In the next couple days you're going to hear a lot about how the Aurora, Colorado shootings had some kind of negative effect on the box office this weekend. You're going to hear about how The Dark Knight Rises (non-spoiler review/spoiler review) is some kind of disappointment and that it surely left money on the table due to the aftermath of said mass murder (some thoughts on that, natch). So without getting too pompous about discrediting such malarky, let's get something out of the way right now. After ten days, The Dark Knight Rises has earned $289 million. That's the third-best ten-day total of all-time behind only The Dark Knight ($313 million) and The Avengers ($373 million) and a good $10 million ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($373 million) without the 3D advantage. Yes, the third Chris Nolan Batman film dropped 60% from last weekend, but it still earned $64 million in weekend two, the sixth-biggest second weekend of all-time (The Dark Knight earned $75 million in weekend two, a 53% drop). In short, the threequel is playing like a normal insanely anticipated but also heavily front-loaded genre sequel that has its fan-base firmly entrenched without picking up many new viewers this time around. In other words, it's playing a bit like a Harry Potter/Twilight sequel. The Dark Knight Rises merely isn't the pure phenomenon that The Dark Knight was, and anyone that told you it would be was probably delusional or lying. The Dark Knight was an event. The Dark Knight Rises is just a heavily-anticipated genre sequel.
The whole 'series finale' gimmick promised nothing more than the question of whether or not Batman survived this final film, a question that has surely been answered in a million blog posts by this time. Neither Tom Hardy's Bane nor Anne Hathaway's (admittedly terrific) Catwoman are garnering anywhere near the 'must experience' word of mouth as Heath Ledger's Joker, and the buzz on the street is mostly about the film's shockingly illogical and inane screenplay. Still, the general word of mouth is more towards 'like' (my issues with it aside, it's a masterpiece compared to The Amazing Spider-Man) versus 'love'. But similar to later Harry Potter sequels and even the last (superior) Star Wars prequel, there aren't any new fans to gain and it's basically playing to the faithful (it's arguably why Revenge of the Sith earned $50 million less than the allegedly reviled The Phantom Menace). Ironically, it looks like the film will be a conventional quick-kill blockbuster. Come what may it will probably make it past $400 million. Despite my concerns after the front-loaded opening weekend, the weekday numbers were pretty darn strong, with $49 million over Mon/Tues/Wed), although anything past $415 million is still in question. It's still a mega hit by any rational standard, with a domestic gross at or around $400 million in the cards and a probable worldwide gross of at least $800 million on tap (it's already at $537 million worldwide at the moment). So feel free to punch anyone who tries to tell you it's a disappointment or a flop or any of that nonsense. The Dark Knight Rises is no world beater, but it never should have been expected to be. It will have to settle for being one of the very biggest hits of the year and, domestically, one of the biggest grossers on record. Tragedy...
Now onto the new releases, and it was a bleh weekend for both of them. 20th Century Fox's The Watch may have seemed like a sure-thing on paper (Fox spent $68 million on it), but twas not to be. The R-rated sci-fi comedy about four suburban dudes who create a local neighborhood watch and discover an alien invasion was originally titled Neighborhood Watch, but had its title changed and marketing campaign overhauled after the shooting (cough-murder-cough) of Treyvon Martin last February by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch leader. While that albatross certainly didn't help, nor did Fox's campaign which hid the one story element that could have most helped differentiate the comedy from real-life tragedy, the fact that it involves aliens. Anyway, the final product got absolutely savaged by critics and the film feels like a big-studio remake of Attack the Block after several rounds of executive 'notes'. So the fact that The Watch only earned $13 million this weekend is probably best attributed to the fact that it didn't look very good and wasn't marketed very well. Sure outside factors didn't help (the bad press concerning the shooting, the bad press concerning Martin's killing, the popularity of the Olympics, etc.), but had the film seemed worth the effort audiences likely would have shown up just the same. Star power (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill) would have helped if the film looked any good, and the $13 million debut is arguably only due to their box office draw. As I (and others) say quite a bit, sometimes it's just the movie (stupid).
