Despite scoring a relatively disappointing estimated opening gross of $50.2 million, Rush Hour 3 topped a weekend box office marked by underperforming new releases, sharply declining holdovers and, strangely enough, a fallen record or two. To make sense of this topsy-turvy frame, let me present my case step by step.
EXHIBIT A. When is a $50 mil, No. 1 premiere something to be ashamed of? When it's Rush Hour 3. Fact is, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan's buddy sequel came in well below expectations (pundits, including yours truly, figured it would bank closer to $60 mil) and earned $17 mil less than RH2 grossed on its opening weekend in 2001. Considering that it could decline something like 60 percent next weekend, the franchise comedy will have a hard time matching even RH1's $141.2 mil domestic total, let alone RH2's $226.2 mil. That's nothing to laugh about.
EXHIBIT B. Poor returns also plagued the other premieres. Stardust was a complete non-factor at No. 4, with a decidedly unstellar $9 mil. Daddy Day Camp got sent home with a pathetic $3.6 mil at No. 10. And Skinwalkers scared up a dismal $565,279 somewhere way down the chart. (In fact, the only freshman film with anything to boast about was Julie Delpy's indie romance 2 Days in Paris, which averaged $18,100 in 10 locations.)
EXHIBIT C. Two major holdovers saw steep declines. The Bourne Ultimatum (No. 2) dropped 51 percent to earn $33.7 mil in its second frame, and The Simpsons Movie (No. 3) declined 56 percent to bank $11.1 mil in its third. So, once again, I wonder: What good were Bourne's $69.3 mil bow and Simpsons' $74 mil debut if they couldn't keep many seats filled thereafter?
EXHIBIT D. And now the good news. The rest of the movies in the top 10 held on well. Underdog (No. 5) barked up $6.5 mil. Hairspray (No. 6) danced to the tune of $6.4 mil. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (No. 7) yukked up $5.9 mil. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (No. 8) earned $5.4 mil. And No Reservations (No. 9) grossed $3.9 mil.
EXHIBIT E. What's more, several box office barriers were broken. Bourne and Chuck and Larry both passed $100 mil and Transformers (No. 11 with $3.3 mil) soared north of the $300 mil mark, making 2007 the first year in which four movies have banked more than three bills. Although I've been harping all summer on the fact that the box office is juiced (indeed, records and $100 mil totals have become as common as Barry Bonds' home runs), I've gotta say: That's pretty impressive.
EXHIBIT F. Despite all the disappointment and yet thanks to all of the steady success, the overall sum at the multiplex was up more than 21 percent from the same weekend a year ago (when Talladega Nights, the ultra-memorable Step Up, and World Trade Center led the way). Moreover, the summer of 2007 is all but assured of being the biggest of all time, as it's running a whopping 6 percent better than the previous best hot season, in 2004.
EXHIBIT G. My final thought: Before school starts up again, American consumers desperately need to slather on some SPF-1000 and get outside. There's still time!