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Socked by reviews mocking its mummies-in-China premise, Universal’s three-quel “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” unraveled a franchise-low $42.5 million in estimated opening grosses, as Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight” three-peated atop the domestic boxoffice with $43.8 million. The latest ‘Batman’ sequel dipped 42% from the previous frame in pushing its domestic cume to $394.9 million.
Uni execs took heart in robust international grosses for their Brendan Fraser-Jet Li starrer, which had been expected to top domestic rankings but had to settle for the session’s silver medal.
The Sony comedy “Step Brothers” slipped 47% from its opening weekend to ring up $16.3 million in third place and a 10-day domestic cume of $63 million. Uni’s musical “Mama Mia” was off just 26% from the previous frame, fetching $13.1 million over its third outing for a fourth-place showing and an $88 million cume.
“Journey to the Center of the Earth,” the 3-D adventure film from Warner Bros. and New Line, legged it to $6.9 million during its fourth frame to grab fifth place and a $73.1 million cume. Disney’s Kevin Costner-starring political comedy “Swing Vote” wooed a weak $6.3 million in its inaugural weekend for sixth place, and Fox’s sci-fi sequel “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” dropped a big 66% in its sophomore session to ring up $3.4 million in ninth place and a $17.1 million cume.
Industrywide grosses were off 12% from a year earlier at $156 million, according to data from Nielsen EDI.
Seasonal boxoffice remains 1% ahead of the same portion of summer 2007 at $3.22 billion in EDI data. Year to date, 2008 is roughly flat with the comparable portion of last year at $5.89 billion.
In a limited bow this weekend, Lionsgate’s horror film “Midnight Meat Train” unspooled in 102 locations and grossed $32,000, or a measly $314 per site screaming a quick detour to DVD-land.
The Sony Pictures Classics drama “Frozen River” opened in seven theaters and grossed $73,322, a promising $10,475 per venue.
First Independent’s comedy “Sixty Six” counted $11,400 from a pair of debut New York sites, or a tidy $5,700 per screen.
Elsewhere in the specialty market, Miramax’s period drama “Brideshead Revisited” added 156 theaters for a total of 189 and grossed $1.2 million, or a solid $6,260 per venue with a $1.7 million cume.
Music Box’s French-language thriller “Tell No One” added 17 sites for a total of 94 and grossed $496,680, or a sturdy $5,284 per location, with a $2.3 million cume.
And Paramount Vantage’s documentary “American Teen” added 34 playdates for a total of 39 in crossing $175,461, or $4,499 per engagement, with a cume of $250,549.
“Dark Knight” should hit $400 million domestically either Monday or Tuesday. That would represent yet another record for the Christian Bale starrer, well outpacing a 43-day spurt by 2004’s “Shrek 2.”
“To have only a 42% drop is an amazing result for its third weekend,” Warners exec vp distribution Jeffrey Goldstein said. The weekend tally for “Dark Knight” included $3.9 million from Imax giant-screen auditoriums.
Industyites noted the weekend win for “Dark Knight” was also made possible by a weaker-than-expected domestic tally for “Dragon Emperor.”
The adventure sequel’s bow compares to a $43.4 million opening notched by the 1999 franchise originator — en route to a total domestic haul of $155.4 million — and a $68 million debut for 2001’s “The Mummy Returns,” a $202 million domestic grosser.
Offsetting the soft domestic bow, “Dragon Emperor” enjoyed impressive international tallies totaling almost $60 million this weekend.
“Globally, this picture is such a huge success,” Universal domestic distribution president Nikki Rocco said. “This installment was clearly a viable global franchise, and that’s why we did it.”
The Rob Cohen-helmed film drew audiences comprised 52% of male patrons, with 56% of patrons aged 25 and older.
Rated PG-13 and co-starring 12-year-old newcomer Madeline Carroll, “Swing Vote” drew audiences comprised 82% of moviegoing couples, with 54% of its support from females and 65% from patrons aged 35 and older. Those demos had Disney execs hoping slower-to-respond older moviegoers will help “Swing Vote” leg it to a decent theatrical run over the longer haul.
“One of these movies catches on every year, and we’re hoping it will be this one,” Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane said.
Looking ahead, two wide openers set to unspool on Wednesday each target distinct groups of younger moviegoer-stoner males and young females.
Sony’s R-rated comedy “Pineapple Express,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, aims for the former. Warner Bros.’ sequel coming-of-age drama “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” boasting a youthful ensemble cast, targets girls.
Both films — as well as a handful of wide openers set for subsequent August frames — have been slotted for midweek bows to maximize market exposure prior to students’ return to classrooms in September.
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