Weekend Box Office (May 6 - 8, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The latest super hero from the Marvel vault made his debut on the silver screen as Thor soared to a number one opening in North America. The sequel Fast Five fell sharply but finished in second with a hefty take of its own as both films continued to fight it out across the global box office. Rival wedding comedies battled it out for third place with the black-led Jumping the Broom edging out the white-led Something Borrowed despite playing in 900 fewer theaters. But the overall marketplace could not match up to last year's frame which saw a gargantuan bow from a bigger comic book avenger - Iron Man 2.

Doubling its nearest competitor, the effects-driven super hero flick Thor bowed on top with $65.7M from 3,955 locations for a muscular $16,618 average, according to final studio figures. Presented in 3D and in IMAX, the PG-13 film directed by Kenneth Branagh earned rave reviews and delivered strong debuts around the world before landing in North America this weekend. Technically speaking, Thor generated the third best opening for a debuting Marvel franchise after 2002's Spider-Man and 2008's Iron Man which also launched on the first weekends of May. However, other films like 2000's X-Men, 2003's The Hulk, and 2005's Fantastic Four all sold more tickets and at today's prices would have opening weekend tallies better than Thor's. None of those films benefited from IMAX or 3D price hikes either.

Paramount's Norse God flick starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins played to super hero fans as expected. 63% of the audience was male and 72% was over 25. 3D screens contributed 60% of the gross for the converted pic. The CinemaScore was a B+ meaning that critics loved the film, and regular moviegoers just liked it. Thor will return to screens next year on the first weekend of May alongside Iron Man, Captain America, and The Hulk when Marvel's long-awaited The Avengers debuts through Disney.

Overseas, Thor grossed an estimated $46M this weekend from 60 markets boosting the international total to $176M and the global haul to $242M. With a more European feel to its story and characters, the film should see a larger share of its worldwide tally come from overseas than most American super hero films.

After a scorching debut last weekend that resulted in the year's best opening, the action sequel Fast Five hit the brakes and decelerated by an understandable 62% but still collected $32.4M in its sophomore frame. The last three sequels in the series all dropped by 59-63% in the second weekend so the new installment is in line with how the franchise plays out. The Universal hit has banked a stellar $139.8M in ten days of domestic release and looks headed for $180-190M.

Sony enjoyed a surprisingly strong debut for its wedding comedy Jumping the Broom which grossed $15.2M this weekend with Mothers Day performing much stronger than originally estimated and actually improving on Saturday. The $6.6M-budgeted production was expected to reach a maximum of $10M so the performance was very impressive as the average came in at a solid $7,477 from only 2,035 sites. The PG-13 film starring Angela Bassett enjoyed a sturdy 25% boost in sales on Saturday and then climbed another 13% on Sunday. Broom played to a mature female African American audience with exit polls showing that 70% of the crowd was female and 64% was over 35. A very high 95% stated that the film was "excellent" or "very good" and the CinemaScore grade was an encouraging A so good word-of-mouth should spread.

Hollywood's alternative wedding offering for white folks, Something Borrowed starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson, debuted to $13.9M putting it in fourth place. The Warner Bros. title averaged a decent $4,802 from 2,904 theaters and played to a female audience not interested in super heroes and fast cars. Critics were brutal in their reviews and Saturday sales climbed only 2% so Borrowed will have to work hard during the weeks ahead.

Fox followed with a pair of films. The 3D animated hit Rio grossed $8.5M, off 43%, for a cume to date of $115.2M after 24 days. The Reese Witherspoon-Robert Pattinson romance Water for Elephants dropped 35% to $6.1M taking in $42.1M to date.

Madea's Big Happy Family tumbled 58% in its third round to $4.2M while the high school flick Prom grabbed $2.2M, down 53%. Totals are $47.1M for Lionsgate and $7.6M for Disney.

Sony's Soul Surfer slipped only 32% to $2.3M for $36.9M overall while Hoodwinked Too! fell a steep 50% to $2M giving The Weinstein Co. a dismal $6.9M in ten days.

Summit's Mel Gibson film The Beaver directed by and co-starring Jodie Foster was met with indifference from arthouse audiences debuting to just $107,577 from 22 theaters for a dull $4,890 average. Earning somewhat good reviews, the $21M production will expand on May 20 in North America although the limited bow suggests that the road ahead will be troublesome. Given Gibson's very public personal problems over the last few years there are many that will not spend a dime on his movies and Beaver lacks any must-see buzz to make it an exception.

The top ten films grossed $152.6M which was down 9% from last year when Iron Man 2 opened in the top spot with a colossal $128.1M; but up 10% from 2009 when Star Trek debuted at number one with $75.2M.

Compared to projections, Thor came in a bit below my $72M forecast while Jumping the Broom debuted ahead of my $9M prediction. Something Borrowed was on target with my $13M projection.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the NEW chart for the Top May Openings. Check the chart for the Summer Kickoff Films (1996 - 2010).

For a NEW review of Thor visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Priest and Bridesmaids both open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title May 6 - 8 Apr 29 - May 1 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Thor $ 65,723,338 3,955 1 $ 16,618 $ 65,723,338 Paramount
2 Fast Five 32,445,320 86,198,765 -62.4 3,662 2 8,860 139,779,285 Universal
3 Jumping the Broom 15,215,487 2,035 1 7,477 15,215,487 Sony
4 Something Borrowed 13,945,368 2,904 1 4,802 13,945,368 Warner Bros.
5 Rio 8,504,001 14,787,836 -42.5 3,258 4 2,610 115,206,069 Fox
6 Water for Elephants 6,069,603 9,342,413 -35.0 2,614 3 2,322 42,083,220 Fox
7 Madea's Big Happy Family 4,178,886 9,860,929 -57.6 1,881 3 2,222 47,085,218 Lionsgate
8 Soul Surfer 2,307,161 3,367,867 -31.5 1,781 5 1,295 36,886,282 Sony
9 Prom 2,214,585 4,712,638 -53.0 2,730 2 811 7,590,030 Disney
10 Hoodwinked Too! 2,042,603 4,108,630 -50.3 2,505 2 815 6,876,217 Weinstein Co.
11 Insidious 1,338,860 2,689,676 -50.2 1,001 6 1,338 50,319,115 FilmDistrict
12 Source Code 1,244,774 2,509,824 -50.4 930 6 1,338 50,944,922 Summit
13 African Cats 1,066,163 2,403,808 -55.6 1,035 3 1,030 12,895,884 Disney
14 Hanna 836,209 2,252,257 -62.9 748 5 1,118 37,634,307 Focus
15 There Be Dragons 705,537 259 1 2,724 705,537 Goldwyn
16 Scream 4 701,100 2,179,521 -67.8 1,333 4 526 36,920,190 Weinstein Co.
17 The Conspirator 616,656 1,098,505 -43.9 457 4 1,349 9,791,309 Roadside Attr.
18 Win Win 528,842 666,175 -20.6 268 7 1,973 8,351,373 Fox Searchlight
19 Hop 496,075 2,683,720 -81.5 902 6 550 106,358,260 Universal
20 Limitless 486,658 1,098,447 -55.7 379 8 1,284 77,006,417 Relativity
Top 5 $ 135,833,514 $ 124,902,581 8.8
Top 10 152,646,352 140,262,298 8.8
Top 20 160,667,226 153,142,480 4.9
Top 20 vs. 2010 160,667,226 175,564,246 -8.5

Last Updated: May 9, 2011 at 4:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.