Is it just that all the good action films are front-loaded into the first half of the summer season, or are August moviegoers just satiated with endless explosions and ready for something completely different? The late season swoon for action releases may not have risen to the level of a box office axiom, but it is clearly a certainty that a comedy with good word of mouth can demonstrate 'legs' that its muscular action flick rivals can only dream about--case in point, New Line's Wedding Crashers which declined only 20.2% in its third weekend and took over the number one spot after spending two weeks at number two.
Last week it was The Island's turn to go down in flames; this weekend it was Stealth, a $100 million dollar action extravaganza, which even Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral) couldn't save from a number four finish and a dismal $3,862 per theater average. Stealth earned an estimated $13.5 million and finished behind the debuting superhero comedy Sky High (estimated $14.5 million) and just ahead of the newly released romantic comedy, Must Love Dogs, which earned an estimated $13.5 million, but had a $5,209 per theater average. The quirky children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory declined 42%, but still had enough to earn an estimated $16.38 million, come in second, and beat all the new releases. Four out of the top five films were comedies, but these yuckfests couldn't reverse Hollywood's yearlong box office slump as the total grosses for the top 12 films came in a full 20% versus week #30 in 2004.
Sky High's better than anticipated showing may indicate that Hollywood has figured out how to co-opt superhero sagas without actually having to option comic book material. It should be interesting to compare the final grosses of Sky High and next year's superhero comedy Zoom Academy, which is based on a comic book.
Once again the leading comic book film was based on Marvel's Fantastic Four. Fox's version of FF grabbed the number six spot, dropping some 46% and earning an estimated $6.8 million. With a cumulative domestic box office total of $136 million it appears that FF might be able to come close to the total of the first X-Men film ($157.3 million), though it will likely come up a little short; nevertheless FF is assured of becoming Marvel's third leading movie franchise after Spider-Man and the X-Men.
Meanwhile The Island dropped 55% in its second weekend and has earned only $23.9 million so far versus an estimated cost of $122 million. On the other hand, War of the Worlds, which opened during the July Fourth weekend (in recent years the last possible slot for a successful summer action film release) is a clear success and will likely end up somewhere just north of $250 million at the domestic box office.
Rob Zombie's Devil's Rejects dropped like a stone, falling 62.5% and ending up at number 12. Although it has demonstrated the staying power of House of 1000 Corpses, Devil's Rejects has already earned $12.3 million, which is nearing double its paltry $7 million cost -- and the film should do extremely well with its core cult audience on DVD.