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Weekend Report: ‘Bruno’ Not as Brawny as ‘Borat’

by Brandon Gray
Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno
 

 
July 13, 2009

Bruno strutted to the top of the box office but wasn't quite in vogue, leading to a relatively slow July session. Overall, the weekend was the least attended for the timeframe in 17 years and down five percent from last year.

Striking approximately 3,400 screens at 2,756 venues, Bruno donned a solid $30.6 million, which was less than I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, another "gay panic" comedy from July 2007. Despite a higher-grossing debut, Bruno didn't make a statement like Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen's previous mockumentary. That picture opened to $26.5 million at only 837 theaters, and then made $28.3 million in its second weekend, when it expanded to 2,566 theaters, culminating in a $128.5 million final tally.

Breaking the weekend gross down, Bruno had one of the steepest Friday-to-Saturday drops on record, slipping 39 percent from $14.4 million on Friday to $8.8 million on Saturday. For the most part, movies with such Saturday slides do not hold up well in the long run, rendering Bruno's chances at reaching $100 million remote. Universal Pictures, which stressed that it paid Bruno producer Media Rights Capital $42.5 million for the distribution rights, reported an audience composition of 56 percent male and 54 percent 25 years and older, based on exit polling. In their research, the main reasons people checked off for seeing the movie were the "Humor" (74 percent), Sacha Baron Cohen (57 percent), Borat (52 percent) and the "Outrageousness" (50 percent).

Bruno's marketing campaign boiled down to "here's more outrageous humor from the Borat guy," making the movie look like a sequel with Cohen sporting a similarly kooky voice in pseudo-documentary settings. But as Bruno's tagline stated, Borat was so 2006. Borat was a unique phenomenon and the frenzy faded in the nearly three years since its release. It's hard for comedy follow-ups to even match their predecessors once people already get the joke, and Bruno's ads lacked the purpose and clarity of Borat's, which were driven by perennially popular culture clash comedy. What's more, Cohen's Bruno caricature lacked Borat's connection to reality, and its fashionista theme was less accessible to the moviegoers that patronize this type of stunt humor.

Hot on Bruno's heels, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs eased 34 percent to $27.6 million, propelling its total to $119.7 million in 12 days, or nearly as much as predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown in the same amount of time. The percentage drop was less than the first Ice Age and The Meltdown.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen leveled off somewhat, down 43 percent to $24.2 million for a better third weekend than the first Transformers. In a mere 19 days, the action sequel has generated $339.2 million, surpassing the final hauls of Transformers and Spider-Man 3 among others to rank 16th on the all time top grosser list.

Public Enemies took a standard hit in its second weekend, retreating 45 percent to $13.8 million. That was less than the second weekends of Road to Perdition and Collateral, but the picture's $66.2 million 12-day take was higher.

Despite Bruno's arrival, the market's other major comedies had the best holds among nationwide releases. The Proposal declined 18 percent to $10.6 million, lifting its total to $113.9 million and charting as star Sandra Bullock's fourth vehicle to cross $100 million. The Hangover had the smallest dip of its remarkable run, slowing 12 percent to $9.9 million. With $222.4 million in 38 days, it has grossed more than Wedding Crashers and will soon beat it in terms of attendance as well, ranking as one of the most theatrically popular ribald comedies of all time.

Also opening nationwide over the weekend was I Love You Beth Cooper, which went the way of most recent teen sex comedies like Sex Drive and Miss March: registering as a blip with $4.9 million at 1,858 sites.

Last Weekend
'Transformers' Fends Off 'Ice Age' in Close Independence Weekend

This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2008 - 'Hellboy II' Sizzles in Debut
• 2007 - 'Harry Potter' Flies with the 'Phoenix'
• 2006 - 'Pirates' Pilfer More Records
• 2005 - 'Charlie,' 'Crashers' Draw Golden Ticket

Related Charts
Weekend Box Office Results
All Time Friday-to-Saturday Drops
All Time Friday Shares of Opening Weekends
Showdown: 'Bruno' Vs. 'Borat'



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