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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (May 24-27, 2013)

Last weekend was not the first long Memorial Day weekend that saw the openings of two high-profile sequels in addition to several potent holdovers. It was, however, the biggest. Thanks to Fast & Furious 6’s thunderous opening and the surprising breakout of Epic and despite the fact that The Hangover Part III severely underwhelmed, the Top 12 broke the $300 million threshold for the first time ever over the four-day-period, grossing $307.6 million. That was well above the previous record-holder, the May 27-30, 2011-weekend, when The Hangover Part II stunned with a huge debut, while Kung Fu Panda 2 ended up on the disappointing side of things. The regular weekend amounted to splendid $249.3 million, up 68.1% from the previous frame and a stupendous 70.4% from the same weekend last year, when Men in Black 3 topped the chart with mediocre results. It became the biggest Top gross of the year and missed the #1 spot for the highest aggregated Top 12 total in May ever by less than $500,000 (to last year’s first weekend of May, ruled by The Avengers). It is even moreso remarkable, if you consider that one of the three openers has already bowed on Thursday, prior to the weekend and underperformed. Had The Hangover Part III done better, this weekend would have had a chance at the biggest ever. Thanks to this weekend and the last, the 2013 domestic box-office is catching up to 2012 at full speed, already tracking just 7.8% behind it with the releases of Man of Steel and Monsters University right around the corner.


Fast & Furious 6 stormed the chart with the year’s second-best opening weekend (trailing Iron Man 3), delivering $97.4 million over the three-day-portion from 3,658 locations for a per-theatre-average of $26,620. Including its Memorial Day gross, it brought in $117 million over the four days. For Universal, it was the biggest opening weekend ever, beating out the previous record-holder Fast Five. It was also the 4th-biggest four-day gross over the Memorial Day-weekend, only behind Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($139.8 million), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($126.9 million) and X-Men: The Last Stand ($122.9 million). This just reinforces how far this franchise has come from its humble illegal car racing beginnings. The franchise started back in 2001, when The Fast and the Furious, produced for $38 million, upset Dr. Dolittle 2 for the top spot with $40.1 million and went on to finish with $144.5 million. The second film, 2 Fast 2 Furious, was released two years later, carrying a budget twice as high. It lost the main star (Vin Diesel), but thanks to the goodwill garnered by its predecessor, opened to $50.5 million, on its way to $127.2 million. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift marked the franchise’s low point, losing the series’ second star, Paul Walker and shifting the location to Japan. On an estimated $85 million budget, it made just $62.5 million in North America. However, unbeknownst to many back then, it also in a way became the series’ salvation as it drew the director Justin Lin to it, who went on to direct the following three installments, setting them between 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift. Fast and Furious was, when the series really broke out, reuniting all the stars of the original. It opened to $71 million back in April 2009 and went on to gross $155.1 million. Lin changed the franchise’s formula with Fast Five, shifting from the car races to an Ocean’s Eleven-type caper and added Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the cast. The results were smashing. Fast Five not only received the franchise’s best reviews, it opened to an astonishing $86.2 million and finished with $209.8 million, displaying far better legs than its immediate predecessor.

And here we are, once again blessed with good review and riding on the great WoM of the fifth film, Fast & Furious 6 once again posted the series’ best numbers, by now playing in the same league as many major franchises – and that without the help of 3D or IMAX (it is playing on IMAX screens overseas only). The stakes were higher than ever too – the sixth film carries a $160 million price tag. The investment is paying off, though as Fast & Furious 6 is well on its way to become one of Universal’s ten highest-grossing releases ever. Interestingly enough, the unusually even gender split among opening weekend audiences (51% were male) indicates that the franchise has by now become a four-quadrant-blockbuster. Around 57% were above the age of 25. Another interesting fact is that Hispanic moviegoers made up 32% of the sequel’s audience. This widespread appeal should mean that it probably won’t drop off the face of the earth over the upcoming weeks, though of course the franchise is naturally somewhat frontloaded. What’s particularly promising is the film’s “A”-CinemaScore. Younger audiences (below 25) even awarded it an “A+” on average. That means that Fast & Furious 6 enjoys a similar kind of positive WoM as Fast Five had. With Fast Five’s legs Fast & Furous 6 would see itself finishing with $237 million. The worst-case-scenario at this point is the film ending up with X-Men: The Last Stand’s legs, which also had a tremendous Memorial Day Weekend opening, but fell quickly afterwards. However, Fast & Furious 6 boasts significantly better WoM than the third X-Men flick did. Unlike Fast Five it should also benefit from strong summer weekdays that will kick in with full force over the upcoming weeks. Therefore I see it finishing somewhere in the $235-250 million range.


