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Sunday, June 15, 2008

'The Incredible Hulk' smashes box office with $54.5m, June 13-15, 2008

The top three films combined to pull in $120 million this weekend, led by two newcomers The Incredible Hulk and The Happening, and a strong sophomore frame from DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda. All that added up to another strong weekend from the top ten films, up 26% from last year's comparable frame when Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer topped in its debut with $58.1 million.

For the fifth consecutive weekend the box office gave rise to a $50+ million debut, this time going to Marvel Studios reboot The Incredible Hulk, which topped with an estimated $54.5 million. Averaging a strong $15,561 in 3,505 theaters, the PG-13 pic fell short of its 2003 predecessor The Hulk, which took in $62.1 million in its debut. Directed by Ang Lee, that film starring Eric Bana took in $132.1 million domestically.

Budgeted at $150 million (financed by Marvel Studios and distributed by Universal), the Louis Leterrier-directed superhero pic fell short of the bar set by May's Iron Man (also produced by Marvel, distributed by Paramount), which took in an incredible $98.6 million in its opening weekend. Starring Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, and co-starring Liv Tyler and Tim Roth, The Incredible Hulk received mixed-to-positive reviews from critics, with 66% of those polled by Rottentomatoes.com giving the film a "fresh" recommendation.

Analysts projected the film to earn somewhere between $55-70 million over the weekend. Universal reported a $21.7 million Friday haul, followed by a not-so-encouraging 15% drop in ticket sales to $18.4 million on Saturday. The studio is estimating a 22% dip to $14.4 million on Sunday.

Unlike the marketing for Iron Man, which focused heavily promoting Robert Downey Jr. as a legitimate leading man, Marvel decided to focus on the dazzling visual effects and action in their advertising campaign for Hulk, almost playing down the role of Edward Norton. Though not necessarily a full reboot of the original film The Incredible Hulk did share some overlap in the origin story from Ang Lee's version, and the similarities in this non-sequel sequel might have kept audiences away who were already underwhelmed with Lee's Hulk.

Given the film's significant 15% drop in sales from Friday to Saturday, word of mouth appears lukewarm at best. Look for heavy losses in the coming weeks and don't expect the film to break even domestically. Overseas, The Incredible Hulk launched in 38 international markets with $31 million.

Falling 43% to second was DreamWorks Animation's hit animated comedy Kung Fu Panda, which took in $34.3 million in its sophomore frame. In ten days of release, the Jack Black starrer has grossed $118 million. With two more weeks until the debut of Pixar's Wall-e, look for strong word of mouth to continue to carry the computer-animated release. Panda's success hasn't be overlooked by DreamWorks, which has already greenlit five more films in their newest animated franchise. At its current pace, look for the $130m budgeted Kung Fu Panda to flirt with $250 million domestic.

Despite yet another beating at the hands of critics, M. Night Shyamalan shepherded his latest thriller The Happening to an estimated $30.5 million in third. Carrying the director's first ever R-rating, The Happening averaged a strong $10,214 in 2,986 theaters, posting the second biggest debut of 2008 for an R-rated release (only Sex and the City with $56.8m opened bigger). Thanks to a strong marketing campaign from Fox as well as Night's sizable but continually dwindling fan base, the director managed to rebound from his most recent flop Lady in the Water, which bowed to $18 million on its way to just $42.3 million domestic. Look for significant drops in the coming weeks for the $50 million budgeted pic.

Like most of his previous comedies, Adam Sandler's latest You Don't Mess With the Zohan fell a precipitous 57% from its opening frame to an estimated $16.4 million. In ten days, the $90 million budgeted comedy has grossed $68.7 million, and should finish with just under $100 million by the end of its domestic run.

Rounding out the top five was Steven Spielberg's blockbuster action-adventure Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which fell just 41% to an estimated $13.5 million. Produced by Lucasfilm and distributed by Paramount, the $185m Harrison Ford starrer as racked up a massive $275.3 million. It is now the third highest grossing film ever for Spielberg, behind only 1982's E.T. with $435m and 1993's Jurassic Park with $357m.

In seventh with $5.1 million was Marvel/Paramount's blockbuster superhero pic Iron Man, which flirted ever so close to the $300 million barrier. In seven weeks, the $140 million budgeted pic has grossed $297 million.

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