Ah, the summer-movie box office — what a fickle friend it can be. Surprising exactly no one, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened last weekend with a massive bounty, lifting $152 million over five days. That’s a career-topping take for director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford. That’s the second-highest Memorial Day weekend gross ever. That’s ginormous.
So why doesn’t it feel ginormous? For starters, blame a tepid audience response, which could put a serious crimp in the movie’s word-of-mouth business in the coming weeks. You could also blame the spotty roster of bench performers who dragged down the holiday weekend’s grosses by 14 percent versus last year ($219.2 million as opposed to $255.1 million). Sure, Iron Man is now expected to reach the $300 million-plus stratosphere, while the Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher comedy What Happens in Vegas ($57 million after three weeks) and tiny indie drama The Visitor ($5 million after seven weeks — two of them in the top 10) are proving to be unexpected, if smaller-scale, successes. But overall box office grosses remain down 4 percent from last year, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian dropped 46 percent in its second weekend, an ominous sign that could call the entire fantasy franchise into question. (Luckily for Disney, the film is cleaning up abroad.) Speed Racer, meanwhile, has officially crashed, burned, and been scraped off the racetrack with less than $40 million to date in Stateside grosses; in fact, it’ll be hard-pressed to pass the $100 million mark internationally. From Argentina to the Netherlands to Taiwan, audiences are saying, ”Go, Speed Racer, go…away!”