The other new wide release was Step Up: Revolution 3D. I don't personally follow this franchise although everyone who does will tell you that the 3D work in the last two films have been superb. Anyway, the first film debuted with $20 million in summer 2006 and kinda-sorta made a star out of Channing Tatum (it took awhile for him to reach true 'movie stardom', natch). It's been downhill ever since with this new installment opening to $11 million, well below the second film's $18 million debut in 008 and the third film's $15 million debut two summers ago. Alas, this franchise, however ambitious its choreography, is often subject to ridicule and it's Rent meets The Dark Knight Rises plot-line ("When your mini-mall is in ashes, then you have my permission to dance!") resulted in some laughably goofy trailers. I'd argue that the Olympics hurt this one more than the other major movies as those wanting spectacular musical entertainment were treated to that on Friday night for free courtesy of director Danny Boyle. Domestically speaking, it's not adding new fans and is slowly shedding with each new installment, going from $65 million to $58 million to $42 million. The exact opposite is true overseas, where each film has grown internationally (from $114 million to $150 million to $159 million). The third film did gangbusters overseas ($116 million versus a $42 million domestic gross) and Summit (taking the franchise over from Disney) is hoping for a similar result this time around. The film will struggle to make its $33 million budget back domestically, but overseas is a giant question mark.
In holdover news, do notice how many of the films had relatively small drops compared to last weekend (again, the shooting didn't scary too many people away). Ice Age: Continental Drift actually opened in second place ahead of the two new openers with $13.3 million (-34%). With $114 million in seventeen days, it's well below the pace of the first three films domestically ($116 million, $147 million, and $151 million respectively), but Fox couldn't care less what it does over here as it races towards $650 million worldwide with more still to come. I'd like to think that the reason it's dropping so quickly is that it's a terrible film, easily the worst of the otherwise not-bad franchise and the worst major animated release of 2012 by a wide margin. Universal's Ted (the summer's best mainstream release) continued to hold up despite a crowded marketplace, earning $7.4 million in its fifth weekend, down just 25%. With $193 million thus far, it's started to trail The Hangover ($205 million) but is otherwise soaring past pretty much any R-rated comedy outside of the The Hangover series, Beverly Hills Cop ($234 million) and, for the moment, The Wedding Crashers ($209 million). It's the 11th-biggest grossing R-rated film of all time, still behind Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($204 million). Universal's other summer release, Savages, has held up pretty well and now sits with $43 million, or about what it cost to make ($45 million). The Amazing Spider-Man had a decent fourth-weekend hold, earning $6.8 million (-37%) and bringing its domestic cume to $242 million. Domestically speaking, this is a terrible number for the $230 million Spider-Man reboot (it won't even approach the domestic cume of any of the Twilight sequels that it originally intended to emulate), but its already at $654 million worldwide so the film is indeed Sony's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Brave is nearing the end of its domestic run with a $4.2 million weekend (-29%). But its $217 million cume puts it ahead of the lower rungs of Pixar (A Bug's Life, Cars 2, Toy Story, Ratatouille) and within fighting distance of Wall-E's $223 million domestic gross, good for eighth out of the thirteen Pixar films. It hasn't expanded much overseas yet, making its $309 million worldwide cume hopefully just a good start. Also 'done' domestically is Madagascar 3, which earned $860,000 this weekend to bring its cume up to $209 million. It's the biggest domestic earner in the series and will try to inch past The Lorax's $214 million over the next month or so. But again overseas is the real story here and the Dreamworks tune has earned well north of $500 million globally with $650 million as its possible end-point (it still has some major markets left). The other Paramount summer entry, Katy Perry: Part of Me has earned $24 million, which is great for a documentary but on the lower-rung of recent concert docs. No harm, no foul. Magic Mike is nearing the end of its run and has $107 million to show for it, surely one of the most purely profitable films of 2012 and deserving of huge bonuses and huzzahs for Warner Bros' marketing department. With $62 million, Tyler Perry's (surprisingly not terrible) Madea's Witness Protection is within an inch of surpassing Madea's Family Reunion ($63 million) as the second-biggest earner in the Perry library. Woody Allen's From Rome With Love has $12.9 million while The Moonrise Kingdom has $38 million (I officially apologize for criticizing Focus Features on taking their time to expand the film) and Beasts of the Southern Wild has $4.3 million (the latter two being the best films of the summer, period). There's not much limited release news this weekend, but the NC-17 William Freidkin thriller Killer Joe earned $12,621 per each of its three screens and will expand next weekend. The documentary Looking For Sugar Man also debuted on three screens and earned $9,511 per. Ruby Sparks (IE - Vertigo as a rom-com) opened on 13 screens and earned $151,000.
That's it for this weekend. I'll try to update later today with relevant worldwide totals. Join us next time when Sony debuts the intensely unanticipated Total Recall remake ("Join us... join us in the dark!" bellows John Carter and Battleship) while Fox debuts Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (which I'd oddly looking forward to, as I felt the second film was a solid step up from the first).