1. X-Men: First Class - $56.5 million (NEW)
2. The Hangover Part II – $36.2 million (-57.9%)
3. Kung Fu Panda 2 – $24.2 million (-49.2%)
4. Pirates: On Stranger Tides - $19.1 million (-52%)
5. Bridesmaids – $12 million (-27.5%)
6. Thor – $4.9 million (-48.6%)
7. Fast Five – $3.1 million (-51.6%)
Following a record-breaking Memorial Day weekend, things will cool off a bit as we officially kick off June and head into the meat of summer. This week’s only new release is X-Men: First Class, a prequel/reboot that also serves as the fifth entry of the X-Men franchise. While the film is certain to take a dive in admissions from the 2009 Wolverine prequel, advance online buzz (partially thanks to very positive reviews) should still help it command a respectable opening weekend of around $56.5 million.
Comparisons for First Class include fellow franchise reboots such as Star Trek, Batman Begins, and Casino Royale. The latter two are a bit different in that each had a fair amount of time to let the stigmas of their predecessors fade away (seven years each, in fact). Casino had about four, which is still two more than First Class gets the benefit of (though technically, its been five years since the last “sequel”, The Last Stand).
Comparing online buzz charts is going to be a bit less helpful here as opposed to some films because the fanboy factor is likely in play. Polls at Box Office Mojo show opening weekend interest to be equal to that of Wolverine (around 57%) and just head of Thor (53.6%). Considering the glut of superhero films audiences have been subjected to in recent years, the event status of a film like First Class is considerably diminished from what it was back when Bryan Singer launched the franchise’s first two films in the early part of the last decade. Twitter buzz has been strong and Fandango advance sales are respectable, though trailing Wolverine at the same point.
I am again going against MTC and RS tracking, though. The former was calling for $64 million as of Tuesday, and the latter about $65 million. That’s basically a tie and when the two sources are that close, the actual ends up being right around there. I certainly won’t rule that out, but pre-sales haven’t been as strong as I would have hoped so I’m going to take another small risk this weekend and predict that both firms are overshooting the film a little bit.
The other factor here is that the weekend after Memorial Day is known for big drops and relatively few big openers. With The Hangover Part II still eating up a fair amount of the male audience, plus mainstream interest being hindered by the word of mouth of the last two X-Men-related films, First Class is probably aiming to see an opening weekend on part with Thor in terms of admissions, which when factoring out 3D prices (as First Class has none) would equate to roughly $58-60 million. Lower is possible — Casino Royale adjusts to $50 million today — but that film catered more toward adults during a holiday season, whereas First Class will be more front-loaded by comic book fans. Look for an opening day of around $22.5 million onward to $56.5 million for the three-day frame — basically what Thor would have made without 3D & IMAX price boosts. Legs could potentially rival those of X2 with early reception being quite strong, but time will tell as we see just how much a Wolverine/Hugh Jackman-less film can appeal to the mainstream (especially the female audiences that played their own role in making the original films sizable hits). In the end though, with a reduced budget, anything over $50 million should be considered respectable.
As for the #2 film this weekend, The Hangover Part II will have a comfortable hold on the spot. Weekday drops have been basically normal but it will not doubt be affected on Friday when First Class takes away a little bit of the young male audience. It shouldn’t present a major issue in the long-run, and if Hangover acts similar to past Memorial openers it should land around $35-37 million. I’m calling for $36.2 million based on what seems to be better word of mouth than critics’ indicated may be the case, though its still hard to tell where this sequel sits with audiences. Many may enjoy it, but the question now is whether or not they enjoy it enough to dip into repeat viewings. Legs are still up in the air, but either way, this is on track to finish higher than even optimistic expectations had it pegged it before release.
Lastly, Kung Fu Panda 2 will aim to try and save face for DreamWorks Animation following one of the worst franchise implosions we’ve seen in years. Opening to only $66.7 million in its first five days — far below my own expectations as well as many industry expectations of $90 million or more — the film will need to take advantage of this competition-less weekend and the next few like it in order to make up for even a little bit of the ground it lost. There’s a lot of speculation that Panda 2 was an example of 3D prices killing the film’s appeal, and while I certainly agree that is a factor, I don’t think we can limit the reasons to that narrow of a field. Competition from Pirates likely had a major effect as that film carries significant family appeal, not to mention Panda‘s sheer lazy marketing (though that’s mostly seen in hindsight at this point). Films like Night at the Museum 2 and Indiana Jones 4 both saw respectable holds on their second weekend (both post-Memorial Day also) thanks to strong family appeal and generally good word of mouth, so a similar effect should be in store for Panda 2 this weekend to the tune of $24.2 million.
Keeping it short this week, partly due to Mojo’s decision to only have seven films in the Derby. Stay tuned next week as I have another opinion piece (or two) in the works, as well as an announcement regarding a project I’ve been working on for the site…