 5-day of $33.5M or so. If the movie surges to $10M on Friday, the R-rated comedy would top $30M for 3 days and $40M for 5 days. My hunch is that Friday will come in right around $8M. If that’s the way the start of the traditional weekend goes, Tropic Thunder‘s 3-day will be an estimated $25M and the film will have banked $36.5M by Monday morning.