The R-rated comedy "Tropic Thunder" held on to the top box-office slot for the third weekend in a row, ending a summer popcorn movie season dominated by superheroes.
The DreamWorks/Paramount action comedy, starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr., grossed an estimated $14.3 million over the long weekend, beating out 20th Century Fox's sci-fi thriller "Babylon A.D." and trouncing Lionsgate Films' comedy "Disaster Movie," which ranked No. 7 in weekend estimates.
But the weekend's big winner may have been "Traitor," starring Don Cheadle as a suspected terrorist and Guy Pearce as an FBI agent, which posted the highest per-theater average among movies in wide release. The spy thriller, which beat expectations by grossing $10 million, is the first in-house produced release for the fledgling company Overture Films. It averaged $4,869 per theater.
"Spirits are high," said Kyle Davies, Overture's executive vice president of distribution. "It was a competitive Hollywood weekend with a lot of new openers. We're very happy with the results."
The film enjoyed positive word of mouth after opening early Wednesday, and Davies said he expected the movie to continue to post good numbers into the fall.
Overall, though, it was a lackluster Labor Day holiday and the sixth consecutive weekend with decreased attendance and revenue over this time last year, said Paul Dergarabedian of box-office tracker Media by Numbers.
Despite a 3.5% drop in attendance this summer, "The Dark Knight," along with higher ticket prices industrywide, helped break the season's box-office revenue record. Superheroes contributed about 30% of the $4.2-billion gross, with movies such as "Hancock," "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk."
"The summer is ending with a whimper," said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo. "The movies aren't there. The slate is rather weak at this point."
But "The Dark Knight" did so much better than anticipated that it added at least $250 million more to the box-office pie than anticipated, Gray said. "Without it, things would have been a lot worse," he said. "It's pretty slow out there. These new movies aren't striking a chord and seem to be typical August dumpings to a large degree."
Holdover movies are continuing to do business. "The Dark Knight" and the ABBA musical "Mamma Mia!" also continue to draw crowds. "Mamma Mia!" which has already grossed $132.9 million, saw a 1% revenue increase over last week. "Tropic Thunder" maintained its No. 1 position by grossing just $14.3 million. It could keep that slot next weekend by making a mere $8 million, Gray said.
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Weekend box office
Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* Movie 4-day gross Total Weeks (studio) (millions) (millions)
1 Tropic Thunder $14.3 $86.6 3 (DreamWorks/Paramount)
2 Babylon A.D. (20th Century Fox) 12.0 12.0 1
3 The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) 11.0 504.7 7
4 The House Bunny (Sony) 10.2 29.8 2
5 Traitor (Overture) 10.0 11.5 1
6 Death Race (Universal) 8.2 25.0 2
7 Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) 6.9 6.9 1
8 Mamma Mia! (Universal) 5.8 132.9 7
9 Pineapple Express (Sony/Columbia) 4.5 80.9 4
10 Vicky Cristina Barcelona (MGM) 3.5 13.3 3 *--*
*--* 4-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2007 (in billions) from 2007 $93.4 -23.1% $6.7 -0.9% *--*
Note: A movie may be shown on more than one screen at each venue.