Weekend Box Office (May 15 - 17, 2015)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Multiplexes were packed with audiences as a female-driven comedy and a male-skewing action adventure - both from known brands - joined forces to pump nearly $115M into the North American box office by appealing to different demographic groups and expanding the marketplace.

Girls ruled as the highly anticipated a cappella sequel Pitch Perfect 2 shattered expectations taking the number one spot with $69.2M, according to final studio figures. Universal's latest winner generated the third biggest opening of all-time for a comedy trailing only the $85.9M of 2011's The Hangover 2 and the $73.1M of 2002's Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Much like with Austin Powers, Pitch Perfect is another comedy franchise which started with a leggy original hit followed by a sequel given a prime summer slot that opened significantly higher. In fact in its first three days, Pitch Perfect 2 has already surpassed the $65M made during the entire run of its 2012 predecessor.

The sequel brought back most all of the cast members, gave standout star Rebel Wilson a bigger role, and saw producer/co-star Elizabeth Banks take on directing duties. It was the biggest opening weekend ever for a first-time director. Playing in 3,473 theaters, the PG-13 hit averaged a sizzling $19,930 per location.

Studio data showed that the audience was 75% female and 62% under 25. Moviegoers liked what the singing gals had to offer as the CinemaScore grade was a solid A-. A run towards the $200M domestic mark could be possible for the $29M-budgeted film with a third pic likely to be put on the fast track.

Overseas, Pitch Perfect 2 grabbed $26.9M from 29 markets for an early cume of $38.1M including last week's grosses from Australia and New Zealand. The worldwide total stands at $108M and should easily soar past $300M.

Thirty years after the last installment, Mad Max: Fury Road stormed the box office winning over film critics and debuted to muscular numbers in second place with $45.4M. The fourth chapter in the Warner Bros. franchise averaged a stellar $12,271 from 3,702 locations. Director George Miller returned to helm once again but this new chapter went ahead without Mel Gibson in the title role. Instead, it was Tom Hardy as Max joined by co-headliner Charlize Theron adding some female muscle to the testosterone pic.

Fury Road earned some of the best reviews ever for a Hollywood action franchise movie. Ticket buyers were not as impressed but still gave a good B+ grade via CinemaScore. Online feedback from audiences compiled by Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango were both higher, though. Action films tend to fade quickly at the box office, but with positive buzz from moviegoers plus a major holiday weekend coming next week, Fury Road has a promising road ahead.

Mad Max scored the best opening weekend of the year for a number-two film. Following the mega-hits Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, it had to offer something different and it did - a non-stop adrenaline rush and a post-apocalyptic desert adventure. Theron may have just passed her audition for a future Furious film.

As expected, business was powered by older men. Studio research showed that the audience was 70% male and 54% over 35. 3D screens accounted for 46% of the gross which is a commendable figure by today's standards.

With a splashy premiere at Cannes timed to coincide with the global launch, Fury Road opened to an outstanding $65M overseas from 68 markets for a global debut of $110M. The new Mad Max is set to open in Japan on June 20, but no China date has been secured yet.

After its two-week reign, Avengers: Age of Ultron got bumped down to third place by the newbies. The super hero sequel dropped a reasonable 50% to $38.9M in its third round lifting the total to a strong $372M. The decline was slightly higher than the 46% that The Avengers witnessed in its third weekend in 2012, and about the same as the 51% of 2013's Iron Man 3. Ultron is currently running 19% behind the pace of Avengers, but 10% ahead of the third Tony Stark flick.

Age of Ultron has now climbed up to number 25 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters sandwiched in between a pair of 2004 smashes - Spider-Man 2 and The Passion of the Christ. The new Avengers installment is still on a trajectory to finish its domestic run at about $450M. Though below most industry expectations, it would still be the third highest ever for any summer film in history after The Avengers and 2008's The Dark Knight.

Overseas, Avengers: Age of Ultron continued to rake in the cash and was propelled this week by a massive opening in China which began on Tuesday. The six-day start brought in an incredible haul of $156.3M which pushed the international cume to $770.5M and the worldwide gross to $1.14 billion. It is the eighth highest-grossing film of all-time and has plenty of business left in China plus its final market opening in Japan in July. Reaching $1.5 billion is very possible and edging out the $1.52 billion of the first Avengers is very much a possibility as well depending on how it holds up in China.

