WEEKEND ESTIMATES: 'Dark Knight' Surges Past 'Spider-Man 3' with $158M for All-Time Best Opening Weekend; 'Mamma Mia' Belts Out $27M Tally; 'Chimps' Are Chumps w/$7.3M; Hollywood Tops $250M for Biggest Weekend Ever!
by Steve Mason
MONDAY 9:00 a.m. (Pacific): Sunday was even stronger than expected for The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) with an astounding $43 million or so. That was just a single digit percentage drop from Saturday, meaning that the Batman Begins sequel hasn't just beaten Spider-Man 3 (Sony) for the weekend record. The Caped Crusader has crushed Spidey by more than 5 percent, with an estimated $158 million. (My Friday 9:30 p.m. estimate was for $66 million on Friday and $157 million for the three-day.)
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) has a shot to become one of the Top 10 domestic grossing movies of all time, with over $400 million in sales. The Christopher Nolan-directed superhero epic will not, in my estimation, challenge Titanic (Paramount), which generated a stunning $600 million gross, but that was a decade ago. James Cameron’s epic opened just before Christmas 1997 and spent 15 weeks at No. 1. That is just not possible in 2008, but it is now safe to project that The Dark Knight will chase down Paramount movies Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to become the No. 1 movie of 2008.
Still, looking at The Dark Knight’s competition over the next couple of months, the movie will dominate multiplexes through the month of August. This weekend, Step Brothers (Sony) seems headed for about $20M and The X Files: I Want To Believe (20th Century Fox) will likely struggle to less than that. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal) should open well the following weekend, but I give The Dark Knight a chance to hold onto No. 1 for the weekend. The only other possible August blockbusters are The Pineapple Express (Sony) bowing Aug. 8, and Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Bros) both set for Aug. 15.
Opening in the first weekend of May, as Spider-Man 3 (Sony) did, allows a film to grab 10,000 or more screens and pull a lot of money off the table quickly. A mid-July opening can create a ceiling on opening weekend, but improves a film's "playability," because of the relative lack of late summer competition. The Dark Knight has the best of both worlds. Warner Bros. got the movie's opening to an all-time record number, and now benefits from light competition through Labor Day.
This impeccably-reviewed Knight will be a huge boon for Warner Bros. As I have previously reported, competing studios have expressed great admiration for WB’s marketing and distribution departments for the incredible opening, and the success has vaulted Warner Bros. to second place in market share for 2008. Rough estimates as of Monday morning show that Paramount is at $1.1 billion followed by Warner Bros at approximately $715 million and 20th Century Fox at No. 3 with $673 million. With the animated Clone Wars in August and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in November, Warner Bros. will likely finish the year with at least the second-best market share in the industry.
SUNDAY 8:00 a.m. (Pacific): The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) is the all-time three-day box office champion, and it has led the way to the all-time best weekend for the movie business as a whole. The Christopher Nolan-directed sequel, featuring a twisted, brilliant performance by the late Heath Ledger, delivered an excellent $47.38 million on Saturday, and a competing studio projects the film at $39.61 million on Sunday for $155 million domestic.
The records set by The Dark Knight include Best Midnight Opening ($18.4 million), Best Opening Day ($66.4 million) and Second-Best Saturday ($47.38 million) along with the All-Time Best Opening Weekend, replacing 2007 release Spider-Man 3. When I wrote Friday night that the film would hit $66 million for Friday and $157 million for the weekend, I was basically spot-on. This morning, a competing studio exec expressed great admiration for Warner Bros. "The marketing campaign was genius and securing over 9,000 screens is amazing. They got every last dollar out of this movie."
Universal's Mamma Mia performed right at expectations with an estimated $27 million for the three-day. This bodes very well for the film's domestic run as its strongest demo is Females 25 Plus, and they are never known for being Early Attenders. I believe this movie has over $100 million in it.
Hancock (Sony ) was a solid No. 3 with $13.8 million, and, with a domestic cume of over $191 million, it should pass the $200 million threshold this week. Warner Bros.'s Journey to the Center of the Earth rode its 800 or so 3D engagements to a solid hold with $11.9 million for a new total of $43 million. WALL-E (Disney) rounds out the Top 5 with $9.85 million.
