Oops, He Did it again – No Rapture!!!
May 22, 2011
China Mieville’s Embassytown
May 23, 2011

CHUD’S BOX OFFICE WRAP UP 5/20/11

Film CHUD Pred Weekend Per Total
1 Pirates 4 $105 (+14.9m) $90,100,000 $21,685 $90,100,000
2 Bridesmaids $18.5 (-2.6m) $21,100,00 (-20%) $7,184 $59,559,240
3 Thor $17 (+1.5m) $15,500,000 (-55%) $3,950 $145,406,155
4 Fast Five $11 (+.4m) $10,600,000 (-48%) $2,927 $186,188,585
5 Rio $4,650,000 (-44%)
$1,793 $131,646,651
6 Priest $5 (+.4m) $4,600,000 (-69%)
$1,606 $23,683,128
7 Jumping The Broom $3,700,000 (-48%) $2,514 $31,317,552
8 Something Borrowed $3,452,000 (-50%) $1,314 $31,428,065
9 Water For Elephants $2,150,000 (-49%) $1,135 $52,427,574
10 Big Happy Family $990,000 (-55%) $1,086 $51,756,990

Avg. CHUD Prediction Difference: +/- $3.96m

I started paying attention to box office returns at about the time when there seemed to be a stretch of records being shattered every few months in the early 2000s. It was mostly a perception thing, but you did have a couple of comic book movies (Spider-Man, X2) that were breaking records, soon followed in 2003 by The Matrix Reloaded setting R-rated records which, coupled with my experience of waiting in lines for hours (something I’d never had to do with a movie before), made it seem like blockbusters were blowing up for real. Soon the record-breaking thing seemed to cool off, when suddenly Dead Man’s Chest (foreshadowing The Dark Knight) turned a franchise with a slow-burning, non-phenomenon original film into a record-shattering monolith. Pirates 2 busted out of the gate with a $136m opening weekend, which was more than just a small step up from the previous record holder (Spider-man | $114m). Much like Matrix Revolutions, the second sequel grosses for At World’s End –while still remarkable by normal circumstances– was significantly tempered relative to its earth-shattering successor.

This brings us to today, wherein Pirates 4 has debuted with $90m dollars. Breaking more records was never in the cards, and clearly it’s a big gross, but it’s swimming around in too massive of a pond to impress anyone. Could a third Pirates sequel ever have grossed as much 2 or 3? Probably, and had this one contained a few more easily marketed elements and a more unified buzz then it might have done so, but Disney will have to settle without a 9-digit opening. It’s difficult to call a $90m opening a disappointment, but spinning this cynically ain’t hard when the 3D numbers were a bit “soft,” the all-in budget with marketing is said to be over $400m, and Disney was reportedly hoping to make it past that $100m mark.

So how are they going to make all of that sound happy? By keeping the focus on international numbers, all of which indicate On Stranger Tides will fall somewhere close to the other Pirates films in terms of worldwide gross. With a cumulative $346m worldwide opening, Disney doesn’t have shit to prove when it comes to Pirates still being a good investment for the Mouse House, who plays the longest of long-games. International numbers have been an increasingly important part of the model for years now, but with Fast Five and Thor kicking all kinds of ass across the world (and in the case of Fast Five, softening a hard second weekend drop), few studios are going to argue with international numbers becoming more of a focus. It’s a big world, after all.

Another reason to keep the conversation global is that a cut-throat domestic summer guarantees the film is going to hemorrhage hard in the coming weeks. Frankly, it would be difficult to engineer a more perfect combination of films to rape the bejeezus out of the Pirates second weekend than The Hangover II and Kung Fu Panda II. It would take a truly miraculous hold (that simply isn’t going to happen) for Tides to have any chance at equalling the $300(ish)m domestic totals of 1 and 3, and the reality is that even $200m is going to be tough to pull. It may end up barely eclipsing the $172 of Tron but again, those robust worldwide numbers will mean no one hesitates with a greenlight if Johnny is ready to go.

Expect another big monster or something next time.

Bridesmaids seems to have a 40-Year-Old Virgin thing going on, as an opening weekend that was stronger than anyone could have reasonably expected has become a second weekend with less than a quarter’s drop. You’ve also got the element of a known, but not that known funnyperson breaking out on the big screen. Virgin started with a similar opening, continued with a slightly steeper second-weekend dip, and then began leveling-out pretty immediately, which gave it legs past $100m. Hell, Knocked Up had legs that took it to almost $150m with a very similar second weekend from only a slightly bigger opening. The aforementioned cut-throat summer could be rough on it, but it’s not out of the question for Bridesmaids to land somewhere between the two.

Thor and Fast Five did what they were gonna do this far in. Five should cruise past $200m next weekend or a few weekdays later, and then it will start to pack it up as the top five gets awful crowded. Thor has a few more shekels to grab, but limping it to $200m would probably be tough, and there’s Captain America to look towards. It dropped a touch more than I expected this weekend, but losing so many 3D screens to Pirates was rough. That pictures won’t get any better.

That sickeningly crunchy thud you heard last weekend was Priest falling ass-to-floor right at the start. That cacophonous crash you heard this weekend was the floor giving out and the film plunging through to whatever dark place exists below. Total worldwide numbers are about at the listed budget, so between what’s left out in the world and whatever DVD money can be made, it may yet make it back to zero. It will be hard for Scott Charles Stewart to walk away clean, but from the studio’s perspective it’s probably a pretty scott-free dump for a movie that bounced around for a while and had the stink of a desperate 3D conversion.

Man, I bet some producers out there wish they had gotten into the jumping business rather than the borrowing business. Pretty much the same totals, but Broom‘s done it with a fifth of the budget, half the theaters, and none of the names.

Next week is all pandas and monkeys.

The thread in which you talk about this stuff.