Rain and wind may have been whipping the Southeast, but "Tropic Thunder" was muted this weekend as moviegoers stayed home, leading to the slowest weekend for theaters in five years.
The Nicolas Cage film "Bangkok Dangerous" pulled in a measly $7.8 million for Lionsgate in its opening weekend, according to studio estimates, but that was enough to grab the top spot at the box office. It narrowly edged out DreamWorks/Paramount's "Tropic Thunder," which made an estimated $7.5 million, bringing the movie's total gross to $96.8 million after four weekends in theaters.
This weekend's top 12 films made an estimated $51.6 million, according to box-office tracker Media by Numbers -- low for even the notoriously slow weekend after Labor Day.
The last weekend to post such poor results was the weekend after Labor Day in 2003, when the highest-grossing film was the David Spade flick "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star." The top 12 films that weekend pulled in only slightly less than this weekend's top 12.
"It's like clockwork. We always see a pretty heavy slowdown," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers. "But this year was really significantly slow -- people were distracted by [political] conventions, the weather and the fall television season."
This year's post-Labor Day was particularly slow, he said, because there was no holiday blockbuster to continue to bring people to the theaters. Last year's "Halloween," for instance, made $30.6 million over Labor Day and continued to draw crowds the following weekend, along with Lionsgate's "3:10 to Yuma," starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Last weekend's top film, "Tropic Thunder," starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black, grossed $14.3 million over the holiday weekend.
"Bangkok Dangerous" was produced by Blue Star Entertainment and Cage's Saturn Films. It was financed by Initial Entertainment Group for a reported $45 million. Directed by the Pang brothers, it is an English-language remake of their 1999 film from Thailand, the breakthrough that helped them build a following among fans of stylized action fare. Cage plays a coldblooded assassin who travels to Thailand to wipe out a series of targets.
But Lionsgate, which bought the film's North American distribution rights, wasn't disappointed.
"It performed within our range of expectations," said Steve Rothenberg, the studio's president of domestic distribution. "We'll make a nice profit with the movie."
Chip Sullivan, head of publicity for DreamWorks, said things looked sunny for "Tropic Thunder," which came close to besting "Bangkok Dangerous" for the No. 1 spot. The movie grossed $3.4 million Saturday, which beat out the $3 million "Bangkok" made Saturday, but was probably edged out by the Cage film Friday and Sunday.
The movie's strength in its fourth week shows that people are recommending it to friends, Sullivan said, and word that Tom Cruise, who wasn't part of the film's marketing campaign, has a cameo in the movie has drawn more crowds.
"We held together better than we were thinking," he said. "The movie's playing really well."
Sony's chick comedy "The House Bunny" edged out Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" for the third spot, grossing $5.9 million in its third week in theaters.
"The Dark Knight" has now made $512 million in eight weeks.
All films this weekend will gross $66 million, a 17% drop from the same weekend last year.
"This was not a pretty weekend at the box office," Dergarabedian said.
Things should pick up at the box office in the next few weeks, analysts say.
Next weekend will see the premiere of Overture Films' "Righteous Kill," a crime thriller reteaming "Heat" stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. The following week Sony Pictures' Screen Gems division will release "Lakeview Terrace," starring Samuel L. Jackson as a tightly wound cop who harasses the interracial couple next door.
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Weekend box office
"Bangkok Dangerous" took the top spot in the box office in the slowest weekend since 2003. "Tropic Thunder" remained strong in its fourth week in theaters. Preliminary sales for Sept 5-7:
*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Venues Average Weeks (studio) (millions) (millions) per venue
1 Bangkok $7.8 $7.8 2,650 $2,943 1 Dangerous (Lionsgate)
2 Tropic Thunder 7.5 96.8 3,446 2,176 4 (DreamWorks /Paramount)
3 The House 5.9 37.0 2,736 2,156 3 Bunny (Sony)
4 The Dark 5.7 512.2 2,575 2,219 8 Knight (Warner Bros.)
5 Traitor 4.7 17.7 2,108 2,211 2 (Overture Films)
6 Babylon A.D. 4.0 17.2 3,425 1,168 2 (20th Century Fox)
7 Death Race 3.6 29.8 2,586 1,390 3 (Universal)
8 Disaster Movie 3.3 10.9 2,642 1,249 2 (Lionsgate)
9 Mamma Mia! 2.7 136.3 1,904 1,425 8 (Universal)
10 Pineapple 2.4 84.2 1,802 1,332 5 Express (Sony) *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2007 (in billions) from 2006 $66.0 -16.7% $6.75 -1.1% *--*
Note: A movie may be shown on more than one screen at each venue.
Source: Media by Numbers
Los Angeles Times