Taking a sharp nosedive after a soft opening, the comedy Hot Pursuit tumbled 59% to $5.8M in its sophomore session. The Warner Bros. release has collected only $23.4M to date and should finish up with around $33M.

Two spring sequels were close behind. The year's biggest global smash, Furious 7, followed with $3.6M in its seventh weekend, off 33%. Universal has upped the domestic total to $343.8M and the worldwide haul to $1.49 billion. It is now just $30M shy of matching the global tally of 2012's Avengers. China has ended its run at a staggering $390.5M - the best ever for any film there - so other markets will need to kick in the balance. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 dipped 33% to $3.5M raising Sony's total to $62.9M.

Lionsgate's The Age of Adaline saw much of its female fan base taken away by the collegiate singers. Falling 46% to $3.1M, the Blake Lively pic has banked $37M to date. The DreamWorks toon Home dropped only 17% to $2.6M in its eighth round to raise the cume to $165.5M for Fox. It continues to benefit greatly from no kidpic competition.

Sci-fi pic Ex Machina grossed $2.1M, down 40%, for a new sum of $19.6M for A24. Rounding out the top ten was Fox Searchlight's expanding indie Far From the Madding Crowd with $1.3M from 289 locations, an average of $4,332, and a total of $2.6M. The period film widens again next weekend to over 700 runs for the Memorial Day holiday frame.

The top ten films grossed $175.5M which was up 5% from last year when Godzilla opened at number one with $93.2M; and up 20% from 2013 when Star Trek Into Darkness debuted in the top spot with $70.2M.

Compared to projections, Pitch Perfect 2 surged ahead of my $48M forecast while Mad Max: Fury Road opened on target with my $44M forecast.

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For NEW reviews of Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road visit The Chief Report.

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

# Title May 15 - 17 May 8 - 10 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Pitch Perfect 2 $ 69,216,890 3,473 1 $ 19,930 $ 69,216,890 Universal
2 Mad Max: Fury Road 45,428,128 3,702 1 12,271 45,428,128 Warner Bros.
3 Avengers: Age of Ultron 38,859,900 77,746,929 -50.0 4,276 3 9,088 372,030,708 Disney
4 Hot Pursuit 5,722,488 13,942,258 -59.0 3,037 2 1,884 23,446,781 Warner Bros.
5 Furious 7 3,648,980 5,407,200 -32.5 2,238 7 1,630 343,782,475 Universal
6 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 3,543,850 5,306,041 -33.2 2,632 5 1,346 62,872,860 Sony
7 The Age of Adaline 3,129,455 5,821,894 -46.2 2,623 4 1,193 37,001,624 Lionsgate
8 Home 2,554,959 3,070,015 -16.8 2,006 8 1,274 165,501,901 Fox
9 Ex Machina 2,093,669 3,510,224 -40.4 1,718 6 1,219 19,556,131 A24
10 Far From the Madding Crowd 1,251,923 776,368 61.3 289 3 4,332 2,582,570 Fox Searchlight
11 Woman in Gold 1,195,831 1,740,066 -31.3 876 7 1,365 28,957,529 Weinstein Co.
12 Cinderella 631,608 1,681,560 -62.4 641 10 985 197,231,159 Disney
13 Get Hard 602,153 1,057,382 -43.1 505 8 1,192 88,823,814 Warner Bros.
14 Piku 595,308 938,938 -36.6 124 2 4,801 1,801,806 Yash Raj
15 The Longest Ride 548,954 1,356,687 -59.5 803 6 684 36,282,735 Fox
16 Unfriended 515,745 1,454,355 -64.5 657 5 785 32,053,065 Universal
17 Monkey Kingdom 480,177 1,252,800 -61.7 675 5 711 15,340,346 Disney
18 Where Hope Grows 457,287 276 1 1,657 457,287 Roadside Attr.
19 The Divergent Series: Insurgent 381,959 775,197 -50.7 503 9 759 128,270,018 Lionsgate
20 Little Boy 323,656 691,483 -53.2 490 3 661 5,912,401 Open Road
Top 5 $ 162,876,386 $ 97,096,387 67.7
Top 10 175,450,242 115,580,929 51.8
Top 20 181,182,920 126,529,397 43.2
Top 20 vs. 2014 181,182,920 174,139,550 4.0

Last Updated: May 17, 2015 at 2:50PM ET

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