Friday Numbers Analysis
By David Mumpower
June 3, 2006

We're worth how much money now? Dude, we're totally going back to Vegas!

Vince Vaughn is the new Adam Sandler. The Break-Up's opening Friday box office confirms this statement. The movie opened to an exceptional $15.8 million yesterday, making it likely to become the third straight $40 million opener of the summer box office campaign. The movie is also going to pull off an upset few box office analysts thought possible. The Break-Up is going to depose X-Men: The Last Stand from the top of the charts after only one (impressive) week.

So, how did this happen? Vaughn, like Sandler, is a goofy-looking everyman whose charms are starting to win over North American audiences. Sandler slowly built a loyal following with his sophomoric romps in Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Then, he proved he can play a romantic lead in The Wedding Singer, thereby winning over the female demographic who had previously ignored him. With Big Daddy, he found a project that appealed to both sexes, and he's been a box office force ever since.

Vince Vaughn's ascension is eerily similar. In Old School, he struck a chord with that Happy Gilmore crowd. With Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he won over a legion of new fans by proving he could anchor a big comedy film. In Wedding Crashers, he co-anchored one of the surprise hits of summer 2005. Semi-villainous comic relief turns in Starsky & Hutch, Be Cool and Mr. and Mrs. Smith all proved that Vaughn was becoming the go-to guy for funny trailer quotes. "Twinkle, twinkle, baby."

The Break-Up is Vaughn's answer to The Wedding Singer except that he has taken the "Love Stinks" bit from the middle of that film and made an entire feature out of it. Adding to the project is the presence of Jennifer Aniston, an actress whose attempts to anchor her own movies have failed (see: Rumor Has It). She also hasn't had much luck with action thrillers or dramas (see: Derailed and Rock Star). The one way producers have discovered she can be useful is as a foil in a romantic comedy. Considering her famous background on Friends, that's not surprising, though the fact that she is the only cast member anchoring huge hits might be. Along Came Polly was a surprise hit in January of 2004, earning $87.8 million after a $32.5 million opening weekend.

With The Break-Up, the duo capitalized upon magazine headlines speculating on the nature of their private life. The free publicity heightened awareness on the project to a much larger degree than is normally seen for romcoms. In point of fact, this project is poised to become the largest opener in the genre since Hitch opened to $43.1 million in February of 2005. With $15.8 million already in the coffers and an expected multiplier in the range of 2.7, a $42.1 million first weekend appears likely for The Break-Up. As long as the project has a multiplier of 2.56 or better, it will cross the magical $40 million barrier, always a stunning feat for a romcom. Stating the obvious, The Break-Up is a huge hit and a wonderful box office surprise.

For every box office positive these days, there apparently needs to be a negative. The Da Vinci Code opens huge, but critical buzz and word-of-mouth on it is terrible. Then, X-Men: The Last Stand shatters records, but The Da Vinci Code plummets in its second frame. Now, The Break-Up has exceeded all industry expectations for its first day. Meanwhile, X3 has died a brutal death on its second Friday. After reporting box office of $45.5 million last Friday, the movie has fallen off the face of the earth with only $10.2 million yesterday. Even allowing for the reported $5.9 million in sneaks, this represents a 75% drop. The record-shattering comic book project was always expected to be frontloaded, but nobody thought it would be to this degree. Even with another $20 million in the next two days and a weekend total of $30.2 million, we are looking at a 70% drop.

The brutal reality here is that everyone who wanted to see X-Men: The Last Stand in theaters has already done so. Domestic box office beyond $235 million appears unlikely now, meaning that the film will have done over half of its theatrical business in its first four days. On this scale of box office, only The Matrix Revolutions has pulled off such a flameout before, and X3 is tracking worse than that. In point of fact, the scariest thought of all here is that The Matrix: Reloaded, another big opener with shaky word of mouth, managed more on its second Friday than X3 did. There might never be a better example of box office frontloading.