Led by two openers whose series combined have reached nine films total, business for the first time in 2013 blasted far ahead of the previous year. And more importantly, it did so on one of the biggest weekends of the year.
The top 10 films, which include five with grosses over $30 million for the three days, totaled nearly $250 million, compared to only $144 million last year, and when not adjusted for inflation, mark the highest ever for Memorial Day. After five months of lower-than-expected grosses, particularly from action films, 2013 roared back this weekend.
Although the large total of competing films naturally lowered the performance of some, the big uptick in audience interest across a broad spectrum of audiences provides a solid sign that the expensive, franchise and sequel-oriented summer ahead could be a success. And with most of these same films doing better (in some cases, by a significant degree) overseas, things are looking up.
1. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 61
$98,500,000 in 3,658 theaters; PSA (Per screen average): $26,935; Cumulative: $98,500,000
An astounding gross for a sixth film in a series, more so for one that has grown from modest roots, which changed its emphasis from street-racing to broader international intrigue with a “Dirty Dozen” twist, all while upping the ante for action and adrenalin-pushing stunts. This is second only to “Iron Man 3” as an opening weekend gross this year, and comes without the extra boost of 3-D surcharges (can that be far behind in future sequels?).
And the worldwide picture — this has opened in most territories — is just as rosy. The weekend estimate is over $275 million total so far, which based on the A Cinemascore will just be the start of something really big.
The cost of the films has risen — this one checked in at $160 million before marketing — but the investment (which includes returning director Justin Lin and the cast regulars) is paying off. For veteran producer Neil Moritz, this comes after flops “Jack the Giant Slayer” and “Total Recall.” Among the cast, it should be noted that this is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s fourth starring film already this year. Though he is more an ensemble than the central figure here, he increasingly becoming the go-to star for major action hits.
What comes next: This looks like it could be among the top three or four hits of the summer.
2. The Hangover Part III (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Criticwire grade: C-; Metacritic score: 31
$42,415,000 in 3,555 theaters; PSA: $11,931, Cumulative: $54,203,000
A big falloff in gross from Part II of the series (almost exactly 50% down last time for the first three-day weekend), with a harsher Cinemascore (the first two entries were A and A- respectively) suggesting word of mouth issues combining with more competition this time around will lessen the impact.
With virtually the same cast and crew as the previous films and a similar concept/execution, this is one of the rare comedy series to go to a third entry. The “Fockers” family series did go that route, and its third go-round also saw a big drop from the second, though the first weekend gross was down a third, with the total run only slightly better than half as good ultimately.
The better-received initial films were helped by strong audience response. This one has yielded a sense of disappointment and been-there-done-that.
What comes next: This was not an inexpensive film — the budget was triple the $35 million of the first, one problem with keeping the series going. Although international grosses could pull this one out, it looks like the end of the series, at least with the current team.
3. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$38,000,000 (-46%) in 3,907 theaters (+39); PSA: $9,726; Cumulative: $146,827,000
This fell a little less than half from its under-expectations opening, which is a concern with the $190 million budget and the series not likely to exceed domestic grosses by much overseas. This looks headed to a sub-$250 million domestic total, below the somewhat lower-cost series reboot in 2009 (aided by extra 3-D charges). Still an impressive performance for such a long-running series, but the comparison to cost puts a bit of a damper on any assessment.
What comes next: Like “The Hangover,” continuing the franchise at this level of expense seems tricky at best.
4. Epic (20th Century-Fox) NEW; Cinemascore: A; Criticwire grade: C; Metacritic score: 54
$34,200,000 in 3,882 theaters; PSA: $8,810; Cumulative: $34,200,000
Memorial Day weekend has in recent years sometimes seen new animated releases – in 2011, “Kung Fu Panda” grossed just under $48 million, “Shrek Forever After” in 2009 did $70 million. “Epic”‘s figure failed to equal those, and also fell short of what the Fox-released “The Croods” reached in March ($43.6 million). That doesn’t mean this is a failure, but rather just average for a major animated opening.
Though “The Croods” beat expectations, many of the top non-Pixar animated opening grosses come from sequels and franchise films. “Epic” as a fresh entry (though with many of the elements common to similar films -(fairy tale, 3D, natural setting with an ecological twist) needs to find its level yet, with audience reaction (the Cinemascore looks solid) determining whether it can thrive in the months ahead as a younger audience go-to film. With a relatively low budget of just under $100 million and international responding well to similar films, this has a chance to be a solid performer.
What comes next: With the holiday tomorrow and many schools already out, this could get close to $60 million by Friday. If it does, it should be in decent shape.
5. Iron Man 3 (Buena Vista) Week 4; Last weekend #2
$19,424,000 (-46%) in 3,424 theaters (-813); PSA: $5,673; Cumulative: $372,701,000
The only thing tepid about “Iron Man 3″‘s continued great performance is that it is falling short of last year’s Marvel blockbuster “The Avengers,” which with much weaker competition grossed nearly twice as much the same weekend, having already passed $500 million domestic. That’s a minor caveat for a film that stands as the one to beat for best grosser of the year — apart from its U.S./Canada total, worldwide its already over $1.1 billion.
What comes next: Still in play for a few more weeks.
6. The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #3
$13,705,000 (-43%) in 3,090 theaters (-460); PSA: $4,435; Cumulative: $114,432,000
Holding up well despite the major competition, with a domestic total approaching $150 million now seeming possible. With international still in the early stages, it’s still too early to say for certain whether this $105 million production + marketing expense project will make a sizable profit (assuming it gets into the black), but the gamble so far seems to be working.
What comes next: Three of the film’s likely best countries – Japan, China and Australia – still haven’t opened.
7. Mud (Roadside Attractions) Week 5; Last weekend #8
$1,980,000 (-11%) in 712 theaters (-248); PSA:$2,781; Cumulative: $14,587,000
The resiliency of this film is impressive. Benefiting from lack of adult-oriented films and good word of mouth, this jumped a position despite some theater loss.
What comes next: With only “Before Midnight” later in June looking to be a wider-release indie film, this has the shot of unexpectedly hitting $20 million.
8. 42 (Warner Bros.) Week 7; Last weekend #6
$1,245,000 (-56%) in 915 theaters (-1,465); PSA: $1,361; Cumulative: $91,049,000
This suffered elevated theater loss with Warners having two other films in release. The PSA actually went up this weekend, but the gross suffered.
What comes next: In a less crowded market this had a better chance to hit $100 million. Still, with the much below average cost, score this as a solid hit.
9. The Croods (20th Century-Fox) Week 10; Last weekend #5
$1,215,000 (-60%) in 1,008 theaters (-1,365); PSA: $1,205; Cumulative: $179,368,000
Fox’ own “Epic” provided the main competition both for theater placement and audience as this long-running DreamWorks Animation success.
What comes next: With international more than doubling this total, a sequel can’t be far behind.
10. Oblivion (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #7
$815,000 (-65%) in 572 theaters (-1,505); PSA: $1,425; Cumulative: $87,200,000
This stuck around a week longer than expected (last week’s higher positioned “Pain and Gain” lost nearly all its audience to “Fast & Furious 6”), but this is a very low number to be in 10th place any time of the year.
What comes next: Worldwide is approaching $300 million, which puts the film close to break-even territory.