This weekend was scheduled to be a win for Universal and its retooling of The Mummy franchise, but The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) continues to confound industry veterans and prognosticators by pulling off a surprising upset.
The Mummy 3 still seems like a smart play for Universal. The problem is that The Dark Knight is an overwhelming hit, and nothing seems to “grow well in the shade,” especially when it is chasing the same audience quadrants that are feeding the Warner Bros box office beast.
With Brendan Fraser returning to his popular Mummy-hunting ways, shifting to the world’s most populous country China as a setting and adding international superstar Jet Li, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor will definitely make money. It will rely heavily, however, on foreign sales. The Mummy 3 finished the weekend with an estimated $42.45M, which is softer than the first 2 films in the franchise. For Fraser, it marks his all-time third-best opening.
ALL-TIME TOP 5 BRENDAN FRASER OPENINGS
1. The Mummy Returns — $68.13M opening
2. The Mummy — $43.36M opening
3. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - $42.4M opening (estimate)
4. Journey to the Center of the Earth - $21M opening
5. George of the Jungle — $16.54M opening
ALL-TIME TOP 5 OPENINGS FOR ROB COHEN-DIRECTED FILMS
1. xXx – $44.5M opening
2. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – $42.4M opening (estimate)
3. The Fast & The Furious – $40.08M opening
4. Dragonheart - $15M opening
5. Stealth – $13.25M opening
Despite a less-than-spectacular stateside start, The Mummy 3 opened in 28 overseas territories with an estimated $59M. That is a bigger number than either of the 2 previous Mummy films managed in the same foreign markets. I believe that Tomb of the Dragon Emperor will easily exceed $100M+ domestic (probably $125M-$135M) and the worldwide number should approach $400M.
Warner Bros is reporting $43.8M for The Dark Knight this weekend, and competing studios are telling me that the figure will likely bounce to $44.4M or so when actuals are released. It is now clear that teens and kids (with parents) are seeing this PG-13 superhero film, accounting for massive weekday numbers and a very healthy 37% Saturday matinee bounce this weekend. Much has been written about the tone of this movie being overwhelmingly dark, and it is certainly not intended for kids, but the message of the film, to me, is optimistic. In fact, it is a relentlessly optimistic movie.
The Dark Knight has moments that are disturbing, downright twisted and exceedingly creepy. Heath Ledger’s Joker is essentially an insane sociopath, but, without spoiling the film for the 3 or 4 people who have not seen it already, his efforts to force ordinary citizens of Gotham to take part in the mayhem he wreaks, generally fail. Ultimately, what we learn from The Dark Knight is that, even when given bleak choices, people do the right thing.
My best projection for how high The Dark Knight will fly is $480M domestic. That would make it the all-time #2 grossing movie in US history, behind only Titanic at $600M, and just ahead of Star Wars at $461M.
There has been some speculation that The Dark Knight may ultimately overtake 1997’s Titanic, but that seems like more fanboy zeal than anything else. I do not believe that any movie will ever manage that feat. The James Cameron-directed Best Picture winner was No. 1 for 15 consecutive weekends, and it was in the top 5 for a total of 20 3-day frames. It racked up $600M domestic, but it never generated more than $35.45M in a single weekend. Just like that over-played Celine Dion theme song, Titanic went “on and on.”
Sony’s Step Brothers, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, has enjoyed a good weekend hold. The R-rated comedy added an estimated $16.2M, enough for 3rd-place, and a new cume of almost $63M.
Meryl Streep’s musical turn in Mamma Mia (Universal) continues to do brisk business at #4, scoring another $13.12M for the 3-day. The ABBA-inspired Broadway adaptation has banked about $88M.
Finally, Kevin Costner’s self-produced and self-financed Swing Vote (Disney) is off to an underwhelming start with a 6th-place finish. The Academy Award winner invested $21M in this politically-themed piece of counter-programming, and the movie picked up just $6.3M on its opening weekend. That places it behind the strong-holding, family-fueled Journey To the Center of the Earth (Warner Bros), which added $6.87M for a new cume of $73M.
REVISED THREE-DAY ESTIMATES
1. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) — $43.8 million, $10,267 PTA, $394.8 million cume
2. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal) – $42.4 million, $11,290 PTA, $42.4 million cume
3. Step Brothers (Sony) — $16.3 million, $5,268 PTA, $62.9 million cume
4. Mamma Mia (Universal) — $13.1 million, $4,285 PTA, $87.9 million
5. Journey To the Center of the Earth (Warner Bros.) — $6.83million, $3,009 PTA, $73.1 million cume
6. Swing Vote (Disney) – $6.3 million, $2,847 PTA, $6.3 million cume
7. Hancock (Sony) — $5.2 million, $1,869 PTA, $215.9 million cume
8. WALL-E (Disney) — $4.7 million, $1,858 PTA, $204.2 million cume
9. The X-Files: I Want To Believe (20th Century Fox) — $3.4 million, $1,075 PTA, $17 million cume
10. Space Chimps (20th Century Fox) — $2.8 million, $1,331 PTA, $22 million cume