Weekend Box Office (May 26 - 29, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Magneto and his fellow mutants attracted a record-breaking audience to theaters across North America as the super hero sequel X-Men: The Last Stand became a juggernaut at the box office opening at number one over the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend. No other studio dared to debut a competing film in wide release so last week's top movies The Da Vinci Code and Over the Hedge placed second and third with muscular numbers of their own. Playing to different audience segments, the three hits joined forces to sell over $200M worth of tickets over the long Friday-to-Monday span making it the second largest Memorial Day weekend ever trailing 2004's record frame by a slim margin.

Blasting past expectations, the third X-Men film dominated the scene grossing $122.9M over the long weekend, according to final studio figures, from an ultrawide 3,690 venues. The Fox sequel averaged a jaw-dropping $33,296 over four days and set a new record for Memorial Day weekend beating two previous giants. Steven Spielberg's The Lost World held the opening record for this holiday with $92.7M over four days (including Thursday night previews) in 1997 while Shrek 2 held the record for the biggest overall gross for the frame when it brought in $95.6M while in its second weekend in 2004. Last Stand's gross, which included roughly $5.9M from the first midnight shows on Thursday night, easily crushed both figures to claim the new record. However, based on ticket price increases over the years, Lost World still sold more tickets over its holiday bow. Utilizing the industry's average ticket prices for today and 1997, the dinosequel sold about 20 million tickets compared to roughly 19 million for the new mutant pic.

During the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the holiday weekend, the new X-Men pic grossed a stunning $102.8M making it the fourth largest bow in history after three other May smashes - Spider-Man ($114.8M in 2002), Star Wars Episode III ($108.4M in 2005), and Shrek 2 ($108M in 2004). According to Fox, Friday opened with $45.1M which ranks as the second largest opening day in history (after the $50M Thursday debut for Episode III) and the biggest Friday gross ever. Saturday saw sales slump a troubling 29% to $32M while Sunday experienced a reasonable 20% drop to $25.7M. Monday came in with a better-than-expected $20.1M. The three-day average soared to an amazing $27,846. Super hero sequels typically draw immense numbers on the first day due to fan hysteria so a Saturday drop was expected. But, the decline was extraordinarily large and could indicate that fans are not liking the new film as much as the first two.

The latest X-Men tale flexed more muscle than industry watchers had predicted opening above the highest of expectations. As Tom Cruise learned recently, many fans can often lose interest in a franchise by its third installment. But Wolverine and pals kept getting mightier beating the $85.6M debut of 2003's X2: X-Men United and the $54.5M of 2000's X-Men. Those films went on to reach $214.9M and $157.3M, respectively. Given its gargantuan start, The Last Stand stands an excellent chance of becoming the highest-grossing pic in the trilogy joining rare hits like The Return of the King and Austin Powers in Goldmember which were also tops in their franchises.

Fox and Marvel Entertainment managed to reteam the major players from the previous X-Men films to star in the third installment. Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Rebecca Romijn all were back once again and were joined by two new players. Kelsey Grammer appeared on screen as the blue mutant Beast while behind the scenes, Brett Ratner took over the director's chair from Bryan Singer who was hired to helm Superman Returns which opens in a month. The production cost for The Last Stand was $165M. Overseas, the mutant sequel launched in almost all markets and grossed an estimated $76.1M giving Fox a $196M global debut. Unlike most Hollywood action films, the X-Men films have actually grossed more domestically than internationally with the first two installments both collecting 53% of their global grosses from North America.

The road ahead is not too bumpy for The Last Stand. Large drops are expected, of course. However, next weekend will see only one new film enter wide release - The Break-Up starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. In fact, studios have filled the June weeks between X-Men and Superman with a string of comedies so as to not compete against the comic book titans. June 9 will have the animated comedy Cars open, Jack Black's Nacho Libre launches on June 16, and Adam Sandler's Click debuts on June 23. Fox is hoping the lack of action and sci-fi competition will help X-Men: The Last Stand hold up in the weeks ahead to surpass the studio's other hit sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown, to become the year's top-grossing film.

After a mammoth opening weekend of its own, Sony's The Da Vinci Code slipped to second place in its sophomore frame but still managed to sell $42.4M in tickets over four days boosting its stellar 11-day cume to $144.9M. Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion however, the Ron Howard blockbuster tumbled a disturbing 56% indicating that the religious thriller may not last too long. Last year, Star Wars Episode III, which also launched on the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday frame, dropped 49% in its sophomore session while 2004's Shrek 2 dipped 33%.

Still, Da Vinci continues to be a major force in the industry here and abroad where it hauled in an additional $92M this weekend. That boosted the international total to $320M giving the Tom Hanks film a jaw-dropping worldwide tally of $465M in less than two weeks. Overseas, the holds have been better even though Code has had to battle X-Men in most major markets. France was down 30%, Japan slipped just 19%, Germany was off only 18%, and Holland was actually up 9%, according to studio data. Domestically, the $125M production should find its way past the $200M mark while globally, it may shoot past the $700M milestone.

Kidpic Over the Hedge enjoyed a terrific second weekend raking in $35.3M from families with extra time off for the holiday. The three-day portion witnessed a decline of only 30% for Paramount which is good news since the animated film did not open as powerfully as other recent digital toons. After 11 days, Hedge has collected a solid $84.4M. By comparison, 2004's Shark Tale grossed $87.4M in its first ten days on its way to $160.8M while last year's Chicken Little took in $80.4M in its first ten days leading to a $135.4M final. Hedge, which will have no real competition to deal with until the June 9 release of Cars from Disney and Pixar, could be on a course to reach the neighborhood of $150M from North America.

