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Weekend Box Office: $56 Million ‘First Class’ Opening Isn’t X-actly What Fox Had In Mind

Weekend Box Office: $56 Million 'First Class' Opening Isn't X-actly What Fox Had In Mind

As the only major opening of the week, it was not a surprise to see “X-Men: First Class” reign with a $56 million total. For those keeping track at home (why are you doing this?), this is the lowest-scoring opening weekend for any of the four films in the “X-Men” series save for the eleven-year old first entry, and not a particularly impressive start for the only new wide release in town. This isn’t even taking into account a summer that has seen the fifth and fourth installments of the “Fast And The Furious” and “Pirates Of The Caribbean” achieve great success.

There’s a reason for this comparatively tepid bow, and it has to do with a damaged brand. The myth that people won’t see movies if they are of poor quality is ludicrous — it’s more about the consistency of the brand that attracts and repels audiences. After all, if word gets out that the new “Twilight” film is almost unwatchable bad, the film will still generate robust box office receipts from its base. Audiences have been burned by the X-franchise twice now, and while a massive opening was enough to make “X-Men: The Last Stand” the biggest film in the series, by weekend two part three was registering massive drops. That diminished reputation carried on to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” one of the most incompetent blockbusters in recent memory, and one that generated only somewhat satisfying returns for Fox, still gunshy regarding “Wolverine 2.”

What Fox was trying to do was relaunch a maligned brand name not only with an unfamiliar period setting (the 1960s) but also without the meal ticket that is Hugh Jackman, opting instead for ads spotlighting the interplay between James McAvoy (already a number of years removed from “Wanted”) and Michael Fassbender (who?). In a 3D summer, putting out this alien product, one that replaced popular characters like Cyclops and Storm with the likes of Banshee and Havok, represented a huge risk. Considering Fox did not exactly break the bank on this (the “official” budget of $120 million is significantly lower than the last three films in this series), all the studio has to do is hope/wait that international numbers come on strong.

Fox is in an intriguing position with this franchise. With this opening, they have to hope that word-of-mouth carries, as the X-films have all fallen off heavily after big debuts. But if “First Class” is the weakest performer of the bunch, do they motor on with a “Second Class”? Will the fire ignite for a direct sequel to “The Last Stand,” an idea that has been bandied about in the Fox offices? Or will they kick the tires on allowing the property to lapse back to Marvel and Disney? While Fox is in the same position with the “Fantastic Four” franchise, they remain stuck in development on “Fantastic Four Reborn,” and it’s easy to see that brand bouncing over to the Mouse House if Fox doesn’t show initiative. The fact that they hired David Slade to helm another “Daredevil” suggests the studio is keen on keeping these potentially-lucrative comic brands in-house, but “X-Men” is by far the costliest. Even if they make a theatrical profit on “First Class” (likely), they have to hope fan appreciation for this latest installment hasn’t yet peaked. And you’ll have to ask the lawyers about this, but is it possible Disney ends up with the “X-Men” property but the rights to “Wolverine” remain at Fox? Because continuing to make “X-Men” pictures without ever being able to use Hugh Jackman is a game no executive wants to play.

As expected, that second weekend fall for “The Hangover Part II” was precipitous (62%). Chalk it up to last weekend’s holiday frame, or the fact that the movie isn’t very good, or a traditional sequel’s performance involving a massive second frame drop. There’s really no news to report on the blockbuster sequel, which should cross $200 million domestic by mid-week. Matching the first film’s domestic take remains somewhat in doubt, but the international haul should be heftier this time around. “The Hangover Part III”? “The Hangover Part III” it is. And then maybe “Lil’ Hangover” for the kids.

Despite being the only kiddie picture on the market, the second weekend drop for “Kung Fu Panda 2” was disconcerting. Marketing screwed this movie, as a confused campaign never really sold the story to those who would be curious about further adventures in this series. Hell, they couldn’t even get the title right, with “The Kaboom of Doom” registering as a subtitle for some, a tagline for others. It’s the only big kiddie attraction until “Cars 2.” which means Dreamworks has a golden opportunity on their hands, but it could already be squandered with this disappointing frame. The hope for the studio is that they’ll be saved by international audiences, as, in stark contrast to the American market, the animated sequel is actually breaking records in a number of regions.

While the domestic take is largely irrelevant in the bigger picture, Disney should be pleased with “Pirates Of The Caribbean 4” fast approaching $200 million stateside. The film should pass $800 million worldwide soon, which is less than the last two films in the series, but more than enough to keep this money train running. And speaking of money trains, Judd Apatow’s Midas Touch may have returned, as “Bridesmaids” sailed well past the $100 million domestic tag. The film was being downgraded as a likely $60 million performer tops, so crossing nine figures definitely raises a few eyebrows in Hollywood. Weirdly, though, star and co-writer Kristen Wiig only has “Friends With Kids” lined up as a follow-up, a picture that actually reunites most of the “Bridesmaids” cast.

Thor” and “Fast Five” are both wrapping up their runs, with the Marvel hero likely stalling out before he can hit $180 million domestic, and “Fast Five” collecting all the gravy having surpassed $200 million stateside. “Fast Six” is coming. “Thor 2,” maybe not so soon, as a $500 million global tally is looking less likely. Both films narrowly outgrossed “Midnight In Paris,” which continues a slow expansion despite very strong per-theater numbers, it’s $19k-average the best in the top ten this weekend.

Again collecting the best per-screen average of the weekend was “Tree Of Life,” which grabbed $31k for each of its twenty engagements for a $621k gross. It led the way for a promising group of newcomers, including “Beginners,” which tallied $135k on five screens, followed by the somewhat quieter $40k four-screen engagement for “Submarine.” Nature doc “The Last Mountain” averaged a solid $8k on two screens for a $17k total, while “Beautiful Boy” nabbed $16k at four locations. Social change docs “Women, Art, Revolution” and “Building Hope” had more low-profile debuts with $6.4k and $3.5k on two and one screen bookings, while “Film Socialisme” played to $4.5k worth of confused audience-goers at New York City’s IFC Center. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. X-Men: This Time, We Mean It (Fox) – $56 million
2. The Hangover Part II: The Quickening (Warner Bros.) – $32.4 million ($187 mil.)
3. Kung Fu Panda 2: The Daboom Of Koom (Paramount/Dreamworks) – $24.3 million ($100 mil.)
4. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Autopilot Edition (Disney) – $18 million ($190 mil.)
5. Bridesmaids (Universal) – $12.1 million ($107 mil.)
6. Thor (Paramount) – $4.2 million ($169 mil.)
7. The Fast But Moderately Pleasant And Well-Adjusted Five (Universal) – $3.2 million ($202 mil.)
8. Midnight In Paris (Sony) – $2.9 million ($6.9 mil.)
9. Jumping The Broom (Sony/TriStar) – $865k ($36 million)
10. Something Borrowed (Warner Bros.) – $835k ($36 million)

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