Memorial Day Box Office on the Edge of Tomorrowland
By John Hamann
May 24, 2015
It’s Memorial Day weekend and there are no $100 million openers. Is it time to panic about the summer box office in general? No, not for a second. Summer 2015 is currently much healthier than most years. Don’t believe those that will tell you differently. Five films earned more than $20 million at the box office, a first for a Memorial Day weekend, providing a good moving forward point for the rest of the season.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away (or 1994), Memorial Day weekend was the launch point for summer films, the start of blockbuster season. Oh, how things have changed, with the calendar stretched out to April (aka early-summer), and the box office needing momentum now to push a good summer forward. The key word there is momentum. If there are too many Hot Pursuits or Battleships in the month of May, those poor box office performers can take valuable real estate within the release schedule, and their large percentage drops over post-opening weekends drag totals down.
Heading into the Memorial Day frame, the box office had that momentum, thanks to Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road and the I’m-still-trying–to-figure-out-how-the-hell-that-happened Pitch Perfect 2, which is the fairy godmother in the group. What the box office doesn’t need this weekend is two out and out flops in the opener department. The box office needs to keep up the momentum established by those earlier releases. What we actually got depends upon your perspective.
Over the Memorial Day weekend frame, we had two big openers, but it was the combined top five that led the drama this weekend. Disney’s new hope is Tomorrowland, the gorgeous-looking but poorly handled $180 million release with George Clooney, stepping out of his usual adult zone and into the world of a PG picture. The other opener is Poltergeist, the reimagining of the 1982 classic – replacing Tobe Hooper and Senor Spielbergo with Gil Kenan (the under-appreciated Monster House) and Sam Raimi stepping into the director/producer role this time around. Neither film was expected to blow up the box office, but would certainly embolden an already strong top five, heading toward a weekend where I say that San Andreas could surprise. Then, three films are going to combine for $100 million the following weekend, before Jurassic World becomes a top 12 opener of all time. This summer is going to cook, and we are just getting started.
Our number one film of the weekend was Tomorrowland. The much-hyped Disney feature effectively tied with Pitch Perfect 2 as it earned $9.7 million on Friday night, but $725,000 of that came from Thursday night previews. Getting right to the point, Tomorrowland earned a questionable $32.2 million this weekend from 3,972 screens, too little for a film that cost $180 million to make, but not an unmitigated disaster, either.
Let’s remember that this is a Brad Bird film, the man behind The Incredibles, Iron Giant, and Ratatouille – three flicks that had solid legs, but at the same time much better reviews. Tomorrowland is currently only 50% fresh at RottenTomatoes, but I am not convinced the film is dead. Tomorrowland could (and I lean on could) resonate with kids and will have that market to itself until June 19th, when Pixar returns with Inside Out.