Memorial Day weekend used to be the official kickoff of the summer season. Return of the Jedi just celebrated its 40th anniversary from this weekend. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom will reach the same milestone in 2024. Rocky, Rambo, and Back to the Future sequels were all a part of this holiday. And yet, inflation notwithstanding, only four films have ever cracked the $300 million line opening on this weekend. Last year, a film cracked $700 million. No film is going to do that this year, but there is hope that Disney can crack that list for a third time with another of their live-action animated remakes.
Disney’s 2023 version of The Little Mermaid, directed by Rob Marshall, grossed $10.3 million prior to Friday’s full-day launch. Among the May releases to make over $10 million from their Thursday starts, only Solo: A Star Wars Story and The Hangover Part II failed to gross a full $100 million over the three-day weekend of Memorial Day, but they both made it over the hump by Monday. Ariel joined those two films in not getting over the weekend hump, though she did better than each with $95.4 million and then $117.5 million through the holiday. That would give The Little Mermaid the fifth best Memorial Day launch behind Top Gun: Maverick ($160.5 million), 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 ($122.8 million), and just a half million ahead of Fast & Furious 6 ($117.0 million). Yes, Mermaid’s numbers are higher than even the inflated ticket sales of Return of the Jedi ($92.8 million) and Temple of Doom ($99 million).
In 2019, Disney’s Aladdin redux by Guy Ritchie made $91.5 million over the weekend and $116.8 million through the holiday. It went on to gross over $355 million domestically (and $1.05 billion globally) to become the second-highest grossing Memorial Day release of all time, which was tops at the time until Top Gun: Maverick came around last year. Again, Return of the Jedi’s inflated gross comes out to about $769.3 million and Temple of Doom about $525 million. Throw in $482 million for Last Crusade, but who is counting?
Back to The Little Mermaid, though. It now has the distinction of having the highest opening ever for a film with a black female lead, besting Jordan Peele’s Us with Lupita N’yongo, which opened to $71.1 million in 2019. There have been nine films that cracked $100 million through the 4-day holiday in the past, and as mentioned, five of those failed to hit $300 million. Even At World’s End and Crystal Skull, which hit $100 million in their first three days, just got over the mark with $309 million and $317 million, respectively. Aladdin fell 53% in its post-holiday weekend, dropping back to second behind Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but then held itself to over $10 million each week through the end of June and eventually crossed $300 million. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse opens next weekend. Worldwide, The Little Mermaid has made $185 million so far. Let’s see if another $250 million spent on another Disney production this summer pays off.
Two films were released this weekend featuring a stand-up comedian dealing with their overbearing dad. Only one of them nearly set a new low for the holiday weekend. That would be Lionsgate’s About My Father, which stars Sebastian Maniscalco as Sebastian Maniscalco, who is not a comedian but a hotel manager, and Robert DeNiro as his father. It picked up $4.2 million over the weekend and $5.2 million estimated through Monday. Not good numbers, but also hardly the worst ever. However, the film, which sits at 31% with critics, now ranks as the second-lowest opening Memorial Day release in over 2,000 theaters ever, lower than even 1995’s Johnny Mnemonic, which opened with $6.03 million in 2,030 theaters. About My Father is in 2,464 and carries a budget of $29 million. Last summer’s Easter Sunday with Jo Koy opened to $5.4 million and finished with $13 million.
The only reason About My Father does not have the new crown is because Kandahar also opened this weekend. The latest film starring Gerard Butler opened in 2,105 theaters to just $2.5 million over the weekend and an estimated $3.1 million through Monday. It is also the newest release from Open Road (or Briarcliff) Films and, as a reminder, they have still not opened a film to at least $4 million since the May 18, 2018 (aka the weekend before Memorial Day) release of Show Dogs opened to $7.1 million.
Last week’s No. 1 got pushed aside as Fast X joined its Vin Diesel sequel predecessors, which all dropped between 59.5% and 67.2% in their second weekends. The tenth film fell 66% with three-day totals coming in at $23 million. That’s the lowest second weekend for a Fast film since Diesel’s return, showing another steady drop from Hobbs & Shaw’s $25.2 million to F9’s $23 million. Yes, even the vaccine summer of the pandemic was better for this series than this weekend, which still had the benefit of the holiday to boost its four-day total to $28.6 million. The film’s $108 million 10-day total is below Hobbs & Shaw’s $108.3 million and nearly $9 million below F9. A pace like this could see Fast X coming in between $150-160 million, the lowest since the fourth film’s $155 million back in 2009. Even with a global total over $507 million at this point, that $340 million budget plus P&A costs are not even close to getting covered.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 made $19.9 million over the weekend, which was below Vol. 2’s $25.3 million fourth weekend (which also coincided with Memorial Day). Bringing its total over $304 million, Vol. 3 is about $35 million off the pace of its predecessor but is now also officially outpacing Spider-Man 3. That now puts its final estimate somewhere between $340-355 million. The film is now over $723 million worldwide and is inching closer to being in profit. A $350 million gross is going to be a tough number to beat going forward the rest of the summer.
The film that will go unchallenged all year, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, continues to chug along with the hope of becoming the biggest animated film of all time – either domestically or globally, if not both. Both still feel like long shots, but with $6.2 million over the weekend and $8.3 million estimated through Monday, the film has crossed $560 million. That is still $48 million behind Incredibles 2, but with $1.277 billion it has moved into the Top 20 worldwide grossers ever; it still sits about $176 million behind Frozen II in 13th place all-time. Incredibles 2 had grossed $583 million after a $4.9 million eighth weekend. So Mario is inching its way closer to challenge the domestic title, though it may have to settle for second place, just as it will worldwide, as it passes Frozen ($1.285 billion) in the coming week. Across the Spider-Verse may knock it back a little further next week, but nothing is going to dethrone it as the No. 1 film of 2023.
Rounding out the top five is The Machine starring comedian Bert Kreischer (with Mark Hamill as his father), inspired by his allegedly true stand-up routine that went viral years ago. The film version grossed $4.9 million over the weekend and $5.8 million over the holiday. This is the fifth straight film that Sony has withheld nationwide from press in the States after 65 (35%), The Pope’s Exorcist (51%), Big George Foreman (44%), and Love Again (24%). The Machine currently sits at 29% on the Tomatometer.
Meanwhile, a legendary comedic actress reteamed with her Enough Said director, as Nicole Holofcener’s You Hurt My Feelings with Julia Louis-Dreyfus opened with just $1.3 million in 912 theaters. The A24 release from Sundance is the best-reviewed film in the top 10, Certified Fresh at 95%. Book Club: The Next Chapter is also still in the top 10, bringing its total to $16.4 million; Focus Features was only able to squeeze out 23% of the gross that Paramount earned with the original back in 2018. Finally, Evil Dead Rise took its total over $66 million, despite being available on VOD. It is Warner Bros.’ most profitable film since last year’s The Batman. Good thing it did not go exclusively to streaming.
Sony kicks off the month of June with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. The 140-minute animated film is hoping to best the $190 million domestic total of 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse, one of the best-reviewed comic book films ever. 20th Century Studios and Disney are hoping that Rob Savage’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Boogeyman can draw in similar crowds to last year’s June release of The Black Phone, which was based on a story by King’s son, Joe Hill. Finally, A24 will put Celine Song’s Past Lives into limited release. The Sundance film is being called one the best debuts in years and currently sits at 95% with critics.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by Giles Keyte/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures