Box Office Guru Wrapup: Mutant Fans Push X-Men to #1

Wolverine and his mutant friends conquered the Memorial Day holiday weekend box office with the number one debut of X-Men: Days of Future Past which opened to an estimated $90.7M, the second best showing ever for the seven-film franchise. The Fox release averaged a muscular $22,698 from 3,996 locations and was helped by 3D and large format ticket prices.

Future is expected to reach roughly $110M for the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday period which would make it the fifth best launch ever over this lucrative frame. 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand debuted over the same session but was stronger with a $122.9M four-day debut, and was 2D only. But conditions were different. That film followed on the heels of two very well-liked X-Men movies and was seen as the end of a trilogy.

On the other hand, Future follows a series of films in the franchise which had mixed results creatively so some fans have lost interest in recent years. Plus Last Stand faced virtually no action competition on its opening weekend whereas the new mutant movie had last week's monster hit Godzilla to deal with. The new film uses a time travel plot to bring together characters from the original trilogy with those from the origin story First Class which was well-received in 2011.

But the road ahead looks promising for the new X-Men, as far as front-loaded tentpoles go. Reviews for the Bryan Singer-directed film were terrific and fans polled by CinemaScore gave the combo pack of old and new mutant casts a glowing A grade which is also what Captain America: The Winter Soldier earned in April. Plus next weekend sees no new action movies of the same type opening.

Days of Future Past kicked off its release on Friday with $36M (including $8.1M from Thursday night shows starting at 10pm). Saturday fell 18% to $29.6M and Sunday is projected to drop 15% to $25.1M. It is the fourth big-budget tentpole in eight weeks to open north of $90M, and third based on Marvel super heroes.

The new X-Men opened day and date in most of the world this weekend and delivered a sensational $171.1M weekend for a worldwide opening of $261.8M. Japan and Spain are the only major markets that did not launch this weekend. Days of Future Past is on a trajectory to become the highest-grossing film in the fourteen-year-old X-Men franchise and the next installment Apocalypse is already on the calendar for this same weekend in May 2016.

With another effects-heavy action tentpole entering theaters, last week's champ Godzilla crashed in its sophomore frame falling 66% to an estimated $31.4M despite Sunday business being better than normal given the Monday holiday. That was in the same range as the 68% fall that 1998's Godzilla suffered in its second weekend when it was coming off of its Memorial Day weekend opening. With its built-in audience of fans, the radioactive lizard was always expected to take a big fall in its second round.

Warner Bros. has banked an impressive $148.8M for Godzilla in the first 10.5 days which is just slightly better than the $146.2M of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from a few weeks ago. A domestic final of around $200M seems likely.

Overseas, steep declines were also witnessed on the second weekend. Godzilla fell by roughly two-thirds to an estimated $34.5M for an international sum of $166.6M bringing the global haul to $315.4M and counting. With China and Japan still to open, a final worldwide gross of over $500M is still possible.

Adam Sandler's fading career suffered another flop as his latest entry Blended failed to get anywhere near his usual levels and stumbled into third place with an estimated $14.2M. That was the lowest opening weekend for Sandler in a PG-13 broad comedy (his specialty) in 18 years. 1996's Happy Gilmore bowed to $8.5M which at the time was considered solid for a film like that. Opening wide in 3,555 theaters through Warner Bros., Blended averaged a lackluster $4,007 per location. The reteaming of Sandler with Drew Barrymore came nowhere near the first weekends of their previous partnerships. 1998's The Wedding Singer bowed to $18.9M while 2004's 50 First Dates launched twice as big with $39.9M. Sandler has headlined 13 comedies that have opened north of $30M and had been one of the most reliable box office stars around.

As usual, film critics hated the comedian's latest effort. His movies, instead, sell based on concept and Blended did not excite audiences with its single parents on an African safari plot. A poor title didn't help either. Also, moviegoers looking for a big-screen spectacle had plenty of big-budget tentpoles to choose from and those wanting a laugh had Neighbors which grossed almost the same amount of money even though it was in its third weekend. Studio research showed that the audience breakdown was 56% female and 71% over 25. Sandler's audience has aged with him and today's teens have almost no connection to him.

Joining the century club, the raunchy comedy Neighbors enjoyed a moderate hold in its third lap dropping 45% to an estimated $13.9M. Universal has captured a stellar $113.6M so far from North America and a sensational $181M worldwide with 22 more international markets to open. The global box office for the frat house flick is already more than ten times its budget of $18M.

In its fourth weekend, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 once again saw more than half of its business vanish. The sequel to the webslinger reboot (and fifth installment in the overall franchise) declined by 54% to an estimated $7.8M boosting the domestic cume to $184.9M. A final of about $200M in North America seems likely. But overseas keeps on shining. The new international tally of $489M sent the global cume to $673.9M with 73% coming from offshore markets. The new Amazing has now surpassed the worldwide final of last summer's Man of Steel and is on course to finish up matching Captain America: The Winter Soldier near the $720M neighborhood. China is by far the most successful overseas market on both films.

The baseball film Million Dollar Arm dropped an encouraging 33% in its second weekend to an estimated $7.1M putting the total to date at a respectable $20.6M. The $25M-budgeted film may end its domestic run with around $40M. Fox followed with an estimated $3.7M for the comedy The Other Woman and an estimated $2.5M for the animated film Rio 2. The Cameron Diaz hit dropped 42% and has collected $77.8M to date. Off 33%, the bird toon has banked $121.6M so far.

Low-budget films from outside the studio system rounded out the top ten. The indie comedy Chef from director Jon Favreau expanded from 72 to 498 locations in its third weekend and grossed an estimated $2.3M for a decent $4,538 average. Open Road's cume is now $3.5M. Sony's faith-based hit Heaven Is For Real fell 56% to an estimated $2M in its sixth weekend for a new total of $85.7M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $175.5M which was down 29% from last year when Fast & Furious 6 opened at number one with $97.4M; but up 22% from 2012 when Men in Black III debuted on top with $54.6M.

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