COUPLE PROBLEMS Steve Carrell plays a funny therapist in Hope Springs
Credit: Barry Wetcher

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Despite the departure of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, the Bourne franchise still ruled the box office this weekend.

The Bourne Legacy, Universal’s $125 million sequel/reboot, which stars Jeremy Renner as a new (but similarly brainwashed) secret agent, topped the chart with an estimated $40.3 million from 3,745 locations

The action film debuted higher than franchise launchpad The Bourne Identity, which grossed $27.1 million in its 2002 opening weekend, but it will need solid word of mouth (which may not be merited by its lukewarm “B” CinemaScore grade) to match that film’s $121.7 million finish. Legacy was unable to reach the heights of its two predecessors, though. 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy started with $52.5 million on the way to $176.2 million, and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum started with $69.3 million en route to a $227.5 million finish.

The past year has been a great one for Jeremy Renner, who nabbed roles in back-to-back blockbusters Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Avengers, and while the opening of Legacy is another solid notch on his belt, it still doesn’t prove definitively that he is a real box office draw. The original Bourne trilogy earned the franchise a tremendous amount of goodwill from audiences, and it’s that franchise trust that likely benefited Legacy (and Mission, and Avengers) more than Renner’s presence. Whether the formidable actor can pull in audiences on his own remains to be seen.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Will Ferrell and Zack Galifinakis’ election comedy The Campaign took second place with $27.4 million. The R-rated laugher kicked off its run in the same range as Ferrell’s last live-action wide release The Other Guys ($35.5 million), and Galifinakis’ last non-Hangover comedy Due Date ($32.7 million). While The Campaign‘s grosses are a bit lower than those movies (and recent R-rated hit 21 Jump Street, which opened with $36.1 million), the debut frame is remarkably impressive considering the subject matter.

American audiences have never been particularly receptive to political comedies. Team America: World Police (2004) has found a huge cult following, but it earned just $32.8 million in its theatrical run. American Dreamz (2006) gave the American Idol format a political spin, but it topped off at $7.2 million. Political tales Man of the Year (2006) and Swing Vote (2008, an election year), grossed only $37.3 million and $16.3 million, respectively. The highest grossing political comedy in recent memory is actually Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator, which was widely perceived as a misfire when it earned $59.7 million against a rumored $100+ million budget and massive advertising campaign.

Political storylines simply don’t offer audiences the escapism they typically desire at the movies, but between the interest in politics now that we’re in the middle of election season, combined with Ferrell and Galifinakis’ undeniably silly personas, which don’t suggest a serious political point-of-view, The Campaign clicked for ticket buyers, and it will become a solid hit for both actors. Time will tell how high the film actually climbs, though its unenthusiastic “B-” CinemaScore grade may limit endurance.

Due to heavy competition, Warner Bros.’ other big release, The Dark Knight Rises, slipped into third place with $19.5 million, a 45 percent drop from last weekend. After four frames, Christopher Nolan’s $250 million Batman finale has soared to $390.1 million, and it will pass The Hunger Games‘ $407.3 million cume to become 2012’s second-highest-grossing domestic performer next weekend. (It’s already achieved this title worldwide.)

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

In fourth place was Hope Springs, the Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones dramedy (which also stars Steve Carell as their marriage therapist), which earned $15.6 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period in 2,361 theaters. Prospects looked somewhat grim for Hope when it earned a quiet $4.5 million over Wednesday and Thursday, but the film’s overwhelmingly older female audience (66 percent were women, 69 percent were 40 or older), who aren’t all relaxing on their summer breaks, turned out in higher volumes for weekend engagements. After five days, the film, which was issued a “B” CinemaScore grade, has earned $20.1 million.

Sony paid just $15 million to acquire Hope Springs from Mandate, who shelled out $29 million to produce the film, and if it proves as leggy as some of Streep’s other films — Julie and Julia climbed to $94.1 million after a $20 million weekend, and It’s Complicated earned $122.7 million after a $22.1 million debut — it will become a profitable mid-level hit for the studios.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days rounded out the Top 5, dropping 44 percent to $8.2 million, which lifts the kiddie flick’s total to $30.6 million after ten days. Its predecessor, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules had earned $38.2 million at the same point in its run, but that film started with $23.7 million, while Dog Days started with just $14.6 million — a difference of $9.1 million. Fortunately, strong summer weekday performances have helped Dog Days close the difference to $7.6 million, and the $22 million Fox film could finish with about $45 million.

Also of note: last weekend’s top opener, Total Recall plunged 68 percent to $8.1 million in its sophomore frame, and has now earned only $44.2 million against its $125 million budget.

1. The Bourne Legacy – $40.3 million

2. The Campaign – $27.4 million

3. The Dark Knight Rises – $19.5 million

4. Hope Springs – $15.6 million

5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days – $8.2 million

Check back next weekend to see how high the The Expendables 2, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Sparkle, and ParaNorman climb, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office updates.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
  • Movie
  • 94 minutes