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The Fighter Box Office: No Match for Million Dollar Baby

The Fighter movie Mark Wahlberg Christian BaleThe Fighter movie with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale: Despite mostly favorable reviews, David O. Russell’s boxing drama has little chance of becoming as successful at the box office as Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.
  • The Fighter box office: After adding nearly 2,500 locations, David O. Russell’s adult-oriented boxing drama was no. 4 on this past weekend’s domestic chart. But despite its big-name cast and awards season buzz, The Fighter’s per-theater average was (far) less than spectacular. Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo star.

The Fighter box office: Starring Mark Wahlberg, David O. Russell’s well-received boxing drama likely not to go as far as Oscar-winning predecessor

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Dec. 17–19 weekend box office (cont.): Trailing three big-to-mega-budget titles – the Walt Disney Studios’ 3D sci-fi adventure TRON: Legacy (weekend gross: $44 million), Warner Bros.’ kiddie flick Yogi Bear ($16.4 million), 20th Century Fox’s fantasy adventure The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ($12.4 million) – Paramount Pictures’ modestly budgeted boxing drama The Fighter pulled in $12.1 million after expanding from four to 2,503 North American (U.S. and Canada only) theaters according to final studio figures found at


Well, that’s actually just an okay amount for director David O. Russell’s well-received title featuring a big-name cast: Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, 2006), The Dark Knight’s Christian Bale, and a couple of other Oscar-pedigreed performers, Amy Adams (Junebug, 2005; Doubt, 2008) and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, 2008).

The Fighter’s cume after ten days: $12.6 million. Budget (and here’s the silver lining): A reported $25 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses).

Boxing movie match: The Fighter vs. Million Dollar Baby

Below is a quick comparison between The Fighter and another early-21st-century boxing drama, Warner Bros.’ Clint Eastwood-directed Million Dollar Baby (budget: $30 million).

After expanding from 147 to 2,010 locations in late January 2005 (on its eighth weekend, at the height of awards season), Million Dollar Baby averaged $6,102 per theater. The Fighter’s average at 2,503 locations (on its second weekend, a couple of weeks into the 2010–2011 awards season): $4,848.

Million Dollar Baby ended up winning four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Actress (Hilary Swank), and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). It would end its run with $100.5 million domestically and $116.3 million internationally.

At this stage, it doesn’t look like The Fighter – whose Best Picture Oscar chances are all but nil – will reach such heights either in the U.S. and Canada or elsewhere.

Solid domestic gross, but an international flop

Update: David O. Russell’s The Fighter ultimately collected a solid $93.6 million domestically – not that far behind Million Dollar Baby (not adjusted for inflation) – and a mediocre $35.6 million (likely incomplete) internationally. Worldwide total: For once thanks to domestic moviegoers, a highly profitable $129.2 million.

Its top international markets were the United Kingdom/Ireland ($10.1 million), Australia ($6.1 million), Italy ($3.2 million), and France ($2.3 million).

Two more weekend box office titles

Below are a couple of other movies on this past weekend’s box office chart:

  • At no. 5, Nathan Greno and Byron Howard’s mega-budget computer-animated musical fantasy Tangled grossed $8.8 million (down 39 percent on its fourth weekend). Cume: $127.9 million. Voice cast: Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.
  • At no. 6, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s big-budget spy thriller The Tourist grossed $8.5 million (down 48 percent on its second weekend). Cume: A paltry $30.6 million. Cast: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

The Fighter Box Office: No Match for” notes

Also on the Dec. 17-19 weekend, screenwriter-director James L. Brooks’ costly romantic comedy How Do You Know had a disastrous debut. In the stellar cast: Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson.

Unless otherwise noted, “The Fighter Box Office: No Match for Million Dollar Baby” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety,, etc.).

Comments about The Fighter and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).

Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office take at top-priced venues.

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale The Fighter movie image: Paramount Pictures.

The Fighter Box Office: No Match for Million Dollar Baby” last updated in October 2022.

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1 comment

stacey ann snider -

I have seen The Fighter 3 times, it’s the best movie of the year hands down!! Christian Bale should win best actor, the best acting I have seen in a long, long time. It’s funny that the really good movies don’t get any of the press the lousy ones get, really not fair. Go see it, it’s great, and then go see it again.


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