Memorial Day Box Office on the Edge of Tomorrowland
By John Hamann
May 24, 2015
So, what happened? Let’s start with the marketing, which started strong like a whispered secret but never expanded well enough on its initial premise. Disney and Brad Bird didn’t want to give too much of the film away in trailers and TV ads (which I respect), but the later marketing materials struggled with advertising that sense of wonder and giving it that gotta-see-it hook. It needed a money shot like the one featured on the marketing for Jurassic World (that money shot turns it into a $100 million plus plus opener – and if you don’t know what I’m talking about you should find something else to read).
The next problem was the Thursday preview. Instead of opening wide on Thursday, Disney and Bird wanted previews shown in only the best theaters, and it significantly reduced that preview gross, which doesn’t lead to great press and kneecaps the weekend take. It almost felt like the filmmakers (and studio) were a little arrogant in Tomorrowland's release, too over-confident (confidence is a good thing for a summer blockbuster, but over-confidence is trouble – just ask George Lucas). Had the reviews and Cinemascore matched that arrogance, this explodes. One wrong move, though and the film becomes just a middle-ground Memorial Day opener. Clooney’s weight overseas may help Disney save some face, but something in my blood says that Disney doesn’t care what the financial impact is here. It's good advertising for the theme park, and if it does resonate with the kids, could see some toy sales as well.
The indomitable Barden Bellas finish in second place for the Memorial Day frame. As mentioned, Pitch Perfect 2 basically tied with Tomorrowland on Friday with $9.7 million, and it was off a significant 65% from its first Thursday ($4.8 million) and Friday ($23.4 million) combined, or 58.5% from Friday alone. Given the ‘2’ in the title, and the ravenous fanbase that came out last weekend, this drop could have been so much much worse – like Godzilla’s 77% Friday-to-Friday drop worse.
The hit Elizabeth Banks film (how strange does that sound now, eh?) is now the gold standard for the breakout musical comedy, making films like School of Rock and Mamma Mia! look bad. Pitch Perfect 2 drew a powerful $30.3 million over the three-day portion of the Memorial Day weekend, dropping 56% compared to that large opening weekend. Made for only $29 million, Pitch Perfect 2 is going to fund Universal’s production bankroll for a while, as the Anna Kendrick/Rebel Wilson starrer has already earned $117.8 million at the domestic box office and could earn $200 million if the cultural phenomenon continues. Overseas, the Bellas are not going to be quite as hot, but had $40 million in its foreign coffers before the weekend began.
Pitch Perfect 2, with its 67% fresh rating and A- Cinemascore, could play as strong female counter-programming as some heavily male-oriented flick come out over the next few weeks. It is perfectly positioned to provide a solid second to San Andreas next weekend and then against Entourage the following weekend. Worldwide, this little gem should earn at least 10 times its production budget before all is said and done.