Bridesmaids Get Lucky With Summer Box Office Pause
By John Hamann
May 15, 2011
It's the May 13th-15th weekend, right? The openers this weekend, Bridesmaids and Priest 3D, cost less than $100 million to make combined, and neither were tracking to open above $20 million – hardly mid-May blockbuster fare. As I re-check the calendar to make sure it is actually summer, I notice the elephant in the room: next weekend's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the $2.7 billion worldwide earner that's set to completely dominate the box office. I haven't seen this kind of pre-blockbuster panic since the frame before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace opened, as the box office quivers a weekend before Captain Jack Sparrow even arrives.
Blockbusters didn't avoid the weekend because Priest 3D was opening (Priest was supposed to open last summer, but more on that later) - they avoided it because of the money-vacuum coming next weekend in the form of Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. As mentioned above, a similar set of circumstances happened the weekend before The Phantom Menace opened in 1999. Prior to the opening of the first part of George Lucas's epic failure, four new films opened, and none of them earned more than $5 million. Two of them, Trippin' and Black Mask, were from studios that didn't release a lot of films, Artisan and October Films, and the other two were arthouse type films, Tea With Mussolini and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The point is that no one was trying to win the weekend.
The number one film during that 1999 weekend, The Mummy, was much like Thor this weekend. The Mummy had two weeks to earn as much as it could before The Phantom Menace took its momentum away. The Matrix placed third that weekend, and it was seven weekends old. Movies were either positioning themselves for the next weekend, or were being dumped by their respective studios. This weekend, the dumpee is Priest 3D and the strategic counter-programming attempt is Bridesmaids, the small comedy that is going to play with the big boys.
Before we get to Bridesmaids, we need to deal with the second weekend of Thor, which is our number one film of the weekend, but mostly by default. After dominating the box office with a $65 million opening, Thor went crashing to Earth with a second weekend take of $34.5 million, and a drop of 47%. This is pretty solid compared to other blockbusters, especially other non-sequel Marvel properties. The first X-Men movie dropped 57% in its second weekend; the Ang Lee version of The Hulk fell a notorious 70%, the "incredible" Ed Norton version fell 60%; the not-so Fantastic Four fell 59% and Iron Man fell 50%. The lone exception is Spider-Man, which despite its huge $115 million opening, fell only 38%. So, you can see that Thor is actually looking pretty solid by comparison.
The other good news for Thor is the domestic cumulative total and the international grosses. Thor crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, its eighth day of release, and gets there two days faster than other Marvel properties like Fantastic Four and Ang Lee's Hulk. It hits $100 million in the same amount of time it took 300, Twilight, and Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Thor has a domestic total so far of $119.3 million against that $150 million budget. The question now is whether or not Thor is a $200 million film on the domestic side of the equation. We know it will earn $200 million overseas, as it crossed that mark today. Thor will need a couple of good holds to bring the hammer down on $200 million domestic, and with megaplexes getting busy once the Pirates return, the Norse God is going to have to work hard.