Weekend Box Office (June 1 - 3, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Universal scored a big box office victory with the better-than-expected opening of its expensive fairy tale adventure Snow White and the Huntsman which captured the number one spot driven by strong fan demand. The PG-13 film grossed $56.2M from 3,773 theaters, according to final studio figures, for a muscular $14,900 average and delivered the best opening weekend of the summer for any non-Avengers film. In fact, the sword-wielding princess even beat out the $54.6M debut of last weekend's Men in Black 3 which got a boost from 3D surcharges, a holiday opening, and nearly 500 more theaters. It's also grossed more in three days than studio stablemate Battleship has made in three weeks.

Snow White has been marketed since last year causing anticipation to build up, especially with young females who have been mostly ignored by Hollywood this summer. This was an event film for them. Fans of today's hottest literary projects were drawn in as the casting of Kristen Stewart helped attract the Twilight crowd while the forest-fighting action scenes tapped into fans of The Hunger Games. Charlize Theron won strong notices from film critics (although the overall film earned mixed marks) and Thor's Chris Hemsworth added to the starpower. In fact, a Hemsworth brother has now occupied the number one spot over eight of the last eleven weekends. Liam Hemsworth co-starred in Hunger Games.

While Snow White's story and cast skews heavily female, Universal did a commendable job courting guys and the audience data suggests that the plan worked. Females made up only 53% which was not all that high considering the fairy tale background. The Medieval adventure brought in a solid crowd of dudes even though the rest of the top ten was littered with male-skewing offerings. But the CinemaScore grade was only a B and Saturday sales inched up by a slender 3% so long-term strength for the pricey $170M production could be shaky. Snow White fared well overseas too thanks to a $39.3M bow from 45 markets for a global debut of $95.5M. Major markets like Australia, Japan and Russia are still to open and this particular film seems well-positioned to connect with moviegoers around the world.

Will Smith's comeback vehicle Men in Black 3 dropped down to second place in its second weekend but held up well for an action sequel coming off of a holiday launch. The Sony franchise vehicle declined by 49% to $28.1M pushing the ten-day cume to $111.1M. It was a better hold than the 53% that Men in Black 2 suffered ten years ago in its sophomore round but the cume was less than the $132.7M of the 2002 release after its second weekend. MIB2 benefited from a total that included a few more days of release since it bowed midweek, but MIB3 had the benefit of higher ticket prices and 3D surcharges. Costing at least $230M to produce, the third chapter in the alien series should end its domestic run in the neighborhood of $180M, the lowest-grossing in the trilogy.

Overseas sales, led by the red hot Chinese market, remained active as Men in Black 3 pulled in a mammoth $78.6M to lead the international box office this weekend by a wide margin. That boosted the overseas cume to $274.6M and the global tally to $386M. The final worldwide gross may reach $650M or more making for the top figure in the franchise, although admissions may be the lowest thanks to today's 2D and 3D prices. MIB3 dropped just 29% in its second weekend in China and has amassed a stunning $51M so far grossing more than European powerhouses Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom - combined. Other key market cumes include $30.8M in Russia, $19M in Japan, and $18M in Korea. The first two Will Smith chapters did about 57% of their global grosses from overseas but with the rapid growth of the international scene - especially for action tentpoles heavy on effects and 3D - MIB3 is likely to end its run with roughly 72% from outside of North America.

Still rocking in its fifth weekend, The Avengers pulled in $20.5M, off 44%, upping its massive domestic cume to $553M. Disney's megahit set a new record breaking the $550M mark in only 31 days beating the 38 days that it took for Avatar. Titanic was the only other film to surpass this level and the shawarma-loving Marvel super heroes now sit at number three on the list of all-time-domestic blockbusters where it should finish at. Only three past films have ever done north of $20M on the fifth weekend - the James Cameron pair and The Sixth Sense. Avengers might end its North American run with $600-610M.

