Reports that audiences were afraid to see The Dark Knight Rises on the weekend after the Aurora tragedy turned out to be not so true. Yes, the film had a steeper than usual drop on Friday but then rebounded nicely; taking first place with an estimated $64 million. It must have been the week’s two new releases that people were ‘hesitant’ to see. Neither The Watch nor Step Up Revolution made it out of the low teens on their opening frame.
Because most outlets decided not to report box office results last weekend, we’ll start by getting caught up with The Dark Knight Rises. To be clear, it still feels uncomfortable to talk about ticket sales in light of the lives lost on July 20th. Next to that tragedy everything else is completely inconsequential. But, because inconsequential facts are the hallmark of every box office report I have ever read or written, here we go:
The Dark Knight Rises ended up in first place last weekend with $160.8 million, a figure that narrowly topped the $158.4 million of 2008’s The Dark Knight. Though not close to the $200 million many were betting on, that amount did translate to the third-best domestic opening of all time, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Avengers. Unlike both of the latter, however, The Dark Knight Rises had no 3D ticket advantage, giving it the all-time highest debut for an old-fashioned two dimensional release.
After ten days TDKR has collected $289 million in the US and almost $500 worldwide. Yesterday it rebounded from that steep 76% Friday drop to secure an estimated $64 million for its second domestic weekend. Once again, that is down from the $75.1 million that The Dark Knight earned on its sophomore frame but, considering that projections originally had the film as low as $55 million, I wouldn’t get too hung up comparing the two.
The truth is, though it is natural to try to analyze the returns of The Dark Knight Rises in terms of past hits – The Avengers and The Dark Knight especially – there is really no comparison that will ever fit. The shooting in Colorado is something unique and horrible; an event no forecast model is equipped to deal with. With more time, it may get easier to talk about TDKR as we would any other film but that time is still a long way off.
Overall, the box office was down more than 20% over this same weekend in 2011, though not for the reasons you might imagine. One year ago the top film was Cowboys and Aliens with $36.4 million, closely followed by The Smurfs with $35.6 million. The combined total of those two debuts was just a bit higher than this week’s TDKR estimate, making the shrunken numbers for the rest of this weekend’s top ten the real problem.
Heading that list of disappointments is Fox’s The Watch. You may remember that the R-rated comedy was once called Neighborhood Watch until a certain ‘neighborhood watchman’ in Florida shot and killed an unarmed teenager. That change of title didn’t do much good, however. Despite the film’s all-star cast, The Watch could not reach the $20 million debut that many expected, ending up with an estimate of just $13 million from its 3,168 locations.
The debut of Step Up Revolution was even lower than that of The Watch; though also much more excusable. The fourth installment in Summit Entertainment’s teen-dance series was never expected to do big business. In August 2010 Step Up 3D was a surprise hit, grossing almost $160 million worldwide without the series’ star Channing Tatum. But even in that case, the film’s opening weekend was just $15.8 million. Surprisingly, the budget for Step Up Revolution is a bit higher than for Step Up 3D so it will most likely fall to international audiences to determine the future of the Step Up franchise.
I would like to believe that next weekend will see movie attendance return to 2011 numbers but I’m not sure that can happen. One year ago we had the debut of Rise of the Planet of the Apes with $54.8 million. Can the reboot of Total Recall generate that level of interest? You tell me.