“With union problems… or a beef in the numbers… only the top guys spoke with Paulie about the problem…”
–Ray Liotta (Gdodfellas)

May 29th, 2012

As we slip past Memorial Day into June, the meat of the ever-widening “Summer” movie season begins and the relentless blockbuster releases gear up to pound at your wallet.

I’m going off of four-day totals on this one, just to keep it festive!

1. Men In Black III ($70 million)

[Total: $70 million | Worldwide: $203 million | Budget: +$200m]

After a decade out of mind and following up a stunningly shitty sequel, a $70m weekend opening for the third Men In Black film is respectable, if far from impressive. It’s essentially the same opening number as II managed, but with 10 years of inflation and 3D premiums tacked on. It was also a safe return to the screen for Will Smith after a few years off, and suggests that if anything, he’s still got it.

The new international paradigm also did nicely by the film, as it closed the weekend with $200m in the bank. Supposedly this was an especially expensive film for Sony, so it will have to maintain some decent legs to really get in the red. If Men In Black IV happens (and let us pray that it does not), I’d expect some Chinese dough to be involved.

In terms of the film itself, I have to say that despite early word that it wasn’t too bad — or even the best of the franchise by some people’s standards — I found it to be a pretty flat, shitty film. I consider the first one a classic, but it’s just not the kind of movie that lends itself to a sequel. The cleverness comes in peeling back the illusion of the world layer-by-layer. Once you’ve peeled it all back though, new stories are really just cartoon episodes. Re-written Etan Cohen hack work split across a two-part, fix-it-on-the-fly production clearly didn’t help.


2. The Avengers ($47 million)

[Total: $523.5 million | Worldwide: $1.305 billion | Budget: $220m]

It may have finally fallen to number five, but if you cheat and count the four day, the film dropped a mere %15 from last weekend (even the 3-day drop is healthy at just over 33%.) This suggests the team-up film will carve out plenty of dough as it slowly sinks down the chart and plays it cool under other big releases. This will get to stick around where films like Battleship and even Men In Black III will fold up more quickly.

And even as it lost the number one spot, it gained another: the fastest film to reach a half-a-billion dollars at the domestic box office. At 23 days it did so faster than Avatar by 10 days, and in half the time of The Dark Knight. It should also be surpassing the latter’s domestic total later this week.

Speaking of Batman, one wonders what that film will do as audiences across the world seem as happy as ever to rush to event films in record numbers. With Dark Knight Rises finally starting to perk up its massive marketing machine and sell some fun along with the epic drama, perhaps we’re on our way to a year with a double-tap on the broken records. If The Hobbit wrecks shit up as much as it might, we could be in for a hat-trick!


3. Battleship ($14 million)

[Total: $47 million | Worldwide: $280m | Budget: $209m]

It’s sinking.


4. The Dictator ($12 million)

[Total: $43 million | Worldwide: $94m | Budget: $65m]

Not an atrocious second frame, but this clearly didn’t connect with the zeitgeist in that outrageous way that propels this kind of comedy to notable success. Decent overseas business means this should be firmly profitable but, like so many of these films, if you start figuring in marketing, prints, theatre splits and the rest, you’re not left with numbers that make executives laugh.


5. Dark Shadows ($9.5 million)

[Total: $65 million | Worldwide: $152.5m | Budget: +$100m

You’d think Sweeney Todd — which made about $53m — would have provided WB a frame of reference on how well Burton and Depp do with their darker, gothic work, and that Dark Shadows cruising past that film’s domestic and international totals would be a sign of a decent success. The problem is when you’ve spent at least twice as much making this new, similarly esoteric, but much more tonally confused horror comedy, and suddenly the similar pacing of the two films doesn’t look so hot.

The film only lost a quarter of its business week-to-week, but even decent holds aren’t going to save it from being a minor blight on the Burton empire… which will still be doing just fine.

The Rest…

The less said about Chernobyl Diaries sixth-place debut the better, but even a touch under $10m is probably fine for a flick that was surely shoestring and will do alright on home video. Still, clearly even Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli can’t spin found footage into gold every go ’round.

The much more fun story is the whopping $669,000 bucks Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom managed to clean up in a mere FOUR theaters. The resulting average is apparently a record for a non-animated film, and a very nice bedrock for an expanding release. Folks are already dropping Midnight In Paris references- might this be a legitimate crossover success for Anderson? For reference: Fantastic Mr. Fox opened on four screens as well, and went on to make $21m with only half as good an opening weekend and a very wide 2,000 theater release. 10 years ago Anderson’s largest success, The Royal Tenenbaums, opened in 5 theaters to $274 thousand bucks before making $52m at a peak of 999 theaters. All that suggests if Moonrise keeps its momentum and builds it theater count wisely, it could definitely pull a Woody.

Thanks for reading!

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Numbers (rounded off to nearest .5m) via BoxOfficeMojo