Franchises — big, strong four-quad ones — make all the difference over the Memorial Day weekend. While that might be a duh of a statement, consider how often studios have tried to launch original fare over the four-day holiday and flopped: Disney in 2010 with Prince Of Persia, or Warner Bros. in 2014 with Adam Sandler’s Blended.
But not this time.
After Disney and 20th Century Fox delivered some of the biggest duds at the Memorial Day box office last year with Tomorrowland ($42.7 million four day) and MGM’s Poltergeist ($26.3M four-day debut), this year both studios are changing it up with bigger brands: Alice Through The Looking Glass and X-Men: Apocalypse, respectively.
That combo, which together could reach $160M, is set to push the four-day B.O. up by at least 55% over last year’s FSSM total of $194.9M. Last year’s figure was the third-lowest Memorial Day weekend at the box office since 2005 after 2012’s $194M and 2010’s $192.8M. This year’s holiday could potentially rank as the second best with a four-day total of $300M-plus. 2013 posted the best Memorial Day weekend holiday ever with $314.2M.
The fourth Bryan Singer-directed X-Men movie will hit 4,100 estimated theaters starting Thursday night at 7 PM praised by exhibitors but scorned by critics. Apocalypse is currently the worst-reviewed X-Men per Rotten Tomatoes at 52%. However, if Fox is lucky, the tweeds won’t curb any cash. Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand didn’t blow critics’ toupees off with a 58% rotten score, and that wound up being the franchise’s best opening of all time ($122.9M) and title ($234.4M domestic) in the series.
Conservative projections have Apocalypse in the low $80M range, but many analysts think it has a shot at $100M. Two years ago, propped by a critical score of 91%, X-Men: Days Of Future Past made $110.6M over FSSM and became the second-highest-grossing X-Men movie with a domestic B.O. of $233.9M. I hear Apocalypse is tracking close to Days Of Future Past with guys being the strongest quad; however, this time there are more women interested. Fox will have all the mutant powers of PLFs and 3,000 3D bookings. No Imax on this X-Men; Alice ate all of those up. Estimated production cost on Apocalypse is $178M, which is 11% cheaper than Days Of Future Past.
Apocalypse opened last weekend abroad with $101.6M in 76 markets on 20,796 screens. That number beat the debut of X-Men: Days Of Future Past at today’s exchange rates. South Korea opens tomorrow.
In this X-Men, the mutants battle the super mutant – Apocalypse – played by Oscar Isaac. And it stars the young bunch of X-Men played by Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, the baby-faced characters that Fox introduced in Matthew Vaughn’s 2011 X-Men: First Class. There’s a few new characters thrown in, specifically Olivia Munn’s Psylocke.
With Alice Through The Looking Glass, Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Zootopia, Disney is on a tear, and will have its product on close to 10,000 screens by Friday. Alice 2 in 3,750 theaters is looking at $55M-$60M over four days, and will achieve some growth from such tarts as 3,100+ 3D locations, 380 Imax, 77 PLF, and 79 D-box sites. Something to consider with this Alice in addition to any accusations of sequelitis for its projected lower-than-original opening: When Alice In Wonderland opened in March 2010 to $116.1M, it was the first major 3D film post the Avatar craze. Seventy-one percent of Alice In Wonderland‘s B.O. was generated by the format. In addition, Alice In Wonderland didn’t face the type of competition and hefty holdovers this weekend boasts. Alice 2 is directed by The Muppets and Flight Of The Conchords creator James Bobin, not Tim Burton. But the original gang is back with Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter and Matt Lucas, with Alice trying to save the Mad Hatter. Looking Glass‘ price tag of $170M before P&A is 15% less than Alice In Wonderland.
Last weekend’s top new entries, Sony/Rovio’s The Angry Birds Movie and Universal’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, will have the benefit of the holiday working in their favor with a 40%-45% drop in their four-day versus three-day figures. On the high end, Angry Birds is looking at $23M and Neighbors 2 at $13M.
Jungle Book is heading into its seventh weekend — currently Jon Favreau’s highest-grossing film of his directing career with $328.6M domestic/$860.3M worldwide. When does the cover finally close on Jungle Book? There’s no doubt the movie stole family business from Angry Birds last weekend. JB made $10.9M in its sixth session, a B.O. haul that’s within the vicinity of what Jurassic World ($11.5M) and Avengers ($11.2M) posted at the same point during their runs. A final domestic B.O. of $350M wouldn’t be unheard of.
Why are people still going? Says one studio executive, “There’s a need to see this movie in the theater. The artistry and use of technology demand that the movie be seen in a movie theater. This is what has made Jungle Book stand out from other movies in the marketplace.”