Speed Racer Joins American Gangster On List Of So-Called Box Office Cheaters

This weekend there was much ado about Speed Racer’s box office performance. It was so played up that just about every member of the CB news team felt got a piece of the action. Accusations were being thrown around that Warner Brothers, desperate to help keep their sputtering film ahead in the race, inflated the amounts of cash they expected their film to make. If you’ve missed the soap opera worthy drama, be sure to check out the prediction, then the allegation, followed by the explanation and, of course, the verdict.

In the end there seemed to be some merit to the claims. On Sunday the studio declared that they expected the movie to bank $20.2 million but when actual tallies came out today the grand total was actually $18.5 million. A $1.7 million dollar difference may sound huge, but it’s not the first time something like this has happened.

Remember Prom Night (2008)? Mere weeks ago its opening weekend total was estimated at $22.7 million. The real number? $20.8 million, nearly $2 million less than its estimate.

And again, last year Universal declared that American Gangster would come in at $46.3 million. Instead it opened to the tune of $43.5 million, almost $3 million short of the prediction.

Heck, even Spider-Man came up short. Spider-Man 3 was off by nearly $2 million dollars on its second weekend.

From time to time it even works the other way. When The Simpsons Movie debuted it was predicted at $71.8 million. The actual total was over $2 million more at $74 million.

Bear in mind that it’s unusual for estimates to vary so much. In general studios seem to have it down pretty well. Half a million to a million isn't an unexpected deviation, though it’s not uncommon for estimates to be dead on to the nearest hundred thousand. The truth is that it’s pretty rare for a studio to miss its estimate by more than $1.5 million. But the real question is whether or not Warner Brothers did it on purpose to screw themselves into a very brief second place in the weekend box office.

Actually, the real question I have is: who’s kidding who? I find it hard to believe that the WB, in the face of an already disastrous opening for their financially floundering film, would risk their credibility by maliciously floating the numbers by such a relatively small amount to try and fool people for one night into thinking that their movie was minutely more popular than Ashton Kutcher’s latest cinematic snore-fest.

Now, if this were a situation where two major studios with blockbusters on the line were lying through their teeth to fake the number one spot then their might be something to get excited over. But until SmokingGun.com uncovers a memo from a WB exec to a bean counter telling them to prop the numbers up, I’m not ready to throw the studio onto the guillotine just because someone was rankled that someone else thought a kids movie would outperform Kutcher and Diaz getting drunk on Mothers Day weekend. A case of delusions in grandeur might be a better explanation.