Overseas, Avengers broke the $800M mark as fans in 54 territories spent another $12.4M for a new sum of $802.5M. Outside of North America, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team should end its run at number four all-time behind Avatar, Titanic, and the final Harry Potter which did tremendously well overseas with $947M, an amount Avengers does not seem likely to beat. But among worldwide box office hits, the Disney juggernaut has now surpassed the global tally of the last wizard pic for the number three spot with $1.355 billion where it will remain. A final worldwide gross of about $1.45 billion seems likely for the $220M-budgeted action tentpole.

The next six films fell into a tight range of $3-5M each for the weekend contributing little to the overall box office. Universal's financial debacle Battleship plunged another 54% in its third weekend to $5.1M for a lousy $55.4M in 17 days. Fellow Taylor Kitsch megaflop John Carter fared better with $62.4M at the same point in its run although that included 3D surcharges. Winding down its overseas run, Battleship took in just $1.5M internationally raising the total to $235M and the global tally to $290M. Close behind was another May underperformer, The Dictator, which fell 49% to $4.7M giving Paramount $50.8M in 17 days. Just $6.5M came in overseas from 30 markets pushing the international cume to $60.6M and the worldwide figure to $111.4M.

Fox Searchlight's hit comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the first time had no major expansion and dipped 30% to $4.5M. The India-set indie has now grossed $25.4M in North America and $107.5M worldwide. The pregnancy pic What to Expect When You're Expecting followed with $4.4M, off 38%, for a $30.7M cume.

Warner Bros. contributed a pair of summer clunkers with Johnny Depp's pricey Dark Shadows grossing $3.7M and the horror flick Chernobyl Diaries taking in $3.1M. The Tim Burton project fell 51% and has taken in $70.7M to date while the Russian-set thriller tumbled 61% in its sophomore session with $14.5M after ten days.

The historical Mexican war drama For Greater Glory opened in wide enough release to make the nationwide top ten even though its per-theater performance was weak. The R-rated pic starring Andy Garcia debuted in 757 theaters grossing $1.9M for a dull $2,491 per location. Released by ARC Entertainment, Glory earned mostly poor reviews.

The box office gods did not allow all three Hemsworth films to be in the top ten simultaneously so the runaway hit The Hunger Games fell to eleventh place in its eleventh frame with $1.6M, down 32%. The Lionsgate smash has upped its cume to $398.3M and could break the $400M mark next weekend. The last film to spend its first ten weeks in the top ten was Inception.

Ridley Scott's new 3D sci-fi epic Prometheus kicked off its release one week before its U.S. launch with an impressive overseas bow in 15 markets that grossed an estimated $35M with about 3,300 of the total 4,695 screens being 3D. The Fox pic debuted at number one in all but one of those territories led by $11.1M in Russia, $10M in the U.K., and $7.1M from France. 35 additional markets open next weekend, along with domestic, including Australia and Korea bringing the total international screen count to around 8,000. The R-rated Prometheus opens this Friday in over 3,300 North American theaters on a wave of strong buzz and will go up against Paramount's PG-rated toon Madagascar 3 which is the first major offering for children in several weeks and invades more than 4,000 sites.

Indie darling Moonrise Kingdom had a small expansion going from four to 16 playdates in its sophomore session and grossed $876,881 for a spectacular $54,805 average. Wes Anderson's latest story will widen on Friday into ten more markets including Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Denver for a total of 70 locations. Cume to date is $1.7M for Focus with much more to come.

On the opposite side of the limited-release world was the horror sequel Piranha 3DD which was dumped into just 86 theaters even though its predecessor Piranha 3D was given a 2,470-theater launch just two summers ago. The new fright flick averaged a dismal $2,119 thanks to its $182,237 opening weekend which was down a whopping 98% from the $10.1M bow of the last Piranha pic. The Weinstein Co. did not put its full muscle behind this release and probably saved some significant marketing and distribution costs in the process.

The top ten films grossed $132.2M which was down 13% from last year when X-Men: First Class opened at number one with $55.1M; but up 10% from 2010 when Shrek Forever After stayed on top for the third straight weekend with $25.5M.

Compared to projections, Snow White and the Huntsman opened ahead of my $47M forecast.

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Watch the NEW trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

For a NEW review of Snow White and the Huntsman visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Prometheus and Madagascar 3 both open.


Last Updated: June 4, 2012 at 5:20PM ET

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