The other new wide release, the animated Space Chimps (20th Century Fox), managed just $7.3 million. It's been a rough stretch for 20th Century Fox with The Happening, Meet Dave and now Space Chimps all coming in as big underperformers (setting aside the big opening weekend for The Happening) back-to-back-to-back.
As I first reported Friday night, Hollywood has easily topped its all-time best three-day weekend with over $250 million in domestic box office amassed by the 12 highest-grossing films. That number has crushed the previous three-day best of $209.88 million (again, the 12 highest-grossing films) set July 7-9, 2006. That was opening weekend for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135M), and the second weekend for both Superman Returns ($21.8 million) and The Devil Wears Prada ($15 million).
In fact, if the projected number of $250 million holds, this weekend will be bigger even than the Top 12 for any four-day Memorial Day weekend in history. That is great news for the industry, which seems to be benefiting from a down economy and the number of families who are choosing not to travel. I am already tired of hearing the term "staycation," but the outrageous price of gas does seem to be keeping people at home and spending their entertainment dollars at the local multiplex.
One other note about some of my writing from over the weekend: Some bloggers have been critical of my suggestion that The Dark Knight should be a Best Picture nominee at the next Academy Awards ceremony. I am not backing down, despite all of the films with more notable Oscar pedigrees that are on the release schedule for the second half of the year.
Everyone seems to lament the ever-eroding ratings for Hollywood's biggest night. They blame the host and the length of acceptance speeches, but the real reason, in my opinion, is the obscurity of some of the selections. One role of the Oscars is certainly to champion smaller films, but the awards should also recognize the year's best popular entertainment. The Dark Knight and WALL-E are both Oscar caliber movies in my mind. Last year, there should have been a Best Picture slot for The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal). If the industry wants a return to the days of Academy Awards ratings glory, then voters should not narrow their list of nominees exclusively to small, well-reviewed art films:
EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS REVISED 3-DAY ESTIMATES
1. NEW The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) — $155 million, $35,502 PTA, $155 million cume
2. NEW Mamma Mia (Universal) — $27 million, $9,073 PTA, $27 million cume
3. Hancock (Sony) — $13.8 million, $3,655 PTA, $191.3 million cume
4. Journey to the Center of the Earth (Warner Bros.) — $11.9 million, $4,205 PTA, $43.06 million cume
5. WALL-E (Disney) — $9.85 million, $2,976 PTA, $182.51 million cume
6. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal) — $9.67 million, $3,012 PTA, $56.08 million cume
7. NEW Space Chimps (Fox) — $7.3 million, $2,907 PTA, $7.3 million cume
8. Wanted (Universal) — $4.9 million, $2,014 PTA, $123.14 million cume
9. Get Smart (Warner Bros.) — $3.9 million, $1,827 PTA, $119.38 million cume
10. Kung Fu Panda (Dreamworks/Paramount) — $1.75 million, $1,163 PTA, $206.5 million cume
FRIDAY 9:00 p.m. (Pacific): Christopher Nolan's long-awaited The Dark Knight
(Warner Bros.), fueled by thrilling IMAX sequences, a brilliantly
conceived script and a diabolically skilled performance by the late
Heath Ledger, is on its way to shattering records. Lots of them.
Starting with Thursday night's 12:01 a.m. screenings coast-to-coast, which generated an estimated $18.4 million by dawn, and continuing through packed matinee and evening showings, The Dark Knight has delivered a staggering $66 million on its opening day.
ALL-TIME BEST OPENING DAYS
1. The Dark Knight — $66 million (Estimated)
2. Spider-Man 3 — $59.84 million
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest — $55.83 million
4. Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith — $50.01 million
5. X-Men: The Last Stand — $45.1 million
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — $44.23 million
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End — $42.9 million
8. Spider-Man 2 — $40.44 million
9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — $40.11 million
10. Spider-Man — $39.4 million
I published a three-day estimate of $153 million at 4:00 p.m, but I am now projecting that The Dark Knight is on pace for $157 million, which will top Spider-Man 3's
opening frame of $151.11 million. Keep in mind that when the numbers get this
big, the percentages get very small. At $153 million, the new Batman movie would set the record by a margin of less than 4 percent over SM3. The weekend performance could go something like this: $66 million on Friday, $54 million on Saturday and $37 million on Sunday.
