Weekend Box Office (May 29 - 31, 2015)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Dwayne Johnson topped the North American box office with authority as his latest action film San Andreas opened to an estimated $53.2M, a new career high by far as solo anchor of a movie. The Warner Bros. disaster film averaged a strong $14,089 from 3,777 locations and exceeded industry expectations.

For the popular and charismatic star, it beat the $36.1M of The Scorpion King from back in 2002 to become The Rock's largest opening weekend as the sole star. The former wrestler has acted in numerous films over the last 13 years but never have his solo projects ever matched what he achieved with the Mummy Returns spin-off when he first was tapped to anchor an action pic. Overall in Johnson's career, San Andreas had the fourth best opening for a major role behind the last three Fast and Furious movies where he was a part of an existing franchise with an ensemble cast.

Disaster movies often do well at the box office and his earthquake pic delivered audiences. Reviews were mostly dull but ticket buyers came for the spectacle of destruction and for Johnson's star wattage. His broad popularity showed in the audience breakdown which was 51% female. This is a rare figure for an effects-driven action movie.

Moviegoers are liking the escapist fun of San Andreas which earned a nice A- CinemaScore grade and Saturday sales enjoyed a nice 13% bump. There are no PG-13 action films opening until Jurassic World's huge launch on June 12 so the road ahead looks promising. San Andreas cost about $110M to produce and has plenty of international appeal given the solid track record of Hollywood disaster movies. The overseas launch brought in $60M this weekend for a muscular global bow of $113.2M.

Down 52% in its third weekend, the comedy sequel Pitch Perfect 2 grabbed an estimated $14.8M and has stayed in the top two positions for three weeks now. Universal has collected a sturdy $147.5M making it the top-grossing comedy of the year and the global gross has climbed to $228.2M on its way to the $300M neighborhood.

After a number one debut, George Clooney stumbled with Tomorrowland which dropped 58% to an estimated $13.8M. Tentpole action sequels that launch over Memorial Day weekend can often fall by more than 60% on the second weekend. But this PG-rated Disney entry was an original film with family appeal and was expected to hold up better. Even Men in Black 3 fell by less with a 49% slide on this same weekend.

Word-of-mouth has not been very good and with $63.2M to date, Tomorrowland looks like it will struggle to reach the $100M mark. The production cost alone is estimated to be in the $180-190M range and marketing on top of that was not cheap. Overseas markets have added $70M for a global gross of $133.2M to date with Japan and Brazil being the only major territories still to come. Unlike with many effects-driven Hollywood event films, the international box office will not be enough to save this one.

An action offering that IS satisfying moviegoers and IS showing sturdy legs is Mad Max: Fury Road which dropped 45% to an estimated $13.6M. The Warner Bros. cume is $115.9M and reaching $150M domestic can't be ruled out. That would be a terrific result for an R-rated action film not based on any of today's relevant franchises.

The year's biggest domestic blockbuster, Avengers: Age of Ultron, followed with an estimated $10.9M in its fifth round. Off 50%, the Disney release has jumped to $427.1M putting it at number 10 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters shoving aside The Hunger Games from 2012. Ultron is still on course to end with about $450M.

International grosses are close to breaking $900M and currently stand at $894.2M led by China's $225.5M which is more than the next three biggest markets combined. Worldwide, the super heroes have grossed a staggering $1.32 billion with Japan still to open. Making it to at least $1.45 billion is still likely.

For most of 2014, Bradley Cooper had the year's highest grossing film with American Sniper but his latest was dead on arrival as the romantic dramedy Aloha failed to open in the top five with a weak debut of an estimated $10M. Averaging a mild $3,552 from 2,815 locations, the critically panned film boasted a number of other stars including Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Murray. The audience was 64% female and 57% over 30.

Moviegoer interest was always low on this PG-13 entry aimed at adult women and couples. Poor reviews helped to repel audiences and those that did make it out have not liked it too much. Aloha earned a lackluster B- CinemaScore grade for Sony. Produced for $37M, the Cameron Crowe film should not be that big of a money loser after accounting for global marketing costs. Domestic grosses are not likely to match the production budget and international prospects seem iffy.

Horror pic Poltergeist tumbled 66% in its second scare to an estimated $7.8M giving Fox a still-strong $38.3M to date. A final near $50M should result. The studio's specialty division saw Far From the Madding Crowd slip 38% to an estimated $1.4M for $8.4M so far.

Tumbling 62% to an estimated $1.4M was the comedy flop Hot Pursuit which, thanks to a weak marketplace, spent its fourth weekend in the top ten. Cume is $32.4M for Warner Bros. The DreamWorks Animation hit Home made an estimated $1.2M, down 34%, for a $170.4M total for Fox.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $128.1M which was down 19% from last year when Maleficent opened at number one with $69.4M; and down 20% from 2013 when Fast & Furious 6 stayed in the top spot with $35.2M.

Compared to projections, San Andreas opened better than my $37M forecast while Aloha was on target with my $10M prediction.

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For a review of Tomorrowland visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Monday for final studio figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Spy, Insidious: Chapter 3, and Entourage all open.


Last Updated: May 31, 2015 at 2:00PM ET

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