Weekend Box Office (May 16 - 18, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures smashed expectations with its monster reboot Godzilla as a different type of super hero conquered the worldwide box office with a mammoth global debut. The PG-13 action tentpole grossed $93.2M in North America, according to final studio figures, from 3,952 locations for a spectacular $23,580 average. Premium-priced options fared very well as the 352 IMAX screens generated an incredible $14.2M for an eye-popping $40,455 average and very high 15% of the overall weekend tally. 51% of the gross came from 3D screens which was also a commendable figure by today's standards. The radioactive beast generated the year's second best debut trailing closely behind the $95M of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The Godzilla property has been around for 60 years and has been popular in the U.S. for many decades. Sony's big-budget 1998 take from director Roland Emmerich, who was following up his worldwide smash Independence Day at the time, underperformed creatively and commercially so it was unclear if there was enough consumer demand for another try with this character which is obviously tailor-made for a big-screen effects-driven adaptation. Reviews were generally good and a strong marketing campaign intrigued audiences. Positioned as a disaster movie with an ensemble cast, Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston was marketed heavily to give this Godzilla credibility.

Friday kicked off the weekend with an incredible $38.4M including $9.3M from Thursday night pre-shows starting at 7:00pm. Fanboys rushed out on the first day and Saturday fell 16% to $32.2M. The studio saw a Sunday decline of 30% to $22.6M. Thursday night pre-shows accounted for 10% of the overall opening weekend which was the exact same ratio as last summer's Japanese-influenced monster movie Pacific Rim.

The B+ CinemaScore indicates that fans were mainly satisfied with what they got, but word-of-mouth is not strong enough to prevent the usual declines that these type of front-loaded action tentpoles see. Next weekend will have the help from the Memorial Day holiday, but will also see direct competition from the super hero event film X-Men: Days of Future Past. Still, Godzilla should be on track to surpass $200M during its domestic run, even if it falls hard next weekend. The budget was about $160M with Legendary covering 75% of it. Unlike the version from 16 years ago, this Godzilla should spawn sequels.

The weekend performance was truly phenomenal. Among movies that are not direct sequels, the new Godzilla's opening ranks as the seventh biggest of all-time ranking right behind the first Iron Man. Studio research showed that the crowd was 58% male and 60% over 25. It also smashed this year's previous record for best IMAX opening weekend, held by Winter Soldier, by more than 50%.

Godzilla's roar was easily heard around the world as Warner Bros. consolidated most of the international roll-out onto the same weekend with a sensational $103.4M grossed from 64 markets resulting in an eye-popping $196.6M worldwide launch. IMAX accounted for a scorching $22M globally. The overseas 3D share was even better at 55%. Leading markets were the U.K. with $10.8M, Russia with $8.6M, and Mexico with $8.6M. China is allowing Godzilla to release on June 13 just as the World Cup starts and in Japan, rights holder Toho will open on July 25 after the tournament finishes.

The raunchy comedy Neighbors fell from first place but landed in second with a solid amount of sales grossing $25.1M in its sophomore frame. That would be a strong performance for an R-rated laugher in its opening weekend. Universal witnessed a 49% decline and has amassed a stellar $90.6M to date. A final gross in the $150M range seems likely making it the comedy to beat this year.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 followed with $16.8M falling 53%. That was slightly higher than third-weekend declines for other Marvel sequels that launched on the first weekend of May. Iron Man 3 was down 51% last year, Iron Man 2 was off 49% in 2010, and Spider-Man 3 fell 50% in 2007. None of those faced a monster debut like Godzilla's, though. Fading at roughly the same levels, the new Amazing looks to end its domestic run with around $205M which would be by far the worst ever for the Spider-Man franchise.

But overseas markets continue to make up for shortfalls in the U.S. The studio enjoyed an estimated $31.5M this weekend boosting the international total to $461M (including $78.5M from China) and the global gross to $633.2M. With all major markets open, the Electro flick should finish in the $730-750M range ending up very close to the $754M of the 2012 reboot.

The baseball drama Million Dollar Arm debuted in fourth place with a soft bow grossing $10.5M from 3,019 locations for a mild $3,483 average. The PG-rated picture telling the true story of a sports agent (Mad Men's Jon Hamm) who holds a contest in India to bring top athletes to America for a shot at a Major League contract skewed to an audience of older men. Studio research showed that 54% of the audience was male and 52% was over 35.

Historically, baseball movies do not open all that well. Million earned mixed reviews from critics, but paying moviegoers were mostly satisfied as the CinemaScore was an encouraging A-. The debut was about a third of what last year's baseball drama 42 opened with when it bowed to $27.5M. Disney hopes that the older audience will find the film in the weeks ahead and that solid buzz will spread and reach more customers next weekend over the long Memorial Day holiday frame.

The female-skewing comedy hit The Other Woman continued to play as successful counter-programming to May's action tentpoles with $6.3M in its fourth weekend. Down only 34%, the Fox release has grabbed an impressive $71.7M to date. Faith-based winner Heaven Is For Real grossed $4.4M, off 42%, for a $82.2M total for Sony.

The animated sequel Rio 2 followed by dipping only 26% to $3.7M in its sixth round. Fox has banked $118M so far making it the second highest-grossing toon of the year behind The LEGO Movie which still stands at number one among all films in 2014.

Also holding up well despite the arrival of another action tentpole this weekend was Captain America: The Winter Soldier which dropped 36% to $3.7M pushing the cume past the quarter-billion mark to $250.5M. The worldwide tally broke the $700M barrier with $452.8M from international markets (led by China's giant $116.3M) for a new worldwide tally of $703.3M. That makes it the seventh biggest Marvel movie ever trailing The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and the first four Spider-Man movies. With all markets open, a final haul of around $720M seems likely with the popular character returning next year in the Avengers sequel and then again in 2016 for the third installment of its own stand-alone franchise.

Underperforming animated film Legends of Oz dropped 48% in its second weekend of play to $2M. With just $6.6M in ten days, the Clarius release looks headed for around $11M. The comedy Moms' Night Out tumbled 59% in its sophomore round to $1.8M for a weak $7.2M thus far. Sony should end up with a disappointing $11M as well.

The top ten films grossed $167.4M which was up 14% from last year when Star Trek Into Darkness opened at number one with $70.2M; and up 25% from 2012 when The Avengers remained on top for a third time with $55.6M.

Compared to projections, Godzilla opened much stronger than my $68M forecast while Million Dollar Arm came in below my $14M prediction.

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Watch the NEW trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy. For a review of Neighbors visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when X-Men: Days of Future Past and Blended both open.


Last Updated: May 19, 2014 at 4:55PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 6:40pm ET.

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