'Rush Hour 3' Packs Less Punch
Kicking off with less than two thirds the attendance wallop of its predecessor, Rush Hour 3 drew $49.1 million on approximately 5,200 screens at 3,778 theaters, topping the weekend box office. New Line Cinema's action comedy sequel starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, which reportedly cost $140 million to make, saw initial popularity closer to the first Rush Hour than Rush Hour 2.

Six years ago, Rush Hour 2 bagged a $67.4 million start from 3,118 theaters. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, that would equal about $80 million today, the most attended August opening ever. Its $226.2 million final tally adjusts to nearly $270 million today. The first Rush Hour from 1998 was a surprise smash, grossing $33 million out of the gate or about $47 million adjusted, en route to $141.2 million or around $200 million adjusted. Production pricetags for Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 were $33 million and $90 million, respectively.

It's easy to point to the elapsed time since Rush Hour 2 as a key factor in the traffic slowdown. In general, time is not on a franchise's side as many disappointments such as Mission: Impossible III and The Legend of Zorro show. A notable exception was Bad Boys II, which saw a rise in star power of its lead actors (Will Smith, Martin Lawrence) in the eight years since the first movie and was promoted as an action event.

Rush Hour 3 was marketed as just another Rush Hour picture, in part because the movie itself is a slight romp, and lacked the event-style build-up that Rush Hour 2 had. What's more, Chan hasn't been on American screens for three years, while Tucker's last movie was Rush Hour 2. A repetitious entry in a series without a major new hook doesn't quite cut it after a six-year wait if the intent is to build or retain an audience. That Rush Hour 3 had a sizable debut is a credit to the good will generated by the first two pictures.

The weekend's other significant new release, Stardust, crash-landed, conjuring $9.2 million at 2,540 venues. Reportedly carrying a $70 million production budget, the fantasy adventure's presentation was more akin to the genre's flops of the 1980s than the recent kid-oriented hits and blockbusters based on literary phenomena.

Holding slightly better than The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ulimatum fell 53 percent to $32.9 million. With $131.6 million in ten days, the action thriller may become the only summer sequel to exceed its predecessor in terms of both gross and attendance. The rest have fallen short of previous movies, though Live Free or Die Hard is the highest grossing of that series and currently the least attended and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is still in the running versus Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Thanks to its late summer release, Order of the Phoenix continued its series low weekends but series high weekdays, and its $272 million in 33 days is higher than its predecessors through the same point.

Among wide holdovers, Hairspray enjoyed the slimmest decline, down 31 percent to $6.4 million for $92.1 million in 24 days. Meanwhile, Transformers crossed the $300 million mark on Friday, its 39th day of release, and is hot on the heels of Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End.

Three other new wide releases were blips. Daddy Day Camp managed a meager $3.4 million at 2,332 locations, a small fraction of Daddy Day Care's $27.6 million start. Distributor Sony claimed the family comedy was a direct-to-video title, with the theatrical release meant to optimize DVD sales, and that the studio's financial exposure was in the $6 million range. Werewolf movie Skinwalkers scraped up a woeful $753,520 at 745 sites, and Becoming Jane expanded nationwide to an unbecoming $2.9 million at 601 venues.


• Review - Rush Hour 3

• 8/14/06 - 'Step Up' Stands Out, 'World Trade Center' Sturdy in Third (Same Weekend, 2006)

• 8/15/05 - 'Four Brothers,' 'Skeleton Key' Bury 'Deuce Bigalow' (Same Weekend, 2005)


Weekend Box Office Results

• All Time August Openings

• Buddy Action Comedies

• Fantasy Movies

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Aug. 12 and was revised on Monday, Aug. 13 with actual grosses.