Weekend Wrap-Up
Monsters and Zombies: Summer Box Office Style
By John Hamann
June 23, 2013

Is Sully playing soccer with Mike Wazowski as the ball?

The box office is on a roll like we’ve rarely ever seen. Iron Man, Star Trek, Gatsby, Fast & Furious 6, Now You See Me, The Purge, Man of Steel and now Monsters University and World War Z have added up to big, big dollars. This is our third weekend where the top 12 have exceeded $200 million, and last weekend missed the mark by $3 million. We are having a May/June for the ages at the box office.

This weekend, Monsters University and World War Z combine for a one-two punch of $148 million, easily outgrossing last weekend’s huge opening for the Man of Steel ($116.6 million). The totals for a first and second place film aren’t often this big, because Hollywood has too much on the line to risk putting demographically similar movies out on the same weekend unless they are massive holidays. My memory takes me back to Christmas 2009, when Avatar was on top with $75.6 million in weekend two, but was followed by big openers like Sherlock Holmes 2 ($62.3 million), Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($48.9 million), and It’s Complicated ($22.1 million). It also reminds me of Memorial Day weekend in 2004, when Shrek 2 spent its second weekend at $72.2 million, and The Day After Tomorrow opened to $68.7 million. This weekend is about the openers, though, like the weekend The Dark Knight opened to $158.4 million and Mamma Mia! still somehow found $27.8 million, or when Twilight: New Moon opened to $142.8 million and The Blind Side still took in $34.1 million. Probably the best example though happened this summer, when Fast & Furious 6 opened to $97.4 million, Hangover Part III took in $41.7 million and Epic took in $33.5 million – all from opening weekends. Did I mention how awesome of a summer it’s been so far?

Our number one film of the weekend is Monsters University, as more kids and families came to theaters this weekend than Brad Pitt and zombie lovers. Pixar is back after Brave ($66.3 million opening) and Cars 2 ($66.1 million opening) were a little softer in their first weekends than previous Pixar releases like Toy Story 3 ($110.7 million). Monsters University posts the second biggest Pixar debut of all time at $82 million, which includes the $2.6 million earned through Thursday previews. It opened to a very wide 4,004 venues, and carried a venue average of $20,480. The prequel is the fourth widest release in Pixar’s history, behind Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and Brave – which leaves me thinking the studio has learned something from the somewhat disappointing Brave and the downright awful Cars 2.

Monsters University got started on Thursday night, earning that $2.6 million, a figure that’s not at all bad for a kids movie that only had showings after 8 p.m. The Friday number was an astounding $30.5 million, but was more like $27.9 million once those midnight showings were removed. Toy Story 3 earned $41.1 million on its first Friday, but had $4 million from Friday showings. It went on to drop 10% on Saturday to $37.1 million and down to $32.1 million on Sunday. For Monsters University, the trend was similar, as it earned $28.8 million on Saturday, down 6% from the inflated Friday number. Over the entire weekend, Monsters University had a weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by "true" Friday gross) of 2.9, a number expected for a film with this target, especially with a lot of kids out of school on Friday to start summer vacations. Over most of the year, multipliers for kids films can be quite high (3.8-4.0) as kids are less available on a Friday, thus running the multiplier up because the Friday gross is lower. With summer holidays in play, the multiplier evens out, drastically reducing it towards 3.0. The original Monsters, Inc. opened to $62.6 million back in November 2001, and had a multiplier of 3.51.

Monsters University got the key cast members back for the prequel, which of course includes Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi, as they all hit new box office heights this weekend. Oddly, Pixar and Disney did not release a budget for Monsters University, leaving us to speculate that it cost somewhere between the original’s $115 million budget and Brave’s $185 million budget, as I doubt this sequel carried the $200 million price tag that Cars 2 did (I have to hope they learn from their mistakes). On the review side, Monsters University remains fresh at 77%, but continues a softer trend in the review department for the studio. Brave was 78% fresh, but is much better than Cars 2 38%. Prior to Cars 2, Pixar was on a roll with critics with Toy Story 3 (99% fresh, 100% from top critics), Up (98% fresh), WALL-E (96% fresh), and Ratatouille (96% fresh). Kids and families care little about reviews, though, and gave Monsters University an A Cinemascore, similar to that of Brave, while Cars 2, with its 38% fresh rating, earned an A-. This is another solid hit for the smash makers at Pixar, and will give the studio its sixth $250 million plus earner. Overseas, Monsters University should be just as hot, and at the very least will match the stateside take, but will more likely earn $400 million on foreign shores.

World War Z is number two this weekend, and regardless of rank, this is a super-sized hit for Paramount, Brad Pitt, and Pitt’s Plan-B Productions, among others. After a $25 million opening Friday (which includes $3.6 million from Thursday screenings), the weekend proper turned that strong Friday into a weekend take of $66 million. That makes World War Z the second biggest non-number one film ever, behind only The Day After Tomorrow ($68.7 million). One can see how rare this is, as the fourth biggest non number one debut was Prometheus, which opened to $51.1 million.

