SUNDAY AM: Showing just how fiercely competitive the summer box office is right now, rival Hollywood movie studios are complaining to me they don’t believe Warner Bros’ domestic gross numbers released today. Those claim its disastrous Speed Racer came in 2nd behind Marvel’s Iron Man in the weekend’s Top 10 contest. All the other majors — Fox, Sony, Paramount, Universal, Disney, and MGM — have the anime actioner opening only 3rd. And rivals dispute WB’s reporting that Speed Racer made $20.2 million for Fri-Sat-Sun because its projected Sunday number isn’t seen as possible. “That’s a very aggressive Sunday estimate to try and claim 2nd,” one studio’s top marketing and distribution mogul complained to me this morning, echoing the disbelief of most of his colleagues. “Warners is hoping moms want to go to Speed Racer for Mothers Day.” (To give Warner Bros the benefit of the doubt, it’s true that family pics do well on Mothers Day.) But all the other studios have Fox’s romantic comedy What Happens In Vegas in 2nd place with $20 million, and Speed Racer only 3rd with $19.7 million. And the rival execs say that, since Speed Racer‘s gross was even softer than anyone thought, up only 18% on Saturday because of kiddie matinees compared to Friday, the Warner Bros film couldn’t possibly get to $20 million for the weekend barring a box office miracle on Sunday. “Their estimate is utterly laughable!,” a top exec at a rival major told me this AM. “That being said, from what I’ve heard, they are not trying to dress up the pig. They’re resigned to it being a disaster… just not enough to stop them from fabricating a number to jump Fox for the #2 position.” These kind of controversies don’t develop often in Hollywood, but when they do, they can be ugly. That’s because there is a certain code of honor among thieves, if you will — a tacit agreement that every Hollywood studio will try to report weekend box office numbers as accurately as possible, even though there’s a significant PR advantage to artifically moving a disappointing film up a slot in the Top 10 by inflating numbers. The irony is that these controversies get settled quickly, as soon as tomorrow when the actual theater by theater grosses for Sunday come in Monday and then determine the “actual” figures as opposed to the Sunday “estimates”…
Nobody is disputing distributor Paramount’s figures that Marvel’s summer blockbuster Iron Man made a platinum $15 million on Friday from 4,111 venues, and $21.6 million on Saturday, giving it an estimated FSS total of $50.5 million, or more than double the domestic box office gross of its nearest weekend competitor, to stay No. 1 again. Its new cume is a monster $177.1M. But Warner Bros’ Speed Racer, whether its weekend total is $19.7 million or $20.2 million from 3,606 plays, made only half what the studio hoped, even with lowered expectations because of bad buzz and poor tracking. Not only is the anime actioner this summer’s first summer bomb, but it’s also doing dismally in key areas of its 30+ day and date opening foreign territories. The pic has gone bust in many international markets, with some disastrous openings in Europe in particular. Besides a too-long running time and a too-small audience of younger boys, the Wachowski siblings spent at least $160M making the pic, whereas Fox’s What Happens in Vegas cost only $35 million. Hollywood is convinced Warner Bros has a major writedown on its hands. Vegas took in $7.1 million Friday and $7.5 million Saturday from 3,215 runs for a $20 million weekend. For much more analysis, see my ‘Speed Racer’ Crashes & Burns To Become First Summer Bomb and Weekend Prediction.
The rest of the Top 10 were holdovers: #4 Sony’s Made Of Honor took in $7.6M for a new cume of $26.2M; #5 Universal’s Baby Mama, $5.7M weekend, $40.3M cume; #6 Universal’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, $3.7M weekend, $50.7M cume; #7 Warner Bros’ Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, $3.1M weekend, $30.7M cume; #8 Lionsgate/The Weinstein Co’s The Forbidden Kingdom, $1.9M weekend, $48.2M cume; #9 Fox’s Nim’s Island, $1.3M weekend, $44.2M cume; #10 Sony Classics’ Redbelt, $1.1M weekend, $1.2M cume.