My hunch is that The Dark Knight will, after all is said and done, be the No. 1 movie of 2008, chasing down both Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, both from Paramount. I think this movie will play and play and play.
I also believe that, if Academy Awards voters are interested in keeping their show relevant, they would do well to recognize not just Heath Ledger, who deserves to win Best Supporting Actor for what I think is a landmark performance, but also nominate The Dark Knight for Best Picture. All five Best Picture nominees should not be small independent films. The Dark Knight is more than just a superhero movie. It is a gritty, twisted, crime drama with an outstanding script, an unsettling theme and spectacular set pieces, and it represents the work of a genius director who pulls it all together with technical virtuosity.
The other major story for Hollywood is that The Dark Knight will successfully lift the film industry to its biggest three-day weekend in history. I am estimating that when all of the actuals come in on Monday, the 12 highest-grossing films will have delivered a staggering $250 million. That number will crush the previous three-day best of $209.88 million (again, as measured by the 12 highest-grossing films) set July 7-9, 2006. That was opening weekend for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135 million), and the second weekend for both Superman Returns ($21.8 million) and The Devil Wears Prada ($15 million).
In fact, if the projected number of $250 million holds, this weekend will be bigger than the Top 12 for any four-day Memorial Day weekend in history. That is great news for the industry, which seems to be benefiting from a down economy and the number of families who are choosing not to travel. I am already tired of hearing the term "staycation," but the outrageous price of gas does seem to be keeping people at home and spending their entertainment dollars at the local multiplex.
Mamma Mia (Universal), the ABBA-inspired musical starring Meryl Streep, has done its part in making this a record-breaking weekend for the movie business. The movie opened in the shadow of The Dark Knight, but still danced its way to an estimated $10.5 million on Friday, which should translate to $27.5 million. This well-reviewed, feel-good chick flick should reach $100 million domestic with relative ease.
Will Smith's strong-legged Hancock (Sony) was No. 3 on Friday with an estimated $4.4 million, and the Peter Berg-directed superhero flick should be good for just over $14 million for the weekend and a new cume of almost $192 million. Warner Bros.'s 3D family film Journey to the Center of the Earth generated another $3.5 million on Friday, and it will finish the weekend with just over $11 million.
Meanwhile, Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal) suffered the wrath of The Dark Knight, free-falling all the way to No. 4 on Friday with just $3.3 million (down from $13.72 million on its opening day last weekend). The big red guy is likely headed for a disastrous second weekend finish at No. 6 with about $9 million. That ends any speculation that Universal could put together a string of five straight $100 million grossing hits (although four out of five is still impressive).
WALL-E (Disney) was No. 6 on Friday with an estimated $3.26 million, but it will finish fifth for the three-day with an estimated $11 million and a new cume of $183.66 million. Also chasing the family audience this weekend is 20th Century Fox's animated Space Chimps, which scored a modest $2.5 million to start the frame. The film is targeting $8 million by Monday morning.
EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS EARLY FRIDAY ESTIMATES
1. NEW The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) — $66 million, $15,117 PTA, $66 million cume
2. NEW Mamma Mia (Universal) — $10.5 million, $3,528 PTA, $10.5 million cume
3. Hancock (Sony) — $4.4 million, $1,165 PTA, $181.9 million cume
4. Journey to the Center of the Earth (Warner Bros.) — $3.5 million, $1,237 PTA, $34.66 million cume
5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal) — $3.3 million, $1,027 PTA, $49.7 million cume
6. WALL-E (Disney) — $3.26 million, $987 PTA, $175.92 million cume
7. NEW Space Chimps (20th Century Fox) — $2.5 million, $996 PTA, $2.5 million cume
8. Wanted (Universal) — $2.05 million, $846 PTA, $120.3 million cume
9. Get Smart (Warner Bros.) — $1.16 million, $548 PTA, $116.65 million cume
10. Meet Dave (Fox) — $760,000, $252 PTA, $8.49 million cume
EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS EARLY 3-DAY ESTIMATES
1. NEW The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) — $157 million, $35,960 PTA, $157 million cume
2. NEW Mamma Mia (Universal) — $28 million, $9,409 PTA, $28 million cume
3. Hancock (Sony) — $14.3 million, $3,787 PTA, $191.8 million cume
4. Journey to the Center of the Earth (Warner Bros.) — $11.15 million, $3,940 PTA, $42.31 million cume
5. WALL-E (Disney) — $11 million, $3,325 PTA, $183.66 million cume
6. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal) — $9 million, $2,802 PTA, $55.4 million cume
7. NEW Space Chimps (20th Century Fox) — $8 million, $3,186 PTA, $8 million cume
8. Wanted (Universal) — $6.68 million, $2,749 PTA, $124.93 million cume
9. Get Smart (Warner Bros.) — $3.8 million, $1,780 PTA, $119.28 million cume
10. Meet Dave (20th Century Fox) — $2.31 million, $770 PTA, $10.05 million cume
FRIDAY 4:00 p.m. (Pacific): Just got off the phone with a competing studio exec, and I am told that their "numbers crunchers" are, at the moment, projecting that The Dark Knight (Warner Bros,) will break the all-time opening day and all-time three-day weekend records, surpassing last May's Spider-Man 3.
