Hollywood’s happy days of Summer 2008 reached new heights this weekend, as WALL-E wound up with a big first-place finish, Wanted came through as a much-stronger-than-anticipated No. 2, and the cumulative box office saw yet another major 20 percent boost.
With a $62.5 mil debut, according to Sunday’s estimates, WALL-E is, as we now expect from all Pixar flicks, a hit. The ninth feature from the animation studio, the movie is Pixar’s ninth No. 1 wide opener. Its debut is on par with Monsters, Inc.’s $62.6 mil premiere, and depending on what Monday’s final figures say, WALL-E could wind up with Pixar’s third-best opening ever. What’s more, the robot romance bowed bigger than DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda did earlier this month ($60.2 mil) and bigger than Pixar’s own Ratatouille did on this weekend last year ($47 mil). And it succeeded on the strength of near-universal adoration from critics and audiences (it drew a solid A CinemaScore grade from an crowd that tilted toward younger ladies). So, yep, if you didn’t happen to catch it this weekend, there’s no need to fret: WALL-E won’t be going anywhere.
Not so far back in second place, Wanted shot up a huge $51.1 mil, a total that exceeded most pundits’ projections (including mine). If that number holds, it’ll mark Angelina Jolie’s top live-action opening ever, eking past the $50.3 mil debut of Mr. & Mrs. Smith three years ago. As it stands right now, that’s also the seventh-best premiere for an R-rated movie (slightly behind Sex and the City’s $57 mil debut earlier this summer), and — get this — it’s the second-best debut in history for a movie that didn't bow at No. 1. Playing in 817 fewer venues than WALL-E, Wanted also drew the weekend’s top per-theater average (a robust $16,100). The question now is whether the graphic-novel-based shoot-‘em-up (which earned a respectable-but-not-great B+ CinemaScore from a crowd that was slightly skewed toward older men) will be able to hold strong when it goes up against Will Smith’s Hancock in just three days. We’ll see.
Last weekend’s champ, Get Smart (No. 3), was next with $20 mil, on a nice 48 percent drop. Then came the month-old Kung Fu Panda, which hung on well at No. 4, banking a sweet $11.7 mil despite some formidable fresh competition. And The Incredible Hulk rounded out the top five with $9.2 mil, on a scary 58 percent third-weekend decline. At this rate, Hulk ‘08 may wind up passing Hulk ‘03’s $132.2 mil domestic total — but only barely.
It’s also worth noting that The Love Guru dropped a steep 61 percent to earn $5.4 mil at No. 6. Oh, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (No. 7) now stands at a tantalizing $299.9 mil domestically.
So, yeah, as I mentioned earlier, lotsa good news — a fact illustrated by the box office’s 20 percent rise over the same frame a year ago, making this the fourth weekend out of the last five that has seen such a brawny boost. And look for things to soar even higher in the coming week, when America celebrates its favorite new holiday, Will Smith Day on July 4th.