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Box Office: Pirates Tops Worst Memorial Day Weekend in 18 Years

by | May 29, 2017 | Comments

(Photo by Peter Mountain/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

This weekend, audiences were not thrilled with the new offerings Hollywood had planned out for the long holiday frame, as spending on the top ten sunk to just $164.8M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday period — the worst figure for the Memorial Day session in 18 years.

Johnny Depp scored his first number one hit since the last time he played Jack Sparrow six years ago as his big-budget adventure Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales captured the top spot with an estimated debut of $77M over the four-day holiday span. Though that was more than the next five films combined, the Friday-to-Sunday take of $62.6M marked the lowest opening weekend by far for any of the Pirates sequels which fell in the range of $90M to $136M. The Dead Men debut dropped 31% from the opening of the last installment, On Stranger Tides from May 2011.

Reviews were fairly negative and part of the fan base has eroded over time. The Disney franchise was unstoppable at one point as the 2006 sequel Dead Man’s Chest surprised the industry in July of that year by smashing the all-time opening weekend record which had been held for over four years by 2002’s Spider-Man. Another sequel the following summer posted solid numbers too, and in the coming days, the newest chapter will send the total franchise gross past the $4 billion mark. Studio data for Dead Men showed that males made up 53% of the crowd and 63% were over 25. 3D screens accounted for 27% of the gross.

But as with many aging Hollywood action franchises, the fading domestic interest was offset by sturdy international box office results. The fifth Pirates flick opened big with a hefty $208.4M from 54 markets through Sunday led by China’s $67.8M which beat out North America’s gross from the same three-day span. Also, the Russia bow broke the all-time industry record there with $18.1M. The global debut was $285.4M including the domestic Monday with Japan as the only key market still to open.

The last time the four-day top ten was weaker over Memorial Day weekend was in 1999 when it hit $129.9M led by the second weekend of Star Wars Episode I with $66.9M. The average movie ticket price was 42% less back then so that weekend 18 years back actually sold more tickets than this current weekend did.

Holding onto the runner-up spot was this summer’s top-grossing film to date Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with an estimated $25.2M over the four-day holiday period. The Marvel smash displayed good legs again as the three-day portion dropped by just 40% as Baby Groot and friends pull in business from a broad audience of people looking for big-screen escapism. The cume rose to $338.5M flying past the $333.2M final of its 2014 predecessor. The Galaxy sequel watched its international total climb to $450.1M putting the worldwide total at $788.6M which also surpasses the $774M of the first Guardians. A final near $850M seems likely.

Opening in third place was the action-comedy Baywatch with an estimated $23M over four days from 3,647 locations for an average of $6,307. The R-rated film starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron was based on the popular 1990s television series. Paramount opened it on Thursday to get a head start on the long holiday weekend and collected $27.6M across the five-day span. Reviews were not good but audiences were generally happy as noted by the B+ CinemaScore grade.

Falling apart in its second weekend was the sci-fi sequel Alien: Covenant which saw its three-day gross tumble an alarming 71% with the four-day gross coming in at $13.2M. Fox has banked $60M from North America plus $101M from overseas for a global tally of $161M with China and Japan still to open.

Young females put the romance Everything, Everything into the number five spot with an estimated $7.4M over the long weekend and $22.7M overall for Warner Bros. kidpic Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul fared well in its sophomore frame with an estimated $5.8M for a good three-day decline of only 38%. Total for Fox is still only $15M though.

Amy Schumer’s comedy Snatched followed with an estimated $4.9M in its third lap putting Fox at $41.2M to date. Warner Bros. continued to see its big-budget adventure King Arthur fall apart with an estimated $4.1M and only $34.8M overall. International is at $85M, though no market has made more than $8M total. Worldwide stands at just $119.8M.

A pair of leggy family hits from March once again stayed in the top ten as audiences reject so many of the newer films from recent weeks. Fox’s The Boss Baby took in an estimated $2.3M pushing the cume to $169.6M and the global haul to $476.8M.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast spent its 11th consecutive weekend in the top ten and also crossed the $500M domestic barrier in the process. The fairy tale smash grossed an estimated $1.9M lifting the cume to a dazzling $500.9M making it the eighth largest domestic hit of all-time. Overseas markets have contributed $732M with most of the current sales coming from the durable run in Japan where the local total of $86.8M made it surpass China to become the film’s second biggest international market. It will then pass the U.K. by next week for the top spot. Beauty has taken in $1.23 billion to date and is the year’s highest grossing film worldwide.

Just an inch outside of the top ten, but still making box office news, was the action sequel The Fate of the Furious with an estimated $1.8M putting the domestic sum at $223M. The overseas total this weekend cracked the magical $1 billion mark, only the sixth film in history to reach this milestone with Furious 7 being one of them. 82% of the $1.22 billion global haul for Universal has come from outside of North America rising above the 77% for F7.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $164.8M over the four-day weekend which was down 16% from last year when X-Men: Apocalypse opened at number one with $79.8M; and down 10% from 2015’s holiday when Tomorrowland debuted in the top spot with $42.7M.


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