The Hangover Part III took the second spot with very disappointing $41.7 million, averaging $11,722 from 3,555 venues. Over four days it made $50.3 million. Overall, The Hangover Part III stands at $62.1 million including its Thursday opening day. Of course, more than $60 million in five days should be considered great for any R-rated comedy, but the situation is different with The Hangover-franchise. The first film became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever, raking in $277.3 million after an enormously leggy run back in 2009. Two years later, The Hangover Part II bowed over the Memorial Day weekend as well, making $135 million in its first five days – more than twice the number that Part III has delivered in the same period of time. In fact, the third film’s three-day opening is $3.3 million lower than the first film’s opening weekend, despite four years of inflation. The drop-off isn’t hard to explain, though and can be attributed mainly to two factors: mixed WoM for its predecessor and bad scheduling. Although Fast & Furious 6 is rated PG-13 and The Hangover Part III is rated R, it is obvious that the two share similar target demographics. Those clearly went for the sequel to the better-received movie this weekend. The extremely lazy and mostly unfunny marketing for The Hangover Part III didn’t help either. I don’t have hopes for the film to recover either. Its reviews are ghastly and it scored a “B”-CinemaScore, as opposed to its predecessor’s “A-“. Considering that The Hangover Part II had mediocre legs despite better WoM, one can expect the third part to disappear from most theatres by the end of June. It will wind up with no more than $110-120 million in the bag, not even half of its two predecessors $250+ million domestic totals. Along with Star Trek into Darkness and Jack the Giant Slayer, The Hangover Part III is one of the year’s biggest box-office disappointments thus far.


Meanwhile, Star Trek into Darkness recovered somewhat from its disappointing debut last weekend, defied the competition and dropped 46.9% over the three-day-portion to $37.3 million ($47.2 million in four days). That was enough for #3 at the box-office. The film’s 12-day-total stands at a respectable $156 million. However, looking back, many, including myself, expected it to be above this number by the end of its first full week. Its predecessor, Star Trek, held slightly better in its second frame. However, it didn’t have to confront three wide openers that took in a combined $170+ million total over the weekend. Given the extremely harsh competition, Star Trek into Darkness held better than one could have anticipated and might already see the effects of positive WoM (as indicated by the “A”-CinemaScore) kick in already. Right now, Star Trek into Darkness’ total is on almost exactly the same level as its predecessor’s 12-day-cume. It should have a smooth sailing from now on until Man of Steel’s arrival on June 14th, which will cost it most of its precious IMAX screens. Other than that, it should be affected much by competition in June and positive reception will allow for good legs. Of course, being a sequel natural frontloading will prevent it from developing legs as good as its predecessor, but it is now looking at a $230-240 million finish, so it will avoid complete embarrassment, albeit it is still a definite disappointment compared to expectations.


Epic, the weekend’s third and least conspicuous wide opener, surprised with $33.5 million over the regular weekend and a fantastic $42.8 million over four days. It averaged $8,638 from 3,882 locations over the Friday-Sunday-frame. Though it is certainly not a huge opening in the great scheme of things and even for an animated feature it is far from beating any records, Epic went into the weekend overshadowed by the two big sequels and with very little palpable anticipation towards it. However, it was helped by the fact that it was the first animated feature to be released since The Croods full nine weeks ago. The marketplace was starved for big family-oriented flicks and while Epic might have not filled the gap completely, it certainly tapped into audiences that have not been served well over the past few weeks. Epic now has four weeks all to itself until Monsters University opens and steals its audiences. Looking at other family-oriented Memorial Day weekend-releases, the worst-case-scenario for Epic is a performance akin to Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. It’d mean a finish around $110 million for the 100 million-feature. However, given the flick’s “A”-CinemaScore (which rose to “A+” among kids) and lack of competition a performance similar to that of Kung Fu Panda 2 and Madagascar seems more likely. At worst, it will finish with $115 million. However, I see healthier returns and a final cume around $120-130 million.


