Weekend Wrap-Up for May 17-19, 2015
By Kim Hollis
May 17, 2015

Academy Award nominees FTW.

We’re warming up for the Memorial Day weekend and the official arrival of summer, and two brand-new releases are setting the tone early as they dominate the box office frame and topple Avengers: Age of Ultron from the top spot.

Our top film of the weekend – by a lot – is not Avengers: Age of Ultron or Mad Max: Fury Road. Instead, a sequel to a movie that earned $65 million domestically during its entire theatrical run earned more than that during its first weekend in theaters. Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to the leggy 2012 musical, earned a mighty $70.3 million from Friday-to-Sunday, blowing away all expectations and becoming an easy instant winner for Universal Pictures, which budgeted the film at $29 million. In fact, it earned almost that much in just one day at the box office.

Pitch Perfect 2 got started on Thursday night with stellar evening preview earnings of $4.6 million. This amount alone was almost as much as the first film made in its first weekend in theaters ($5.1 million), although it should be noted that Pitch Perfect had an initial limited theatrical release of only 335 venues. Once the early tone was set, Pitch Perfect 2 just kept on rolling. Its Friday total was $27.8 million, and although it seemed like a film that should be wholly front-loaded, it actually held up better than most forecasters were expecting.

To put the $70 million debut in perspective, Pitch Perfect 2’s opening weekend is comparable to the ones of such movies as Fast and Furious, 300, Transformers, Twilight, Maleficent and The LEGO Movie. It’s a movie with no big stars (Anna Kendrick and Elizabeth Banks), no crazy special effects, no vampires and no fast cars. It’s just a fun, jubilant story about an a capella singing group that appeals strongly to females. Over the past couple of years, we’ve documented the explosion of the female demographic as a powerful force at the box office, and Pitch Perfect 2 is yet another example that tells us women of all ages are looking for more than simple dramatic love stories and by-the-book romantic comedies.

When it comes to word-of-mouth, Pitch Perfect 2’s reviews were somewhat less glowing than the original film’s. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 68% compared to Pitch Perfect’s 81%. However, the audience for the film may not care too much about what the critics have to say. The Cinemascore for the sequel was an A-, which is only just behind the first film’s A. With the holiday weekend impending, Pitch Perfect 2 is a box office force and another feather in Universal’s cap, which can now claim more than a third of 2015’s weekends at the top spot. It’s also a boon for Elizabeth Banks, who not only has a featured role in the film, but also directed the project. We’ll call it a huge step up from her previous directorial effort, a short from the deservedly forgotten film Movie 43.

With Pitch Perfect 2 dominating the weekend, Mad Max: Fury Road and Avengers: Age of Ultron were left to battle it out for the second spot. Ultimately, the George Miller-helmed reboot of his franchise earned a mighty $44.4 million, making it the largest weekend debut ever for the director (his previous winner was Happy Feet at $41 million). Playing primarily in 3D venues (there were complaints that it could be challenging to find 2D showings), Fury Road took advantage of the premium ticket prices to race to its gaudy total.

Going into the weekend, Mad Max: Fury Road had all the momentum that can be gained by amazing reviews. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film has collected an almost unheard of 98% fresh rating, with critics calling it groundbreaking and unlike anything offered to audiences before. This rapturous response didn’t entirely translate over to general audiences, who gave the film a Cinemascore rating of B+. but since we do seem to have some unmet demand due to the paucity of 2D availability, we may see those critical reviews lead to the film being a continued discussion topic over the next few weekends. It’s going to have to work hard to hold its audience and match its $150 million budget, as Fury Road’s demographic will be targeted hard with movies like Tomorrowland and San Andreas in the coming weeks.

After two weeks in the #1 position, Avengers: Age of Ultron falls to third place. Don’t be too sad for our mighty superheroes, though. The film’s weekend total of $38.8 million brings its cumulative domestic earnings to $372 million. It had a weekend-to-weekend decline of 50%. That’s a slight improvement over its previous drop of 54%. Avengers 2 did pass Furious 7 to become the top North American movie of 2015 this weekend. The question will be whether Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens will overtake that spot when it debuts at the end of the year.

With regards to international box office, Avengers: Age of Ultron is nothing short of massive. After a massive debut in China, the film has now amassed $1.1 billion worldwide, and with a few more weekends of play in overseas venues, it seems very likely to overtake the already incredibly impressive Furious 7. It is already the eighth biggest worldwide release ever.

It hardly even feels necessary to talk much about the remaining films in the top 10, but here we go anyway. Hot Pursuit, last weekend’s new buddy comedy featuring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara, earned $5.8 million, falling a tough 59% from the previous frame. It has a running total of $23.5 million and will be little more than a footnote of a film that tried unsuccessfully to recapture the box office magic of the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy pairing The Heat.

Rounding out the top five are Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Furious 7, which both tie with $3.6 million. For Paul Blart 2, that's a decent 32% drop from last weekend. Even if it’s not matching the performance of the first film, the sequel is still doing just fine with domestic earnings of $62.9 million in comparison to its $30 million budget.

Furious 7 continues to hang around in the top 10 despite a host of new releases that have been released theatrically since it debuted in early April. The worldwide sensation earned another $3.6 million this weekend, down 33% from the previous frame. Furious 7 has now earned a mighty $343.8 million domestically and an even more sensational $1.4 billion worldwide.

Seventh place goes to Age of Adaline, the Benjamin Button-esque romance featuring Blake Lively. Adaline earned another $3.2 million this weekend, a decline of 45%, as all female-oriented films were delated by the arrival of Pitch Perfect 2. The film’s domestic total now sits at a solid $37.1 million, a quietly solid performer for Lionsgate.

Next up in eighth is Home, the DreamWorks animated film that has exceeded most expectations. It earned $2.7 million this weekend, falling 12% from last weekend. Its domestic tally is $165.6 million, and it has about the same amount from international venues.

Our final two films include a film that was an art house release prior to moving wider and one that can still be safely called an art house flick. Ninth place goes to Ex Machina, which earned another $2.1 million and brings its North American total to $19.6 million. And our final film is Far from the Madding Crowd, the adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel featuring Carey Mulligan. The Thomas Vinterberg-directed art house flick earned $1.3 million, an increase of 67% as it sees its venue count increase to 289. The film has now earned $2.6 million domestically.

If we look at this year’s box office compared to the same weekend in 2014, this frame easily blows last year away. Our top 12 films this year have earned $177.1 million, a 4% increase over last year when Godzilla led the way to a $169.6 million weekend for its top films. Next weekend brings the big Memorial Day holiday frame, featuring Disney’s Tomorrowland and an update of the classic horror film Poltergeist. Along with these two exciting releases, our returning films should see some great traction as well. It will be a fun weekend at the box office.