Memorial Day weekend, though always solid, is not a surefire great date for any given film. For much of the country, it is the first real chance to break out the barbecues or engage in other outdoor activities, and anything less than a pre-sold film doesn’t make a lot of sense to open.
It still is a holiday, though, and the start of summer school holidays remains a tempting time to position new top releases. Last year’s was one of the best ever, at least in terms of unadjusted dollars, with the Top 10 grossing almost $250 million for the Friday-Sunday portion. This year, by comparison, is down 29%, which is a significant hit with this normally being one of the best weekends of the year (this year’s total was $176 million).
Like last week, one film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (20th Century Fox) provided more than half that gross (unlike last year, when #1 “Fast and Furious 6″ grossed more, not in 3D, and with even bigger competition. It is taking its toll in the year-to-date comparison. The 4% current uptick is the lowest it has been since the start of the year, as recent falloffs are beginning to matter.
1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74
$90,700,000 in 3,996 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $22,698; Cumulative: $90,700,000
This comes in second only to “X-Men: Last Stand” in actual gross for the series, though with its 3D price boost and other ticket inflation factors places it behind two previous $85 million series opening weekends in terms of tickets sold. This becomes the fourth $90 million-plus opener (all within a close range) since April, all action/fantasy large budget movies. The take — with the boost of a pre-holiday Sunday — looks to be the lowest of the the four, though ultimately that’s quibbling quibbling over small differences. And it is not nearly as important as the initial $171 million foreign haul so far, as this franchise continues to thrive and justify its expense (around $200 million this time around).
It certainly is helped by the cast, with the versatile Hugh Jackman scoring again, Jennifer Lawrence heading for her third big hit in just over six months, and Michael Fassbender getting continued exposure in wider audience films. It’s also a great boost for Bryan Singer, who returned to the series after a detour to a “Superman” reboot and two lesser grossing later films. It exceeds any of his previous opening weekends. Not a bad way to restore faith in him as he is dealing with civil lawsuits that gained headlines.
This comes up #5 among three-day Memorial Holiday hauls, better than three of the last four years, but also lagging behind three other earlier and lower ticket-priced hits. The era of new films easily bettering previous totals seems to be fading.
It’s hard to come up with much more to say for this — the creators did their job, the audience reaction and the critical response were fine. The question now is, will it sustain itself and soar to $250 million or more for its domestic take, or will it, like some other films, quickly fall and be gone by the next holiday? This film is a model of modern studio product, certainly at a high level of care and conscientious production. But we have already seen four like this in 2014, and it’s only Memorial Day. It remains to be seen if the rest of the summer can continue this course.
What comes next: Apart from apparent audience positive reaction, this is helped by having a freer ride competitively now that the fanboy quotient of new films goes down over the next few weeks
2. Godzilla (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$31,425,000 (-66%) in theaters (unchanged); PSA: $7,952; Cumulative: $148,773,000
Sometimes it can be easy to overreact to a second weekend drop after the initial weekend figure was both huge and bigger than expected. And that, in part, is how this two-thirds fall for “Godzilla” should be considered. Having a similar audience appeal film like “X-Men” also open makes a difference as well. But this still is somewhat disconcerting — by all accounts, the film had a positive audience reaction. Recent second weekends of other breakout hits — none of which had the boost of a pre-holiday Sunday — dropped less (“Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Captain America”). Last year, the second weekend of “Star Trek Into Darkness,” faced with an even stronger array of new films, dropped only 47% over the similar weekend. Again, is this a problem with the film, factors related to moviegoing this specific weekend, or suggestive of a smaller audience for films like these that are the most expensive to make and are most dependent on young, male audiences (a segment that started falling sharply after last summer)? No clear answer, and one pushed more to the background because of the huge worldwide take early on for this film. But for American theater owners this drop will be noticed and a cause for concern.
What comes next: It helps that there isn’t really a similar audience appeal film until “Transformers” late next month, so this has time to stabilize and add to its already impressive total.
3.. Blended (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire; C+; Metacritic: 34
$14,245,000 in 3,555 theaters; PSA: $4,007; Cumulative: $14,245,000
Eight of Adam Sandler’s last nine live-action films have opened to better than $20 million, with only June 2012’s “That’s My Boy” doing less ($13.5 million first weekend). Last summer’s “Grown Ups 2” rebounded to $41.5 million, aided by its built-in audience as a sequel and depending less on mainly Sandler to draw audiences. This got bad reviews, but that has rarely hurt his films. Co-star Drew Barrymore has been less of a factor as of late (her last film to open over $10 million was 2009’s Valentine’s Day-adjacent “He’s Just Not That Into You.” A decade ago, the two costarred in “50 First Dates,” which scored a huge nearly $40 million total. The good news comes from a Saturday bump from Friday that parallels its positive Cinemascore rating, so audiences may like it enough to sustain it going forward. And this only had an initial cost of $40 million pre-marketing, so the level it needs to reach isn’t stratospheric.
