Weekend Forecast for June 3-5, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
June 3, 2011

My secret confession: I don't really know how to play chess.

With the summer of 2011 officially being the Season of the Retread, how would you like a prequel/reboot? Yes? No? Indifferent? Too bad, you're getting it anyway.

After nearly steering the franchise into the ground with X-Men 3 and Wolverine, Fox has decided to jump on the comics reboot bandwagon with X-Men: First Class. Paring down the mutant roster to around eight or nine, First Class takes us back to, at first, the 1940s, then the 1960s for the founding of Charles Xavier's school for mutants, and their involvement in the… Cuban Missile Crisis? Okay, sure, why not? Look, with studios screwing up their franchises every ten years, we just have to be resigned to this kind of thinking.

After chucking aside most of the established continuity from the previous four films, this means there's no Storm, no Jean Grey, no Cyclops. So what do we have? Well, there's Xavier, as mentioned, Magneto, Mystique, Emma Frost (a long awaited addition to the roster), Beast and then a bunch of characters only the hardcore comic nerds are familiar with. Hope you brought a program!

The odd setting and unfamiliar characters aside, First Class does look to be an example of a reboot done mostly right and with some care. Director Matthew Vaughn isn't exactly a star director, but has worked his way up through films like Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass (which, whatever you might think of its content, certainly had some style). The main characters we'd actually know are played by actors will some familiarity and with acting credibility, including James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, January Jones (and Kevin Bacon, in the non-mutant villan role). And the development of the characters is about as close to an adult treatment of mutants as we're likely to get.

The problem then, is the devaluation of the X-Men brand from the last two terrible movies. Much as Batman Begins had to reprove the character to the public after the disaster of Batman & Robin, so does First Class have to win over those burned by The Last Stand and Origins, as well as the 'been there, done that' feel that prequels often inspire. However, excellent reviews and steadily improving ads have made a good case for getting back into the X-Men film series at an earlier point. With a new trilogy being planned around this timeline, a smaller start than some of the most recent X-Men films can theoretically be acceptable but it had better not be much less, and the film had better be loved. Opening at over 3,600 venues, it should start with around $76 million.

That should be enough for a weekend win despite half the known world going to see The Hangover II last weekend. Pulling in $135 million over five days, or, for a more apples to apples comparison, $86 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period of Memorial Day weekend. Apparently what people wanted here was exactly the same thing they got with the first Hangover, and the rather cynical ploy by Universal to give people just that worked. You all lose the ability to complain about Hollywood not providing anything original, people. For its second weekend, we have to combine both the holiday weekend factor with the Friday-night rush factor for this sequel, and drop it down to around $42 million for this weekend.

While it's harder to imagine two film appealing to more disparate demographics than Hangover and Kung Fu Panda, it's hard to imagine a good explanation for why Kung Fu Panda 2 failed to build on the first film other than being crowded out of the marketplace. Not so much in terms of people deciding to see one rather than the other, but in the sense of Hangover II, and the controversies and hype surrounding it, crowding out KFP2's hype. While $66 million over five days, and $48 million in three is nothing to sneeze at, it's more in the range of second-tier franchises, when Paramount had to be hoping this would take over for Shrek in their film lineup. There's good reason to believe that it'll hold on much better than Hangover II in the coming weeks, given the better overall reception, lower starting weekend and the fact that family films play better over long terms, but $70 million is too large a gap to make up, and a clear winning film has emerged from Memorial Day weekend. I'd expect about $33 million this weekend.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 dropped the expected over-half in its second weekend, which still leaves it around the $170 million mark entering into its third weekend. With what's probably going to be an $18 million take this frame, it's probably going to peter out around $240 million domestic, well below the standards previously set for the Pirates franchise. However, with over half a billion dollars in the bank from international territories already, the final worldwide total could end up much more relevant, and should bring it close to the $1 billion standard of the last two sequels. Take a look at that number and slap yourself for wondering why they made another film in the series.

Bridesmaids continues to be the long-term performer of the early summer, and should pass the “standard legs” of four times opening weekend by the end of this one, and still with significant numbers, implying a run of six, maybe seven weeks of relevance. I mean, look out, Titanic. But hey, that's what passes for legs these days so it's silly to ask for too much more of it. The endgame for this is a bit hard to predict at this point, but I wouldn't be shocked at north of $150 million for it. For now, I'd like to see a weekend of at least $12 million to keep up that momentum.