This weekend, North American moviegoers stormed their local megaplexes as the four-day Memorial Day holiday frame set a new record led by strong openings for a pair of Asian-set sequels. The highly-anticipated comedy The Hangover Part II registered a scorching launch while the animated pic Kung Fu Panda 2 enjoyed a solid start of its own. The adventure tentpole Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides suffered a big drop in its second weekend but still contributed large numbers in third place as the summer of sequels drew massive numbers of ticket buyers into theaters making for the biggest weekend in a year and a half.
Setting the box office on fire, the much-hyped comedy The Hangover Part II met with explosive numbers opening to an estimated $105.8M over the long Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend and a jaw-dropping $137.4M in the five days since its Thursday launch. Playing in 3,615 locations, the theater average was an incredible $29,257 over four days. It was the second biggest opening in history for an R-rated film behind only 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded which bowed to $91.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $134.3M from its late Wednesday night launch. The Passion of the Christ ranks third with $83.8M over the weekend and $125.2M in its five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday debut.
Over the traditional Friday-to-Sunday period, the Hangover followup grossed an incredible $86M for a $23,799 average. Only two R-rated comedies have ever broken $50M on opening weekend before – Sex and the City ($57M) and Jackass 3D ($50.4M) – so the performance of the Wolf Pack was truly amazing.
Moving the action to Bangkok, the new installment from Warner Bros. started its busy weekend on Thursday with a stellar $31.6M (including a huge $10.4M from Thursday night post-midnight shows) and held up well with $30M on Friday and $29.7M on Saturday. Sunday dropped 11% to $26.3M and Monday is estimated to fall 25% to $19.7M for a five-day tally that exceeds industry expectations. Reviews were mostly negative with many critics blasting the film for being a carbon copy of the original, but audiences enjoyed what they paid for, giving it a solid A- grade according to CinemaScore.
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis reunited for the new tale along with director Todd Phillips and talk is already underway for a third chapter. The first Hangover opened at number one in June 2009 with $45M and had tremendous legs finishing with more than six times that amount at $277.3M from North America alone. Audiences around the world responded, giving Mike Tyson and company $467M worldwide making it the biggest R-rated comedy in history. The sequel brought back the main cast and crew, changed the setting thanks to a wedding set in Thailand, and kept most of the formula the same. The $80M-budgeted production entered the marketplace on Thursday with some of the highest levels of fan anticipation of any film this year.
Warner Bros. rolled out The Hangover Part II in 40 countries around the world and grossed a stellar $60.3M which was three times bigger than the respective openings of the first film in those markets. The United Kingdom led the way with $16.7M which was the all-time biggest debut for an American comedy of any rating. Another English-speaking market that greeted the film with open arms was Australia with $11.9M. In both territories, Hangover opened better than last week’s bigger-budgeted Pirates sequel. Germany and Russia open next weekend and the international tally is expected to soar quickly.
Finishing in second place with a solid but subdued performance was the 3D animated comedy Kung Fu Panda 2 which bowed to an estimated $62.2M over four days and $68M since its Thursday debut. The Paramount release averaged $15,847 over four days and attracted strong reviews plus an encouraging A CinemaScore grade. The PG-rated film did $47.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion. But the $53.6M from the first four days was lower than the $60.2M three-day opening of the first film from early June in 2008. That pic was in 2D and did not benefit from 3D ticket surcharges. Competition was not too fierce this weekend since Rio was the only other cartoon in the marketplace and most major grossers were rated R or skewed to an older crowd.
Across its five-day debut period, Panda opened to $5.8M on Thursday and is projected to collect $14.4M on Memorial Day Monday. Compared to other 3D toon debuts, the Friday-to-Sunday tally beat out Rio‘s $39.2M from last month and edged out the $46M of November’s Megamind from DreamWorks. The Jack Black sequel will end up in the same five-day holiday debut vicinity as Tangled which premiered to $68.7M last Thanksgiving. Despite being presented in 3D, Panda‘s 2D version proved to be more popular accounting for about 55% of the weekend gross. Lately, more moviegoers have been opting for the regular-priced 2D versions over the more expensive 3D ones for many films.
