Box Office Special - Old Man Scores Big Box

We have a new opening weekend champion. Of the year that is. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" dropped into theaters like a rickety old man tripping over a crack in the sidewalk, and while struggling to rise, he found some shiny gold coins. For my full (rant-filled) analysis, you'll have to listen to Episode 28, but let's just say I wasn't amused, at all.

Paramount had to be cute about things, and open Indy on a Thursday, on a long weekend to boot. So while we have a "weekend total," at a little over $100 million, the number everyone is talking about is $151 million, which was Dr. Jones's draw for the five day opening.

Now, everyone involved with the movie is patting themselves on the back, and sure, they deserve some credit, their movie made a butt-load of money. But I want to peer inside the numbers, just a little bit, to get a sense of where Indiana Jones 4 fits into the bigger picture.

One of the more informative charts for the purposes of examining Indy's opening is "Top 5-Day Grosses." This chart shows the money money made during the first five days of any films' openings, no matter when they were released. Now, one would have to think that a Thursday release, on a holiday weekend would be the ideal release day for a big five day draw (you get three non-work nights as opposed to only two), but the results don't really bear that guess out. Indy places a respectable 5th on this chart, but none of the other films were released on the Thursday before a Monday holiday. Only "Return of the Sith" opened on a Thurs, but it was the week before Memorial Day. "PotC 2" and "Spider Man 3" actually out-grossed Indy with Friday openings.

Clearly, all of these films made gobs of money, so this may seem like splitting hairs, but my guess is that there are some behind the production who are little unhappy they didn't go bigger. We're talking about Indiana Jones here: perhaps one of the two or three biggest franchises in movie history, bringing all the star power both in front and behind the camera, dropping $185 million on production (and god knows what on promotion), only to be beaten by a web-slinger, a half-baked Star Wars prequel, and a drunk, effeminate pirate.

It's hard to compare "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" to its predecessors, only because things were so different in '81, '84 and '89 from today's film environment. But just looking at the yearly ranks for "Raiders," "Temple," and "Last Crusade," (1st, 3rd, and 2nd respectively) it's not impossible that "Crystal Skull" could walk away with a 4th or 5th for the year. Marvel's new golden boy hung around the top 3 for a 4th week, which is a tall order, and looking ahead, serious contenders for 2008's top spot will likely include "The Dark Knight," "Wall-E," and two or three turds that I can't even stomach enough to list here but will likely make some money.

Next week will be very telling for the wily treasure hunter: the new competition will come from "SatC: The Movie" and the long awaited "The Strangers." Neither of these should draw too heavily from Indy's nerd-base, so there won't be any excuses for a drop-off. Likewise, if this fourth installment hangs tough, it could mean big things. Then, all we have to do is coax Harrison Ford to take out his earring long-enough to shoot number five, and everyone can start printing money.

Horrors of 2008 spreadsheet is updated. It's here. Next week, back to horror. Nice.

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