Iron Man 3 suffered under the immense competition and the loss of more than 800 theatres. With $19.3 million (down 46%) over the regular weekend, it went down three slots to #5. Over four days, it garnered $24.7 million, pushing its total to $372.8 million after 25 days on release. Reaching the $350 million-mark in just 22 days, it became the 5th-fastest movie to do so. Domestically, it now resides at the all-time #22 spot, right ahead of The Passion of the Christ. It will rise to #17 by the end of this upcoming weekend.  It does look now, though, like cracking the all-time Top 10 might prove much more difficult than it initially seemed. The competition is taking a harsh toll on this film and its WoM doesn’t look to be as tremendous as it seemed after its opening weekend. It is still an absolute lock to pass $400 million (and will do so within the next three weeks), but it might actually fall short of beating Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest to become Disney’s 2nd-biggest release ever. It is looking at a $415-425 million finish at the moment. That is obviously tremendous for any film, but it could also mean a multiplier below 2.4, which is certainly not something many envisioned after its opening weekend.


Down to #3, The Great Gatsby could benefit from appealing to somewhat different demographics than most of the big movies playing in theatres right now and therefore held a tad better, dipping just 43.4% to $13.5 million over three days and $17 million over four. In 18 days the period-set romantic drama brought in an incredible $117.8 million, qualifying it as one of this year’s biggest box-office surprises. It is already tracking $21 million ahead of DiCaprio’s other surprise hit, Shutter Island. That film went on to finish with $128 million, meaning that The Great Gatsby has a great shot at a $150+ million total, especially given the film’s upcoming strong summer weekdays (which are usually particularly impressive for female-oriented movies). I still believe that it will be a close race between Gatsby and Django Unchained for a higher total gross, though I’m giving the edge to Django right now. Nevertheless, The Great Gatsby’s likely $155-160 million total is probably even more impressive.


Despite three openers and losing about one-fourth of its theatres, the indie success Mud rose one spot to #7, dipping 13.1% to $1.9 million over the three-day-weekend ($2.5 million including Memorial Day). It upped its cume to $15.1 million in five weeks and locked up a $20 million total. Right now, a $25 million finish seems more likely.,


At the 8th spot of the box-office, 42 lost almost 1,500 theatres and 55.2% for a $1.3 million weekend take ($1.7 million in four days). Its running total amounts to $91.5 million and its chances at a $100+ million are suddenly down to nil. It will go on to finish with $95 million – still a great number for a baseball drama, but less than its strong opening and its “A+”-CinemaScore have suggested.


With $1.2 million in three days (down 59.7%) and $1.6 million in four, The Croods brought its total to an amazing $179.7 million. It finally felt the effects of direct competition (from Epic), which caused this harsh decline. I expect it to recover somewhat, however, and finish with $183 million by the end of its run.


Oblivion fell down to #10 with $0.9 million ($1 million over four days), decreasing 55.6% as it didn’t get the typical studio boost from Universal (which had Fast & Furious 6 grossing more in its opening weekend than Oblivion will do in total). With $87.5 million in the bag, the sci-fi flick with Tom Cruise will top out at $89 million.


Holding surprisingly well at #11, Oz The Great and Powerful went down 25.2% in its 12th weekend, grossing $0.65 million over three days and $0.85 million over four. Its total gross stands at $232.4 million and it should be able to bring it to $234 million before it leaves all theatres.


At #12, Pain and Gain suffered a tremendous decline as the other film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stole all of its potential audiences. It dipped 80.1% to $0.6 million, losing eight spots in the process. By Monday its running total was at $48.7 million and it will need a bit of luck now to hit $50 million.

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