Some studio executives pray that real-life events will echo the themes of their new releases, seeing more money from the added media play. Others dread it, fearing burnout will keep skittish audiences away from theaters. If the box office performance of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center is any indication, neither camp should waste its time worrying. Premiering Aug. 9, a day before the world learned of the foiled terror plot that unfolded in London, the 9/11 tale saw neither a sizable boost nor a noticeable hit as a result of the most recent offscreen developments.
WTC’s decent $18.7 million opening-weekend tally — $26.5 million over its first five days — was good for third place, behind the second weekend of Talladega Nights ($22.1 million) and the surprisingly strong opening of Step Up ($20.6 million). The haul was a personal best for Stone and beat United 93, which opened to $11.5 million last April. With 65 percent of WTC’s audience over 25 — a slice of the population that typically doesn’t rush out on an opening weekend — it appears Stone’s movie could hold well in the coming weeks.
But the biggest winner of the weekend? Snakes on a Plane. With no film grossing more than $25 million on the eve of its 3,300-theater opening Aug. 18, the reptilian extravaganza will have an even easier time, um, scaling great box office heights. And for better or worse, its plot is not one we’re likely to see on CNN anytime soon.