Super Tuesday: Box Office Edition

It might seem like the GOP primary season has been stretching on since the day Barack Obama entered the White House — with the seemingly endless blather about socialism-inspired domestic initiatives and terrorist-sympathizing foreign policy, about how gay marriage will destroy the moral fabric of society, about how asking for heath care-provided contraceptives makes you a slut — it’s only just beginning.

Because today is Super Tuesday — the biggest, baddest day on the GOP nominating calendar. Primaries and caucuses in 10 states (Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia) will be held today. 419 GOP convention delegates are up for grabs. Mitt Romney is vying to re-solidify his front-runner status. Rick Santorum is hoping voters will coalesce around a guy with a 1950s moral compass and a 21st-century hatred of government. And Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are still hanging around because, well, what else have they got to do?

It’s exhausting to try and keep track of all this stuff. It’s depressing, too. Which is why on Super Tuesday, I’ll be fleeing to my favorite escapist wonderland: the multiplex. In that spirit, let’s take a look back at Super Tuesday as it applies to the box-office: the 10 highest-grossing Tuesdays in movie history (all figures come from Box Office Mojo).

10. “Night at the Museum”: $13,506,030 (12/26/06)
Days after opening with a $30.4 million weekend, Ben Stiller’s fantastical romp through the American Museum of Natural History continued to dominate on its way to becoming the comedian’s second highest-grossing film of his career. Stiller’s number-one slot belongs to “Meet the Fockers,” proving that, much like in the voting booth, there’s no accounting for taste at the movie theaters.

9. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”: $13,510,024 (6/30/09)
With many kids freshly out of school for summer break, the second “Transformers” out-grossed the first-Tuesday haul of “Dark of the Moon” by just $80,000. Both films went on to trounce the total domestic gross of the original, but neither could touch the first one’s super-fantastic first Tuesday, for reasons that will become clear below.

8. “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”: $13,656,128 (12/25/07)
Perhaps our most politically relevant film on the Super Tuesday list, insofar as its focused on the American presidential past and present and doesn’t take place on Pandora, “Book of Secrets” became a surprise $200-million blockbuster in ’07. Rumors abound about “National Treasure 3,” but there’s been no solid news about the project since early in 2011.

7. “Toy Story 3″: $15,123,212 (6/22/10)
The only animated movie on the list owned the competition for the final two weeks in June of ’10. Even its first Thursday gross would have been high enough for Woody’s third adventure to kick “Night at the Museum” off the list.

6. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″: $15,388,166 (7/19/11)
What’s initially surprising isn’t how well the final “Potter” flick performed on its first Tuesday of release, but that other films in the franchise haven’t even come close to matching that B.O. booty. “Deathly Hallows – Part 1,” though, hit theaters in November (good for #25 on the list), when kids were still stuck in school, and “Half-Blood Prince” nabbed a Wednesday release in the summer of ’09 (hanging on at #39), meaning fans had six days to peep the film before Tuesday rolled around.

5. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”: $15,731,919 (7/11/06)
The second film in Johnny Depp’s series may have been a patience-trying mess, but by the time anyone had noticed, “Dead Man’s Chest” had run off three-straight number-one weekends. The public wouldn’t be suckered again: both subsequent franchise films didn’t touch either the first-Tuesday bounty or the total box-office haul of “Dead Man’s Chest.” Fool me once…

4. “Avatar”: $16,086,461 (12/22/09)
Both a geek and a liberal’s dream movie (or, depending on your political persuasion, proof of Hollywood’s hippie, pinko bleeding heart), “Avatar” pivoted from a relatively disappointing, blizzard-afflicted opening weekend and stormed into the work week impressively. A few billion dollars later, it was the highest-grossing movie of all time.

3. “Avatar”: $18,290,628 (12/29/09)
What’s crazy about this is the second Tuesday of release did better than the first Tuesday. Shoot, the second Wednesday did better than the first Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Positive word of mouth thrust “Avatar” to the front of the pack. If only Santorum could work such magic.

2. “The Dark Knight”: $20,868,722 (7/22/08)
The second installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series ranks as the comic-book adaptation with the highest slot on the Super Tuesday list. No surprise, then, that it’s also the biggest comic-book movie ever.

1. “Transformers”: $27,851,016 (7/3/07)
In box-office numbers, as in politics itself, not everything is fair. “Transformers” blew away the Super Tuesday competition because it was lucky enough to premiere on a Tuesday — in fact, the day before July 4th. Impressive stuff, no doubt, but its record-setting Tuesday was still well behind the Wednesday debut of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” ($68.5 million) and the Thursday premiere of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” ($50 million). So yes, “Transformers” is the most super of Super Tuesday releases, but Romney and Santorum are going to have to metaphorically outpace that robot epic if either man wants Super Tuesday to deliver true political momentum.

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