WINNER OF THE WEEK: Danny Boyle. The Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire created the weekend’s must-see blockbuster spectacle, with a record U.S. audience of 40.7 million watching him deploy James Bond and Queen Elizabeth II parachuting out of a helicopter, an army of floating Mary Poppinses confronting Voldemort and Captain Hook, and a dancing-nurse tribute to socialized medicine. Too bad for Hollywood that Boyle’s London Olympics opening pageant played on free TV. If just 3 percent of those viewers had gone to the movies Friday night to see The Watch, it would have grossed another $10 million and looked like a hit instead of a flop.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Star power. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill failed to draw viewers away from the Olympics to see their suburbanites-vs.-aliens comedy The Watch. It was supposed to open above $20 million, but it debuted at Number Three with just $13.0 million, according to studio estimates. (The R rating and bland title, changed from Neighborhood Watch after the Trayvon Martin shooting, didn’t help.) Granted, the star-free Step Up Revolution had an even weaker opening, coming in fourth with an estimated $11.8 million, the lowest opening yet among the four Step Up movies, but the modestly budgeted dance movie is still likely to make a profit, especially since the franchise does much better overseas. As for Christian Bale and Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises remained on top but lost 60 percent of last weekend’s record-breaking business. An estimated $64.1 million is still a haul, but it lags behind the $75.2 million that The Dark Knight earned for its second weekend in 2008. (Rounding out the top five: Ice Age: Continental Drift was second with an estimated $13.3 million, and Ted was fifth with an estimated $7.4 million.)
NO AVERAGE ‘JOE’: Among indie releases, Matthew McConaughey’s much-buzzed thriller Killer Joe opened on just three screens but pulled in an estimated $12,633 on each, a better average than any movie except The Dark Knight Rises. The romantic comedy Ruby Sparks, from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, averaged an estimated $11,692 per screen and topped new indie releases overall with a total of $152,000. And an estimated $9,000 per screen went to Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, the documentary about the Chinese dissident artist who co-designed the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. Imagine how much better the film would have done if Ai’s Olympic design had included flying nannies and parachuting queens.