What comes next: Sandler’s films usually gross a bit less overseas than domestic, so this will need a multi-week domestic run to get into profit.
4. Neighbors (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #2
$13,900,000 (-44%) in 3,266 theaters (-45); PSA: $4,270; Cumulative: $113,780,000
“Neighbors” remains a major success with its minuscule ($18 million production) budget and additional worldwide grosses. But it is dropping faster than other recent breakout comedies. “Ted,” which opened somewhat stronger, fell only 30% its third (non-holiday) weekend (3-day comparison). This total is clearly strong enough to warrant a sequel, but this is either getting a more mixed reaction now that it is deeper into its run, or is another example of a somewhat shrinking audience base. “Blended” might have cut into it a bit (and Warner Bros. would love to have these grosses), but there should be enough ticket buyers for both.
What comes next: Universal provides its own comedy competition this Friday with “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #3
$7,800,000 (-54%) in 3,160 theaters (-831); PSA: $2,468; Cumulative: $184,900,000
Domestically, the first “Amazing Spider-Man” film in its fourth weekend grossed less ($6.7 million) but also fell less (only 38%) and had already reached $242 million. Worldwide it is over $670 million though, with an uptick in international grosses likely to propel this to as good if not better combined totals than the previous entry.
What comes next: It needs to do that with the $200 million-plus significant marketing expense. But the positioning before two other May blockbusters seems to have paid off, and this uneven franchise looks like it has survived again.
6. Million Dollar Arm (Buena Vista) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$7,093,000 (-32%) in 3,019 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,349; Cumulative: $20,628,000
The initial weekend grade for Disney’s baseball-goes-to-India tale was an incomplete. It opened around where expected before the weekend, but less than projected after initial screenings and advance industry projections. The 32% drop this weekend doesn’t change the grade, but at least suggests that the film is getting a good enough response to suggest it has life left in it and potential to become, if not a sleeper hit, at least a modest success (with international results, less friendly to baseball stories, being key). Studios don’t make a lot of $25 million films these days, so this film’s response has a lot more importance than some others in terms of meaning — more so with its having been positioned just at the start of summer.
What comes next: Not to keep pushing the ball forward, but next weekend now takes on even greater importance in determining whether this plays for only a short time longer or holds on for a month or more. If the latter, Disney should be pleased.
7. The Other Woman (20th Century Fox) Week 5; Last weekend #5
$3,675,000 (-42%) in 2,154 theaters (-900); PSA: $1,706; Cumulative: $74,098,000
This pleasant surprise for Fox (its international take so far is even better) is fading now, but though not a breakout comedy hit it is still holding on longer than expected or what many more conventional male-oriented broad comedies do.
What comes next: Cameron Diaz has punched her ticket for a renewed draw as a leading actress, and others like her might see more interest as well.
8. Rio 2 (20th Century Fox) Week 7; Last weekend #7
$2,500,000 (-33%) in 1,701 theaters (-670); PSA: $1,470; Cumulative: $121,598,000
As always, it helps to be the top animated film in the market, which has helped sustain this successful sequel to the point where it will come close to the first one. But the big story remains foreign, where the total is nearly three times as big, with a worldwide take around $500 million likely.
What comes next: The big animation story of the summer will likely
be “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” opening in mid-June from DreamWorks
(via Fox). But “Rio 2” had done a great job of taking in a similar
9. Chef (Open Road) Week 3; Last weekend #15
$2,260,000 (+219%) in 498 theaters (+426); PSA: $4,538; Cumulative: $3,548,000
These are decent if not spectacular expansion numbers for Open Road’s unusual slow rollout of Jon Favreau’s comedy. A good comparison is “Enough Said” last fall. In its third weekend (with more of the theaters already having opened at that point), it had a PSA just over $5,000 in 437 (somewhat fewer) theaters. Two years ago, Searchlight went to far more (1,233) theaters over Memorial Day weekend for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” for an almost $5,200 PSA (again, fewer theaters head to head usually means better PSA). So this continues to play out better early than any initially limited release since the astounding “Grand Budapest Hotel,” but at this point looks uncertain how much better than “Enough Said”‘s decent $17 million haul.
What comes next: With Open Road’s easy access to many top theaters (because of its Regal/AMC ownership), continued maximum access and guaranteed screen time will continue to bolster this decent word-of-mouth comedy.
10. Heaven Is for Real (Sony) Week 6; Last weekend #6
$1,950,000 (-56%) in 1,720 theaters (-1,173); PSA: $1,134; Cumulative: $85,795,000
The only mixed news for Sony is that this no longer looks like it will quite hit $100 million domestic. Otherwise, even if foreign (mostly yet to open) is nothing like this, the $12 million budget will help makes this one of the more profitable successes of the year.
What comes next: Nearing the end of a great run.