A pair of underperforming action flicks from early May rounded out the top five. Paramount's Tom Cruise vehicle Mission: Impossible III dropped to $8.9M to boost its cume to $116.2M. Warner Bros. followed with the disaster film Poseidon which took in $7.1M in its third voyage to put its total at just $46.7M to date.

Sony saw its four-day gross for the family comedy RV rise 9% compared to last weekend's three-day take. The Robin Williams hit laughed up $5.4M pushing the sum to $57.3M. Seventh place went to the Lionsgate horror entry See No Evil which grossed $3.4M giving the fright pic a modest $9.4M in 11 days.

The Lindsay Lohan flop Just My Luck collected $2.5M in eighth place giving Fox only $14.1M to date. Universal took in $1.1M with its 9/11 thriller United 93 lifting the cume to $29.9M. The hit toon Ice Age: The Meltdown rounded out the top ten with $985,778, even with last weekend's three-day figure, to push its total to $190.7M..

Setting the limited release box office on fire was the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth which opened in only four theaters but grossed a hefty $367,311. That gave the Al Gore pic a stunning average of $91,827 per location over four days. Distributed by Paramount Vantage, the new incarnation of Paramount Classics, Truth collected $281,330 over the Friday-to-Sunday portion averaging a scorching $70,332. Total since Wednesday stands at $490,860. Opening this weekend on multiple screens at a pair of theaters in both New York and Los Angeles, Truth will add about 60 more playdates on Friday and expand throughout June hoping to become the dominant doc of the summer.

Also opening powerfully in limited play was the Bollywood film Fanaa which opened on 72 screens and grossed $878,939 for a potent average of $12,207. The Aamir Khan-Kajol starrer opened at number 13 over the long holiday weekend.

The spelling bee drama Akeelah and the Bee dropped out of the top ten after a decent four-week run. In its fifth frame, the Lionsgate release grossed $902,487 over four days to boost its cume to $17.1M. The distributor teamed up with Starbucks to finance and promote Akeelah which did not perform especially well. However, the PG-rated film had low expectations to begin with so it is difficult to tell whether the involvement of the coffee giant had any real impact. The spookfest An American Haunting also fell from the top ten with $909,568 in four days. The total for the Freestyle Releasing title is a mere $14.9M and little more is expected.

The top ten films over the four-day span grossed $230M which was up 3% from last year when Star Wars Episode III remained at number one with $70M over the holiday; but off 3% from 2004 when Shrek 2 stayed in the top spot with a then-record $95.6M in four days.

Compared to projections, X-Men powered ahead of my four-day forecast of $108M.

For NEW reviews of X-Men: The Last Stand, An Inconvenient Truth, Fanaa, Cavite, and Shem visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Break-Up busts into theaters.

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# Title May 26 - 29 May 19 - 21 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 X-Men: The Last Stand $ 122,861,157 3,690 1 $ 33,296 $ 122,861,157 Fox
2 The Da Vinci Code 42,437,372 77,073,388 -44.9 3,754 2 11,305 144,918,409 Sony
3 Over the Hedge 35,322,115 38,457,003 -8.2 4,093 2 8,630 84,377,727 Paramount
4 Mission: Impossible III 8,901,106 11,349,570 -21.6 3,053 4 2,916 116,170,705 Paramount
5 Poseidon 7,087,413 9,224,340 -23.2 3,245 3 2,184 46,730,150 Warner Bros.
6 RV 5,446,703 5,003,489 8.9 2,481 5 2,195 57,301,243 Sony
7 See No Evil 3,437,537 4,581,233 -25.0 1,270 2 2,707 9,400,956 Lionsgate
8 Just My Luck 2,480,284 3,384,371 -26.7 1,604 3 1,546 14,112,398 Fox
9 United 93 1,054,560 1,400,200 -24.7 781 5 1,350 29,878,975 Universal
10 Ice Age: The Meltdown 985,778 987,965 -0.2 633 9 1,557 190,694,600 Fox
11 An American Haunting 909,568 1,478,785 -38.5 748 4 1,216 14,881,118 Freestyle
12 Akeelah and the Bee 902,487 1,006,653 -10.3 487 5 1,853 17,120,350 Lionsgate
13 Fanaa 878,938 72 1 12,207 878,938 Yash Raj Films
14 Keeping Up with the Steins 708,972 383,442 84.9 146 3 4,856 2,023,812 Miramax
15 The Sentinel 635,378 380,952 66.8 246 6 2,583 35,249,564 Fox
16 Thank You for Smoking 594,770 506,644 17.4 270 10 2,203 23,018,040 Fox Searchlight
17 Friends With Money 500,958 427,315 17.2 213 7 2,352 12,464,311 Sony Classics
18 Stick It 474,757 974,655 -51.3 449 5 1,057 24,656,848 Buena Vista
19 Deep Sea 3-D 438,560 298,633 46.9 46 13 9,534 9,795,252 Warner Bros.
20 Scary Movie 4 419,670 653,124 -35.7 423 7 992 88,444,035 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 216,609,163 $ 141,107,790 53.5
Top 10 230,014,025 152,959,032 50.4
Top 20 236,478,083 158,978,135 48.7
Top 20 vs. 2005 236,478,083 228,879,474 3.3

Last Updated : May 30, 2006 at 5:30PM EDT