‘Rush Hour 3' speeds to top in ticket sales

(Glen Wilson)
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Make it six for six this summer for Hollywood’s “three-quels.”

“Rush Hour 3" -- the last of the season’s big-budget, third-installment sequels -- opened No. 1 at the weekend box office, matching the accomplishment of the previous five. The launch solidified Hollywood’s strong summer, with overall box-office revenue for the season now ahead of 2004’s record pace.

Despite dismal reviews, the action-comedy starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan as mismatched crime fighters grossed an estimated $50.2 million in the U.S. and Canada, studio New Line Cinema said Sunday.

“Rush Hour 3" knocked another part three, “The Bourne Ultimatum,” to No. 2 in its second weekend.

Tucker, the “Rush Hour 3" costar, checked out audience reactions for himself Friday at an Atlanta multiplex, when he popped into four auditoriums incognito in a hat and sunglasses and said the response to the film was enthusiastic.

“If the fans love it and the critics don’t, that keeps you balanced,” he said Sunday. “I never get big-headed this way.” Tucker had reason to be happy as the numbers rolled in: He gets 20% of box-office receipts.

Even so, “Rush Hour 3" missed analysts’ expectations and opened below the second installment, “Rush Hour 2" in 2001, which sold $67.4 million in tickets in its first weekend.

“There was a six-year gap between the films and the competition is a lot stiffer this time around,” said Arthur Sarkissian, one of the producers.

Though critics have skewered “Rush Hour 3,” 85% of audience members in a studio survey rated the new film “excellent” or “very good,” boding well for its prospects in the coming weeks, said David Tuckerman, New Line’s president of domestic distribution.

Universal Pictures’ “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which critics have praised as a two-hour adrenaline rush, dropped 51% in its second weekend, grossing an estimated $33.7 million. That was a modest decline considering its tussle for action audiences with “Rush Hour 3.”

Twentieth Century Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie” placed third at $11 million. Paramount Pictures’ fantasy “Stardust,” starring Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, was a disappointing fourth in its debut at $9 million, although it opened to a promising $3 million in one overseas territory: Russia.

Thanks largely to “Rush Hour 3" and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” total box-office revenue was up from the comparable weekend in 2006 for the fifth straight weekend. Summer receipts of $3.6 billion in the U.S. and Canada are running 9% ahead of last year and 4% ahead of 2004.

“Rush Hour 3" could end up being the summer’s last hit, although Sony Pictures has high hopes for its raunchy comedy “Superbad,” opening Friday.

All six of this summer’s three-quels will end up topping $100 million at the domestic box office, although most won’t be seen as the biggest winners in their franchises.

Here is a look at how the other five have fared:

* “Spider-Man 3" kicked off the industry’s extended summer season with a bang. Sony’s movie opened to a record $151 million in the U.S. and Canada for the three days starting May 4 and went on to gross $890 million worldwide during its full run -- the franchise’s best tally. A fourth film is in the works.

* “Shrek the Third” opened to $122 million on the weekend of May 18 for DreamWorks Animation and distributor Paramount. The big green ogre went on to gross $726 million worldwide -- better than the 2001 original but not as mighty as the 2004 sequel. Fourth and fifth installments are in the works, with the next one coming in 2010.

* “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” was the summer’s biggest hit but also a victim of high expectations. Johnny Depp and his mates opened to $115 million on the May 25 weekend and went on to gross $955 million worldwide, the fifth-best performance ever. But the Walt Disney Co. film fell shy of 2006’s part two, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” which grossed $1.1 billion. More installments are deemed likely.

* “Ocean’s Thirteen,” the breezy caper comedy whose all-star cast includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, opened June 8 to $36 million and went on to gross $279 million worldwide. It was the weakest performer in the trilogy that began in 2001 with “Ocean’s Eleven” (worldwide gross: $451 million). The Warner Bros. series appears to be over, but in Hollywood that’s never a certainty.

* “The Bourne Ultimatum,” starring Damon as an amnesiac government assassin, will be by far the biggest hit in its trilogy. Through 10 days it has grossed $132 million domestically, compared with full-run totals of $122 million for the 2002 original, “The Bourne Identity,” and $176 million for 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy.” A fourth film is likely if Damon gives the go-ahead.

The story neatly wrapped up the mystery surrounding the main character. But in Hollywood, if the numbers add up, a franchise like this can always be Bourne again.