Weekend Box Office – INCEPTION Leads with $60.4 Million; THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE Conjures Just $17.3 Million

     July 18, 2010

The buzz on Christopher Nolan’s Inception continues. Now, however, the topic has shifted from “how awesome will it be?” To “what does it all mean?” Today at least one question can be resolved: “How much money will it make?” In its opening weekend, Inception earned an estimated $60.4 million from its 3,792 locations. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, meanwhile, continued to struggle; earning $17.3 million for a five day total south of $25 million.

Title Weekend Total
1 Inception $60,400,000 $60.4
2 Despicable Me $32,730,000 $118.3
3 The Sorcerer’s Apprentice $17,370,000 $24.4
4 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse $13,500,000 $264.9
5 Toy Story 3 $11,740,000 $362.7
6 Grown-Ups $10,000,000 $129.2
7 The Last Airbender $7,450,000 $114.8
8 Predators $6,800,000 $40
9 Knight & Day $3,700,000 $69.2
10 The Karate Kid $2,200,000 $169.2

Inception-movie-posterAt this time in 2009 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was burning through the box office – taking in $77.8 million on its first weekend in addition to its $58 million Wednesday opening. One year before that a little flick called The Dark Knight did quite nicely in its own right. This week is prime box office real-estate, in other words. The fact that Warner Brothers secured it for a high-concept, two-dimensional, original feature just goes to show how happy they were with Christopher Nolan.

How happy the ordinary moviegoer has been with his latest film, so far, is still debatable. Inception’s 84% Rotten Tomato rating is one of this summer’s highest – yet far below the 97% The Dark Knight earned. So far fanboys are rallying around the film while others seem consumed by its meaning: Is it too smart for dumb people? Is it too dumb for smart people?

These questions led to a lot of confusion over the film’s eventual earning potential. Inception certainly wouldn’t break any TDK-type records, but a big opening befitting a much-anticipated sci-fi spectacle did not seem out of the question. The low end was $45 million while the high end placed it at $73 and over. Ultimately, the $60.4 million, nearly $16,000 per screen average was both remarkable for what it was – very high for an unknown, untested property – and for what it wasn’t. No records set here, in other words.

Helping boost this week’s numbers was last week’s number one movie, Despicable Me. The 3D toon fell just 42% to easily cross the $100 million mark on its ninth day. Its second place finish, despite the crowded slate of both competing family films and 3D titles, speaks volumes about the film’s ability to break $200 million before its run is over.

Sadly, this is not in the cards for the week’s second new release, Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. After a disappointing Wednesday opening more in line with a mid-level comedy than a Jerry Bruckheimer extravaganza, Apprentice continued to muddle through the weekend, eventually ending up far below the studios revised projections of $30 million in five days. So as I noted a few days ago, instead of delivering the studio its next Pirates of the Caribbean or National Treasure franchise, Bruckheimer has turned in a film precisely as profitable as the more recent Knight & Day – The latter working its way toward an $80 million final tally. Disney should eventually see a similar return for their $150 investment in Apprentice.

In terms of holdovers, it is worth noting that Predators, despite its solid $24.7 million opening, fell a giant 72% this weekend. Its new 10 day total stands at $40 million – precisely the budget for Predators that Fox has reported.

Next week two female icons muscle their way into the summer box office: Angeline Jolie in Salt and Selena Gomez in Ramona & Beezus. It may be a bit too early to declare Gomez an icon of course… though I wouldn’t want a certain six year-old I know to hear me say that.

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