Moviegoers gorged themselves on high-profile sequels powering the North American box office to a record-breaking Memorial Day frame with the top ten films grossing over $250M during just the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the long weekend. The marketplace expanded to incredible levels making for one of the five biggest overall box office weekends ever.
The busy frame was led by the high-octane opening of the action smash Fast & Furious 6 which generated the best debut in its 12-year franchise history with an estimated $98.5M over the three-day portion of the holiday frame. Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Dwayne Johnson, the latest PG-13 installment averaged a muscular $26,927 from 3,658 theaters with no help from any 3D gimmickry. Universal is projecting an eye-popping four-day holiday opening of $122M.
Since Diesel’s return to the popular series with 2009’s Fast & Furious (the fourth pic), the opening weekends and final grosses have risen sharply with every new chapter. Producers know to add something new each time to keep customers interested. Instead of franchise fatigue, audiences have become even more excited and international audiences have been contributing more and more. The last film, Fast Five from April 2011, opened to $86.2M on its way to a $209.8M domestic final and $629M worldwide total – all franchise highs. Part 6 is now looking to beat all of those marks. The well-liked Five’s good will is paying dividends now.
Three of the four biggest opening weekends in company history for Universal are from the last three Fast installments. So not only is this a critical franchise for the studio, it’s also one that is still growing bigger which bodes well for the years to come.
From day one in June 2001, the series has invested in ethnically diverse casts which has broadened the consumer base. Sales from urban youth have always been key. And appeal has been strong with women too. This weekend’s audience breakdown showed a 49% female crowd which is incredibly high for a macho action sequel. 57% were age 25 or older and 32% were Latino. Reviews were generally good and the CinemaScore grade for the $160M budgeted film was a solid A. The ending of the sixquel even sets up the new cast addition for part 7 which is already slated to open on July 11 next summer.
Overseas, Furious grossed a whopping $158M this weekend from 59 markets upping the cume to $177M including the U.K. which opened strong a week earlier. Worldwide is $275.5M and rising rapidly with many new franchise records being set. Australia is still to open in June followed by China and Japan in July. By the end of this week, the franchise six-pack will race past the $2 billion cumulative mark.
Suffering the opposite franchise trajectory was The Hangover Part III which opened in second place with an estimated $42.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday period which was half of what its predecessor did over the same holiday weekend two years ago. Both sequels opened on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend although III was moved from a Friday release just recently so not all fans knew it was available earlier. The new chapter grossed $54.2M from Thursday-to-Sunday, down 54% from II. Though a huge commercial blockbuster, the second part was widely criticized by audiences as being a lazy copy of the first film’s plot and that prompted many to lose interest in a third entry.
Over three days, the Hangover finale averaged $11,931 from 3,555 locations. Part II was powered by the good will of the first Hangover pic from the summer of 2009 and bowed to a stellar $135M over five days. Part III may not even reach that amount by the end of its run. The 2011 film went on its way to $254.5M domestically and $581.5M worldwide. Reviews were once again negative on the latest sequel and audiences gave a lukewarm B grade from CinemaScore. Overseas, Part III opened at number one in three markets – the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand – grossing $19.2M. Unlike domestic, most international markets will get a one week gap between the Hangover and Furious sequels with over 50 territories launching Part III next weekend.
Star Trek Into Darkness fell from its number one spot but held up well in its sophomore frame given the intense competition. The Friday-to-Sunday gross dropped 46% to an estimated $38M pushing the cume up to $146.8M. After opening below expectations, the Paramount release is benefiting from good word-of-mouth with a decline that was commendable for a sci-fi sequel. The domestic gross now has a chance of ending up in the vicinity of $225M (helped by 3D) which would be not far from the $257.7M of its predecessor. International rose to $102.1M and the worldwide take stands at $248.9M with major markets China and Korea to open next weekend. Those are the two highest-grossing overseas markets for another effects-heavy May actioner, Iron Man 3.
The animated adventure Epic did not fail and scored with family audiences opening to an estimated $34.2M from 3,882 theaters for a $8,810 average. The PG-rated film had young kids all to itself and is expected to pull in about $44M over the four-day holiday span. Studios have not been serving up enough options for families this year as Epic is the first animated film since March’s The Croods which is now in its tenth weekend of release, and still in the top ten. Both were released by Fox. Reviews were generally good for the leaf people pic and the A CinemaScore grade bodes well for the road ahead especially since the next kidpic doesn’t arrive until June 21 with Pixar’s Monsters University. Epic opened in 20 new international markets this weekend with $23.1M lifting the overseas cume to $44M and the early global take to $78.2M with 26 additional territories launching next weekend.
Dropping 46% to fifth place was the year’s biggest hit Iron Man 3 which pulled in an estimated $19.4M in its fourth weekend. The Marvel smash upped its cume to $367.5M putting it at number 22 on the list of All-Time Domestic Blockbusters right behind the $373.4M of 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Disney’s megahit is now the fifth biggest global blockbuster of all-time with a jaw-dropping $1.14 billion, 68% from international markets.
Leonardo DiCaprio scored the eighth $100M blockbuster of his career with The Great Gatsby which ranked sixth. The Warner Bros. pic grossed an estimated $13.7M, down 43%, giving the lavish film a solid $114.4M to date. Despite weak reviews and a lackluster audience score, Gatsby has been holding up well against all the competition in part due to an audience of mature women not as interested in the other major offerings. The global gross hit $200M this weekend.
The rest of the top ten featured films taking in small morsels. Indie hit Mud eased just 14% to an estimated $1.9M while losing some screens. The Roadside Attractions release has grossed $14.5M to date. Warner Bros. saw its baseball hit 42 take in an estimated $1.2M, off 56%, for a $91M cume.
With families flocking to a new toon, The Croods tumbled 60% to an estimated $1.2M making for a total of $179.6M for Fox. The Tom Cruise sci-fi drama Oblivion took in an estimated $815,000, down 65%, with a total tally of $87.3M for Universal. Worldwide sums are $565.6M and $266.8M, respectively.
The Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy indie drama Before Midnight platformed to sensational results thanks to a built-in audience and stellar reviews. Sony Classics opened the pic in New York, Los Angeles, and Austin and grossed an estimated $274,000 from only five locations for a sizzling $54,800 average. Midnight expands out to about 30 total theaters next weekend.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $251.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday span which was up a stunning 90% from last year when Men in Black 3 opened at number one with $54.6M; and up 18% from 2011’s record holiday when The Hangover Part II debuted in the top spot with $85.9M.