Paramount and Plan B needed a big weekend for this one, as it was no secret that the Zombie epic was not a cheap film to make. After reshoots pushed the budget up, and tax incentives lowered it, the published number now is a $190 million negative cost. Had World War Z done an After Earth, Paramount would have been in real trouble. Now, should WWZ follow the Day After Tomorrow trajectory, it would finish with $180 million on the domestic side, and likely another half billion from overseas customers, as this is Brad Pitt. Tree of Life earned only $13.3 million domestically, but overseas earned $41 million. Inglourious Basterds earned $200 million overseas versus $120 million domestic, with Benjamin Button matching those amounts; Troy earned $364 million overseas and Mr. and Mrs. Smith $290 million. Simply put, World War Z should end up as a worldwide hit, pulling in at least $500 million for all involved.

Who should Paramount thank for the success of this one? Zombies, Brad Pitt and basketball. Zombies seem to be the thing these days, what with the awesome Walking Dead, Zombie Walks, and the much asked for sequel to Zombieland (please?). Brad Pitt did the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 thing for World War Z, personally stepping up and marketing the film directly to fans. We have talked a lot in the column about a world without star-driven films, but both Downey and Pitt have showed that the changing world has the stars as showmen now, instead of making a film and sitting back.
The marketers of World War Z also did a great job marketing the film, as the trailers and TV ads were action packed and visible throughout the NBA playoffs. Whether you like the style of these zombies or not, the trailer for World War Z does pack a punch, and like Man of Steel last weekend, the studio made a lot of money off of a very well cut trailer.

Finishing third is Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel, as it comes off a huge opening weekend where it earned $116.6 million over three days, and $128 million over four. The question was, with two big openers this weekend, how far would it fall? The answer was, "a lot." Man of Steel captured only $41.2 million, falling 65%. In terms of actual dollars, the latest Superman reboot fell $75.4 million weekend-to-weekend, $87.4 million with the Thursday 7 p.m. showings included. For perspective, the other three movies that debuted in the $115 million range are Alice in Wonderland, Spider-Man and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Those three titles averaged a $54.8 million second weekend drop, with the largest being $70.5 million. Man of Steel is almost $5 million worse and clearly the most front-loaded of the three.

With summer movies now including a Thursday night preview, drop-offs are only getting bigger. Removing the $9 million it made from midnights last weekend, the opening weekend was really $107.6 million, which would make the drop a marginally better 62%. Note that this is still worse than any of the three films listed above. As great as the opening weekend headlines were for the Zack Snyder film, the second weekend news is just as grim.

Man of Steel crossed the $200 million mark on Sunday, and after only 11 days of release, it has already captured $210 million but the domestic prospects are shaky moving forward. It has yet to match its $225 million production budget stateside.

Fourth spot goes to This Is the End, the Seth Rogen and friends apocalyptic comedy. It proved to be great counter-programming again this weekend, as it earned $13 million and dropped 37% from last weekend’s three-day take of $20.7 million. With the crazy amount of dollars being spent at the box office, any hold above 50% for a second frame film must be considered impressive. The Sony release has now earned $57.9 million domestically against a $32 million budget, and is going to finish with $80-$90 million.

Fifth is Now You See Me, which continues to shine in its fourth weekend. After a $29.4 million opening, this smallish heist/magic film has seen drops of 35% and 42%. It continues that trend this weekend, as the Lionsgate release pulls in another $7.9 million and falls 29%. Now You See Me was once a film that I thought wouldn’t create a blip on the box office radar, but now has a gross of $94.5 million, and a chance to finish with as much as $125 million. It has also brought in $30 million overseas so far, all against a $75 million budget.

Sixth is Fast & Furious 6, which earned another $4.7 million this weekend, declining 51%. It has a domestic cume of $228.4 million, and has crossed the $425 million mark overseas, all against a budget of $160 million.

One of the few summer misses so far, The Internship, finishes in seventh, as it hasn’t been able to find an audience after a soft opening frame. The comedy grossed only $3.4 million and fell 52% this weekend. The $60 million film has now earned only $38.4 million.

Eighth is The Purge, which opened strong at $34 million, but is fading fast. Last weekend it earned $8.3 million, and this weekend it found only $3.4 million. That’s another big drop of 59%, but remember, The Purge cost only $3 million to make, and has a gross so far of $59.4 million.

Star Trek Into Darkness finishes in ninth place as it earns another $3 million in weekend six. It declined 52% and has a domestic cume of $216.6 million, with a similar amount coming overseas. Finally, in tenth is Iron Man 3, which hangs around for one final weekend on the charts. The early summer blockbuster earned $2.2 million and has now run its domestic total up over $400 million.

Eleventh place goes to The Bling Ring, the new film from Sofia Coppola. Not critically loved, and starring only Emma Watson, this one did not have a lot to hang its hat on. It earned a slight $2 million this weekend from 650 screens, and had an disappointing venue average of $3,077.

Overall this weekend, the box office is hot, scorching, and on fire. The top 12 films earned a remarkable $230.6 million, 47% ahead of the same weekend last year when Brave led the top 10 to $157.4 million. Next weekend could be a down weekend, as the openers are both originals. Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock bring The Heat, while Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx star in White House Down.