When we were talking about the box office returns during Sunday's podcast, I mentioned that "Speed Racer" had a little trouble beating out "What Happens in Vegas" also known as "Ashton vs. Cameron (ZOMG, *winky face*)!" The numbers were eerily close when the estimates were published at Box Office Mojo on Sunday afternoon, but Speed and Co. took home second place by a margin of about $.2 million (estimates have been updated, but "Vegas" was at $20 million, with "Racer" at $20.2 or so).
While this may seem a trivial amount, the $.2 million difference meant that everyone reporting on the box office numbers on Monday morning announced the rankings as they had been estimated. Everyone knew "Speed Racer" had bombed, but a second place finish allowed the WB brass to save some face. But now, as Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood and others are reporting, it appears that the WB knowingly inflated their estimate to blunt the blow of Speed's epic fail.
When the updated numbers were published on Monday, the weekend box office earnings showed that "Whatever Happens" had actually beaten "Racer" by $1.6 million. Now, studio estimates are just that, estimates, but they are not typically off by such a large margin. Add that fact into the mix with the tough press already facing a tent-pole flop, and the execs had every reason they needed to float bad info.
This plotline hasn't really been picked up on in the mainstream press, which is a little odd, and also contributes to the possibility of this type of thing happening again. Shame and embarrassment would be the only things preventing future fudging for PR gain, but since these are Hollywood movers and shakers we're talking about, it's best to assume they have no shame.