Thursday 16 June 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 3rd - 5th June 2011

1. X-Men: First Class - $56M - $56M
2. The Hangover Part II - $32.4M - $186.9M
3. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $24.3M - $100.4M
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $18M - 190.3M
5. Bridesmaids - $12.1M - $107.3M
6. Thor - $4.2M - $169M
7. Fast Five - $3.2M - $202M
8. Midnight in Paris - $2.9M - $6.9M
9. Jumping the Broom - $865K - $35.9M
10. Something Borrowed - $835K - $36.6M

Just a single new release this weekend but again, it's a big one. We've also got the second frames for The Hangover Part 2 and the Kung Fu Panda sequel, while some of May's hits begin to shed locations, readying the way for June's onslaught of major releases.

The X-Men comic book series began in 1963 and was the brainchild of Stan Lee and graphic artist Jack Kirby. It featured a group of 'mutants' and their battles with not only the real world but with each other. Hugely successful over a number of years, it was not until 1994, when Fox earned the screen rights, that work on a film began in earnest. After a number of failed drafts and false starts, the studio hired Bryan Singer to help bring the story to the big screen. In the year 2000, X-Men was unleashed and would go on to spawn a hugely successful series of films. Singer returned for the sequel, X2, in 2003, again to great success, but opted to direct his dream project, Superman Returns, over a third film. Fox drafted in Matthew Vaughn, who had worked as Guy Ritchie's producer and made an impressive debut with Layer Cake, to direct X-Men: The Last Stand. Due to various reasons, the most common cited being family related issues and the tight shooting schedule (Fox being insistent that the third film debuted before Singer's Superman Returns), Vaughn left the project during pre-production. With a lot of money already spent, Fox shopped the project to a number of directors, including Darren Aronofsky, with no luck. With time running out, the studio hired Brett Ratner, who found his special effects budget (and conversely overall budget) slashed, and still having to work in the same time frame. X3 would be a financial success (still the most successful of the series) but receive a bit of a critical kicking. Fox chose to leave the main X-Men team at that point and concentrate instead on spin off movies - the first of which appeared in 2009 and was based around arguably the most popular character, Wolverine. Fox had further spin-offs in mind, including Magneto and Deadpool.

Prior to the release of X3, director Zak Penn revealed he was working on another X-men spin off, this time based around a group of young mutants. After further work on the project, Fox approached Bryan Singer, with the idea of asking him to direct what would become X-Men: First Class - based on how well the planned Magneto spin off was received. Instead, Singer merged elements of the Magneto script into a newly commissioned First Class script. While trying to sign on Singer to direct, it was revealed he was committed to directing Jack the Giant Killer for Warner Bros, who refused to release the director. Going somewhat full circle, Singer stayed on as producer and hired Matthew Vaughn to direct X-Men: First Class, adding in Jane Goldman, Vaughn's writing partner, to re-write the existing script. The pair had worked on Stardust and the well received Kick Ass.

Instead of just covering Magneto, the film would now follow his friendship with Charles Xavier and feature an array of other mutants, some making their series debut. Pre-production moved at a quick pace and a June release date was set. Vaughn signed up James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender for the leads, adding Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne and Jennifer Lawrence as a young Mystique. Initial trailers revealed the film to be set in the 1960s, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, reigning in the traditional X-men aspects apparently, while pushing an almost James Bond vibe. Subsequent trailers added in a more fantastical, action packed element.

Early word was very strong and reviews have reflected that - X-Men: First Class sits just behind X2's 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But with no Wolverine etc. would the public take to the film? Perhaps. Friday saw the film take $21M, a soft start for a well hyped film and the lowest Friday figure for the series (even the original film opened to more and it gets worse if you factor inflation into the mix). As the weekend progressed things did improve, with the film dipping just 5% on Saturday, but that still left it with an underwhelming $56M finish. In comparison, Wolverine opened to $85M, while Last Stand saw a huge $102M. That $56M will be at low end of expectations (a number of sites expected at least $70M) but does keep it well out of flop territory - budget-wise First Class cost around $160M to bring to the big screen.

As mentioned, this was an X-men film being sold as something quite different - no Wolverine, no Mangneto, no Professor X, at least not in the form the general public would recognise. The same could be said of the leads in some respect, neither Fassbender or McAvoy have opened a film on their own and are relatively unknown to the general public. Competition from other films can't be disputed either but its impact would be limited. That leaves X-Men: First Class with a lot of work going into its second frame and Fox will need the positive word of mouth to spread fast and wide.

The Hangover Part 2 had a spectacular opening frame, its five day total stood at an enormous $135M, giving more than a few opening records a good run for their money. A week on and the wolfpack's return dropped a high, but not surprising, 65% on a Friday to Friday basis. Bear in mind that fall could have been even worse had the film not opened on the previous Thursday. Overall, it finished the weekend down 62% on the last frame. It had hit $150M by its second Thursday on general release and doubled its $80M price tag by its second Friday. At this point there's every chance the film will top the final box office total of the previous film within a few more weeks. Word of mouth isn't as strong as with the first film, but this seems to be having little effect with the general public. Internationally the film is just getting started and has so far amassed $60M.

After a disappointing start, at least in the eyes of the studio, Kung Fu Panda 2 still finds itself struggling for air a week later- for no apparent reason. Down a worrying 52% on last Friday's take, the film managed just $6.2M going into the weekend. As Saturday moved into Sunday things improved slightly but still left the film down 49% on its opening frame, which as mentioned, was already not as high as the studio expected it to be. This dilemma has had some analysts baffled - on paper this should be a no-brainer - it's the follow up to a very popular film with all the major players returning, it scored some great reviews and it has next to no competition - yet Kung Fu Panda 2 just isn't getting the audience it deserves. By weekend 2 the original film had made $117M. It won't face Cars 2 for a few weeks, so hopefully Po and his friends can secure a few more million and dig in for the long haul. At the moment this looks like matching Megamind's $148M finish.

On Stranger Tides looked a little like it had already had its day in the sun, but from a low $5.1M take on Friday, the Johnny Depp starrer managed an $18M weekend. That's a far cry from the $35M made during Dead Man's Chest's third weekend (and still short of the $21M made by At World's End). $200M is assured but the film is unlikely to see much more than that domestically. Internationally however, it's a whole other story, with the film crossing the half a billion dollars mark in the last few days. It's looking increasingly likely that On Stranger Tides will be the lowest grossing of the series domestically, but the highest grossing internationally.

Continuing to impress is Bridesmaids, the R-rated female orientated comedy that just keeps on giving. The $32M production crossed the $100M mark on Saturday and dropped just 27% on its last frame. That's only a slightly higher drop than the film has been used to seeing but it's all academic given how much it cost to produce and its performance to date - and that's without any major international release.

Both Thor and Fast Five continue to shed locations this week, down 516 and 744 respectively. While Thor is looking at around a $185M finish, Fast Five might go as high as $220M (the film hit $200M on Saturday, its 37th day on general release). Internationally both films remain strong, with Thor on $254M and Fast Five on $356M.

Becoming something of a minor sleeper hit is the Woody Allen comedy Midnight in Paris, which again manages a comfortable top ten showing from just 147 locations. With further expansion the film could end up becoming one of the better performing of his films. Allen's last 'hit' was 2008's Vicky Christina Barcelona, which managed $23M. Scoop (2006) and Matchpoint (2005) grossed $10M and $23M respectively, while Hannah & Her Sisters remains his most successful to date, raking in more than $40M back in 1986.

Something Borrowed and Jumping The Broom round out the top ten. Thanks to summer being busy, but not overwhelmed with weekly releases, both films have remained in the chart for at least a couple of weeks longer than they would have expected to.

Opening in a limited capacity, the well reviewed Richard Ayoade film Submarine scored $40K from 4 locations.

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