According to the studio exec, the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins sequel is on pace for a $63 million opening day! That does include the $18.4 million reported by Warner Bros. this morning for overnight business. If the number holds (or even if it is close), it will a staggeringly huge start for the impeccably reviewed superhero picture, and it will be enough to blow by the first-day take of $59.84 million for Spider-Man 3.
My source also reports that The Dark Knight is on pace for $153 million for the three-day, which would top SM3's opening frame of $151.11 million. Keep in mind that, when the numbers get this big, the percentages get very small. At $153 million, Knight would set the record by a margin of less than 1 percent over SM3. The numbers laid out for me went like this: $63 million on Friday, $53 million on Saturday and $37 million on Sunday.
Complete numbers, including early results for Mamma Mia! (Universal) and Space Chimps (20th Century Fox), as they become available.
FRIDAY 10:30 a.m. (Pacific): It's official. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), easily the most buzzed-about movie of 2008, has laid waste to the midnight opening record of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (Fox) with a staggering $18.4 million overnight.
The mystique surrounding the tragic death of Heath Ledger and the accompanying Oscar buzz for his performance, the impeccable reviews, the fact that Nolan shot significant chunks of the movie in 70MM IMAX cameras, the Warner Bros. distribution department's ability to secure a record number of playdates at the peak of the summer and the amazing work of the WB marketing team, including the WhySoSerious.com official movie Web site, have all added up to a monstrous first night.
Attention now turns to the question of whether The Dark Knight can top the Spider-Man 3 opening day record of $59.84 million, and the all-time best opening weekend record of $151.11 million, also held by SM3. Since Sam Raimi's record-setter generated only $9 million or so in midnight shows last May, the Batman Begins sequel has a big head start .
All of us who follow the business love to watch records fall, but, in the final analysis, The Dark Knight
has already blown away expectations for every metric used to measure a
movie's success. My weekend prediction has been $136 million, enough to make
this the all-time No. 2 opening in movie history, but the odds are
increasing that The Dark Knight can trump Spider-Man 3 and become the No. 1 movie of 2008, soaring past Paramount releases Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
FRIDAY 8:00 a.m. (Pacific):
"Here we go." — The Joker (as played by Heath Ledger)
Although final numbers have not yet been released, The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) has grabbed a monstrous Thursday-Friday midnight take, certainly, the biggest midnight opening in film history.
The previous 12:01 a.m. overnight record was set by Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (20th Century Fox) back in 2005, which grabbed $16.9 million. With sellouts from coast to coast, including all 94 IMAX locations, there are reports that, at theaters where there were no showings in the 3 a.m.-3:30 a.m. range scheduled in advance, those showtimes were added to meet bigger-than-expected demand.
ALL-TIME BEST MIDNIGHT OPENINGS
1. The Dark Knight — $17 million (Estimated)
2. Star Wars: Episode III — The Revenge of the Sith — $16.9 million
3. Spider-Man 3 — $9 million
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King — $8 million
5. Spider-Man — $7 million
Next up for Christopher Nolan's spectacularly-reviewed Batman Begins sequel will be trying to chase down the Spider-Man 3 opening day record of $59.84 million set last May.
I will be updating at this link all weekend long.