Rush Hour 3 drew an estimated $50 million on approximately 5,200 screens at 3,778 theaters, topping the weekend box office. New Line Cinema’s action comedy sequel starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, which reportedly cost $140 million to make, saw initial popularity closer to the first Rush Hour than Rush Hour 2. Although not a bad start. but damn that’s a lot of money to dump into a project and not come out kicking and blazing the first weekend.
Six years ago, Rush Hour 2 bagged a $67.4 million start from 3,118 theaters. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, that would equal about $80 million today, the most attended August opening ever. Its $226.2 million final tally adjusts to nearly $270 million today. The first Rush Hour from 1998 was a surprise smash, grossing $33 million out of the gate or about $47 million adjusted, en route to $141.2 million or around $200 million adjusted. Production price tags for Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 were $33 million and $90 million, respectively.
Rush Hour 3 was marketed as just another Rush Hour picture, in part because the movie itself is a slight romp, and lacked the event-style build-up that Rush Hour 2 had. What’s more, Chan hasn’t been on American screens for three years, while Tucker’s last movie was Rush Hour 2. A repetitious entry in a series without a major new hook doesn’t quite cut it after a six-year wait if the intent is to build or retain an audience. That Rush Hour 3 had a sizable debut is a credit to the good will generated by the first two pictures.
It’s easy to point to the elapsed time since Rush Hour 2 as a key factor in the traffic slowdown. In general, time is not on a franchise’s side as many disappointments such as Mission: Impossible III and The Legend of Zorro show. A notable exception was Bad Boys II, which saw a rise in star power of its lead actors (Will Smith, Martin Lawrence) in the eight years since the first movie and was promoted as an action event.
As with the earlier movies, musical numbers are highlights. Tucker starts the movie with a rendition of Prince’s “Do Me, Baby,” and Chan’s best moment is when he joins Tucker in a performance of Roberta Flack’s “The Closer I Get to You” at a French night club, in a bid to save an informant. Noemie Lenoir as the informant adds some Paris sizzle, though the movie’s other women, a Dragon Lady and a grown-up version of the first movie’s little girl, fare poorly. The latter lacks the original character’s spunk.