Kung Fu Panda 2 had a limited international roll-out this weekend opening in just 11 territories but the toon scored a hefty $57M coming in at number one in nine of the markets. Leading the way were China with $18.5M, Russia with $15M, and Korea with $13M. In China, Panda broke the record for the biggest opening day for a foreign film beating the latest Pirates which set the record last week.
Last weekend’s champ Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides suffered a large decline as expected. Johnny Depp’s latest big-budget adventure dropped to an estimated $50.4M over four days and put its 11-day tally at $164M. The Disney tentpole dropped 56% over the Friday-to-Sunday span and was in-line with how other recent sequels performed on the three-day portion of Memorial Day weekend. 2009’s Angels & Demons fell 53% while the previous year’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian tumbled 59%. Those films made 65-70% of their domestic totals by Memorial Day so if Pirates follows a similar trajectory, it would finish with about $240M making it by far the lowest-grossing installment in the series.
But while North American audiences are showing up in smaller numbers, international crowds have been enormous and the overseas totals are on course to be the best in the franchise. Tides continued its massive worldwide release with a stellar $122.8M in its second weekend (as of Sunday) shooting the international total in just under two weeks to $470.8M with the global haul now at $623.7M. Leading the way have been Russia with $49.9M, China with $43.9M, and Japan with $43.8M with the overseas total set to make it past the $700M mark. The latest Pirates even has a chance of hitting the $1 billion milestone worldwide with three-quarters coming from outside of North America.
Despite the Hangover juggernaut taking away those in the mood for raunchy wedding-related humor, Universal’s sleeper hit Bridesmaids held up quite nicely with an estimated $21M over the long weekend raising the total to a solid $89.6M in 18 days. The three-day take of $16.6M was off just 21% from last weekend. The R-rated film should sail into nine-digit territory on Friday.
A 3D action film followed, with Thor grossing an estimated $12M for a total of $162.4M for Paramount. The Kenneth Branagh-directed pic has now outgrossed the first installments of Marvel’s X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Hulk franchises although today’s higher ticket prices have contributed. The comic giant will launch another property on July 22 with Captain America: The First Avenger which also will be in 3D. Slowing down overseas, Thor made an estimated $3.5M internationally this weekend lifting the take to $253.1M for a global figure of $416M.
Fast Five came closer to crossing the $200M mark with a four-day weekend estimate of $8.2M pushing the domestic tally to an incredible $197.6M. Overseas, Universal’s action smash kept going strong with another $13.3M boosting the international haul to $346M and the global gross to a towering $544M. Look for Five to speed past the $600M worldwide mark soon.
Woody Allen made a rare appearance in the top ten landing in seventh place with the incredible limited release performance of his latest romantic comedy Midnight in Paris which took in an estimated $2.6M from only 58 theaters for a sizzling $45,086 average. Sony Classics will continue to expand the film as counter-programming to the summer’s mindless popcorn pics.
Fox’s animated hit Rio followed with an estimated $2.4M in its seventh round putting the cume at $135.4M. Still keeping pace with each other were the wedding comedies Jumping the Broom with $2.35M and Something Borrowed with $2.32M, according to estimates. The Sony release has taken in $34.6M thus far while Warner Bros. has a $35.2M total.
Just days after winning the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life registered a scorching debut in limited release with an estimated $489,000 from just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a stunning $122,250 four-day average. Met with mostly good reviews from critics, the Brad Pitt-Sean Penn starrer expands to eight more markets next weekend including San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $269.2M over the four-day holiday weekend which was up a robust 48% from last year’s Memorial Day when Shrek Forever After remained in the top spot with $57.1M; and up 27% from 2009’s holiday when Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian debuted at number one with $70.1M.