Slow start for fall boxoffice

'Bangkok Dangerous' wins weekend with $7.8 million

Is that any way to christen a new boxoffice season?

Lionsgate's "Bangkok Dangerous" always seemed a safe bet for the No. 1 spot in domestic boxoffice rankings this weekend, as the Nicolas Cage starrer represented the session's sole wide opener. But its estimated $7.8 million in chart-topping grosses fell below even the lower end of most forecasts for the critically brutalized action film.

"Tropic Thunder," from DreamWorks/Paramount, finished second with $7.5 million over the fall season's lackluster first frame, giving the R-rated comedy a cumulative boxoffice of $96.8 million through its fourth outing. Warner Bros.' long-running Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" was third on the session with $5.7 million, as its blockbuster cume reached $512.2 million.

Industrywide, the season kicked off with a 15% tumble from the same session last year with $68 million in collective boxoffice, data service Nielsen EDI said. Year-to-date, 2008 is tracking 1% behind the same portion of last year at $6.89 billion.

Films entering their second weekend also proved to be nothing to get excited about.

But Overture's thriller "Traitor," starring Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce, did manage a decent marketplace hold. "Traitor" fell a modest 41% from its first-frame tally to $4.7 million in fifth place and a 12-day cume of $17.7 million.

Fox's Vin Diesel starrer "Babylon A.D." was off a bigger 58% for $4 million in sixth place and a $17.2 million cume, while Lionsgate's comedy spoof "Disaster Movie" dipped 44% to $3.3 million in eighth place and a $10.9 million cume. MGM's youthful comedy "College" was far outside the top 10, with a 55% decline producing just $960,000 for its sophomore session and a $4.1 million cume.

Things were also rotten for "Hamlet 2" this weekend, as Focus Features' well-reviewed comedy marked an even more tragic second weekend in wide release than its first. Grossing just $819,409 from 1,575 theaters -- a miserable $520 per venue -- the Steve Coogan-Catherine Keener starrer crept to a cume of $4.4 million.

In a platforming campaign, Sony Pictures Classics expanded its comedy "I Served the King of England" to 17 playdates from a previous eight and grossed $72,109. That represented a sturdy $4,242 per engagement and pushed the cume on "King" to $157,278.

IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's Ben Kingsley starrer "Elegy" added three locations for a total of 142 to gross $481,555, or an acceptable $3,391 per site. "Elegy's" cume hit $2.3 million.

"Bangkok" -- in which Cage portrays a ruthless hitman -- was a remake of a 1999 Thai film directed by the original's helming team of Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang.

With the R-rated film's disappointing bow, Cage continues a dangerous pattern of interspersing big boxoffice hits with deadly duds.

Last December, Cage's "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" unspooled with $65.4 million en route to a domestic haul of $220 million. But prior to that, his March 2007 opener "Next" debuted with just $7.1 million and fetched a mere $18.2 million domestically.

Most industryites had projected an opening weekend gross of at least $10 million-$12 million for "Bangkok." Its opening audiences skewed 58% male, with 46% of patrons aged 20-29.

"It will be a profitable movie for us," Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said.

Initial Entertainment Group financed production costs that were reported to total $45 million on "Bangkok," and Lionsgate paid an unspecified sum to acquire North American distribution rights.

Next weekend's wide openers include another Lionsgate film, Tyler Perry's "The Family That Preys." Also bowing wide will be Overture's "Righteous Kill," starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and Focus' Coen brothers comedy, "Burn After Reading," with George Clooney and Brad Pitt.