After months of grosses that often fell short of last year, Friday's results indicate a huge uptick in business just as the summer season revs into high gear. With three new films joining three May hits, the top 10 yesterday grossed around $84 million, nearly double the Friday of Memorial Day weekend last year ($44 million).
1. "Fast and Furious 6" (Universal) floored the second best opening day gross of 2013 (including Thursday late night shows) of $38 million, more impressive with no 3-D surcharges to pad its gross. The "Fast" series has been a goldmine for some time -- "Fast Five" in 2011 had a late April opening day figure (also including Thursday shows) of $34 million, although with far less competition among new and current films.
2. "Hangover Part III" (Warner Bros.) did $14.5 million, good enough for #2 for the day. The two day total though is down more than a third from the first Thursday/Friday of "Part II" the same weekend two years back ($38 million vs. $61 million, when it was the #1 film).
3. "Star Trek Into Darkness" (Paramount) takes third place at $10.2 million, for now, down just over 50% from the combined Thursday/Friday opening number last week, not bad considering the crowded market.
4. "Epic" (20th Century-Fox) did $9.3 million, average for an animated opening, and likely to jump as the weekend progresses via kids-friendly weekend matinees. Its ultimate fate will depend on audience reaction as summer vacations begin in earnest.
5. "Iron Man 3" (Buena Vista) was 5th at $5.1 million.
6. "The Great Gatsby" (Warner Bros) did $4.0 million, both off a little less than half, again reasonable against major new openings.
With so many expensive franchise films dominating the summer release schedule, grosses like yesterday's -- a high total spread out among several films and holdovers still playing well -- are exactly what distributors and theaters are looking for. After several weeks with domestic totals struggling to maintain pace with last year (because of the extraordinary grosses from "The Avengers"), the increase seen so far suggests that the US/Canada part of the business is beginning to parallel significant gains in the international market to spread the success to all parts of the theatrical canvas.
Against this competition, the best reviewed film of the year so far, Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight" (Sony Pictures Classics) opened in three cities to gross $71,000 in five theaters, the best limited opening since "The Place Beyond the Pines" two months ago, positioning itself to be the leading specialized release for the early summer.