By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood May 25, 2014 at 1:34PM
Memorial Day weekend, though always solid, is not a surefire great date for any given film. For much of the country, it is the first real chance to break out the barbecues or engage in other outdoor activities, and anything less than a pre-sold film doesn't make a lot of sense to open.
It still is a holiday, though, and the start of summer school holidays remains a tempting time to position new top releases. Last year's was one of the best ever, at least in terms of unadjusted dollars, with the Top 10 grossing almost $250 million for the Friday-Sunday portion. This year, by comparison, is down 29%, which is a significant hit with this normally being one of the best weekends of the year (this year's total was $176 million).
Like last week, one film, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (20th Century Fox) provided more than half that gross (unlike last year, when #1 "Fast and Furious 6" grossed more, not in 3D, and with even bigger competition. It is taking its toll in the year-to-date comparison. The 4% current uptick is the lowest it has been since the start of the year, as recent falloffs are beginning to matter.
1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 74
$90,700,000 in 3,996 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $22,698; Cumulative: $90,700,000
This comes in second only to "X-Men: Last Stand" in actual gross for the series, though with its 3D price boost and other ticket inflation factors places it behind two previous $85 million series opening weekends in terms of tickets sold. This becomes the fourth $90 million-plus opener (all within a close range) since April, all action/fantasy large budget movies. The take -- with the boost of a pre-holiday Sunday -- looks to be the lowest of the the four, though ultimately that's quibbling quibbling over small differences. And it is not nearly as important as the initial $171 million foreign haul so far, as this franchise continues to thrive and justify its expense (around $200 million this time around).
It certainly is helped by the cast, with the versatile Hugh Jackman scoring again, Jennifer Lawrence heading for her third big hit in just over six months, and Michael Fassbender getting continued exposure in wider audience films. It's also a great boost for Bryan Singer, who returned to the series after a detour to a "Superman" reboot and two lesser grossing later films. It exceeds any of his previous opening weekends. Not a bad way to restore faith in him as he is dealing with civil lawsuits that gained headlines.
This comes up #5 among three-day Memorial Holiday hauls, better than three of the last four years, but also lagging behind three other earlier and lower ticket-priced hits. The era of new films easily bettering previous totals seems to be fading.
It's hard to come up with much more to say for this -- the creators did their job, the audience reaction and the critical response were fine. The question now is, will it sustain itself and soar to $250 million or more for its domestic take, or will it, like some other films, quickly fall and be gone by the next holiday? This film is a model of modern studio product, certainly at a high level of care and conscientious production. But we have already seen four like this in 2014, and it's only Memorial Day. It remains to be seen if the rest of the summer can continue this course.
What comes next: Apart from apparent audience positive reaction, this is helped by having a freer ride competitively now that the fanboy quotient of new films goes down over the next few weeks
2. Godzilla (Warner Bros.) Week 2 - Last weekend #1
$31,425,000 (-66%) in theaters (unchanged); PSA: $7,952; Cumulative: $148,773,000
Sometimes it can be easy to overreact to a second weekend drop after the initial weekend figure was both huge and bigger than expected. And that, in part, is how this two-thirds fall for "Godzilla" should be considered. Having a similar audience appeal film like "X-Men" also open makes a difference as well. But this still is somewhat disconcerting -- by all accounts, the film had a positive audience reaction. Recent second weekends of other breakout hits -- none of which had the boost of a pre-holiday Sunday -- dropped less ("Amazing Spider-Man 2" and "Captain America"). Last year, the second weekend of "Star Trek Into Darkness," faced with an even stronger array of new films, dropped only 47% over the similar weekend. Again, is this a problem with the film, factors related to moviegoing this specific weekend, or suggestive of a smaller audience for films like these that are the most expensive to make and are most dependent on young, male audiences (a segment that started falling sharply after last summer)? No clear answer, and one pushed more to the background because of the huge worldwide take early on for this film. But for American theater owners this drop will be noticed and a cause for concern.
What comes next: It helps that there isn't really a similar audience appeal film until "Transformers" late next month, so this has time to stabilize and add to its already impressive total.
3.. Blended (Warner Bros.) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire; C+; Metacritic: 34
$14,245,000 in 3,555 theaters; PSA: $4,007; Cumulative: $14,245,000
Eight of Adam Sandler's last nine live-action films have opened to better than $20 million, with only June 2012's "That's My Boy" doing less ($13.5 million first weekend). Last summer's "Grown Ups 2" rebounded to $41.5 million, aided by its built-in audience as a sequel and depending less on mainly Sandler to draw audiences. This got bad reviews, but that has rarely hurt his films. Co-star Drew Barrymore has been less of a factor as of late (her last film to open over $10 million was 2009's Valentine's Day-adjacent "He's Just Not That Into You." A decade ago, the two costarred in "50 First Dates," which scored a huge nearly $40 million total. The good news comes from a Saturday bump from Friday that parallels its positive Cinemascore rating, so audiences may like it enough to sustain it going forward. And this only had an initial cost of $40 million pre-marketing, so the level it needs to reach isn't stratospheric.
What comes next: Sandler's films usually gross a bit less overseas than domestic, so this will need a multi-week domestic run to get into profit.