"Wolverine," Twentieth Century Fox's well-hyped sixth entry in the "X-Men" series, performed below expectations with $21 million on Friday (including $4 million from late Thursday shows). Thus far the Top Ten total is lower than any Friday since June 4.
Pre-opening estimates had "The Wolverine" opening to a three-day total of $75 million or more, far above the low $50s that now seems likely. The good news is that audiences like the film -- its scored A- on Cinemascore--and 3-D surcharges enhanced its take. But the weekend total will likely fall far below Hugh Jackman's last appearance in the series ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine" took in $85 million its first weekend in 2009) and even short of "X-Men: First Class" in 2011 (even without Jackman or 3-D, that film opened to $55 million).
Business overall was healthy. The Top Ten grossed $51 million, which is far lower than recent weeks (when multiple new high-octane films debuted), but way above last year, which totaled only $38 million for the day. The business was spread out among several robust performers appealing to a variety of audiences.
Warner Bros.' "The Conjuring," already a major success because of its small budget, came in second at $7.3 million, and should fall at a better-than-usual rate for a horror film--about 50%-- for its second weekend and come close to grossing $100 million in only ten days.
Two animated films took the next two spots -- Universal's massive success "Despicable Me 2" placed third at $4.8 million, crossing the domestic $300 million mark (the second 2013 release to do so - significantly "Man of Steel" now looks like it will fall just short of that). Fox/Dreamwork's "Turbo," after a softer-than-expected opening, is #4 with $4 million yesterday, down 39% from its opening day and looking to at least hold decently for the weekend, increasing its chances, combined with hoped for international bounty, of eking out a profit.
The middle of the pack consists of holdovers: #5 "Grown Ups 2" (Sony) is looking to hit $100 million by weekend's end, while #6 "Red 2" (Lionsgate) is heading for a 50% drop after its soft opening, Warner Bros.' struggling "Pacific Rim" is at #7 (this now is certain to fall short of $100 million domestic), Fox's "The Heat" is holding on late in its run at #8 (with a shot at $150 million before it's done) and Universal's disastrous "R.I.P.D." struggling to make #9 in its second week.
Three other films with fewer than half as many theaters as those above showed varying degrees of success. Weinstein's acclaimed "Fruitvale Station" in only its third weekend jumped to 1,064 theaters to make #10 with $1.4 million. The per screen average is decent for this specialized wide break, but the film's ultimate success will be determined by how strong word of mouth -- initially upbeat -- continues to be. This could be a film that sustains a lengthy run ahead.
Just out of the top 10 is Fox Searchlight's "The Way, Way Back," grossing just under $1 million in 886 theaters. Its PSA was below that of "Fruitvale," but over a third of its theaters, including most of the top-grossing ones, had been playing this already (unlike the Weinstein film, which added over 1,000 this weekend, including many of the most desirable in the country). Searchlight's comedy is already up to $6.6 million, which if good audience reaction continues could go much higher.
CBS Films targeted a young female audience for "The To Do List" in fewer theaters -- 591 -- and grossed $590,000 for an OK start for this inexpensive ($1.5 million) coming-of-age film which the distributor reports had a strong audience response, suggesting that it has the potential to expand ahead to stronger success.
Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" (Sony Pictures Classics) got off to a strong start in six New York/Los Angeles theaters, taking in $176,000, even better than the first day gross of his breakout success "Midnight in Paris" two years ago. After a disappointing early summer, this looks like it will join "The Way, Way Back" and "Fruitvale Station" as a crossover specialized film with the potential of a $20 million+ gross, with "Jasmine" enhanced both by strong reviews and a potential strong Best Actress contender in Cate Blanchett keeping the film in theaters for longer than normal.