And Fox damn well knew that, correctly playing down expectations, repeating that the film was basically a redo and should be treated like Batman Begins, which opened with $48 million back in 2005 (again, comparable to the $43 million that Tim Burton's Batman opened with in 1989). It's actually a similar situation. The original X-Men and the original Batman opened at or near the top of the opening weekend list with their respective debuts. Batman of course more-or-less created the modern opening weekend in 1989 by debuting with $43 million ($40 million on Fri-Sun, with $2.2 million in Thursday advance-night screenings). The original X-Men opened with $54 million back in 2000, which was the biggest debut in history for a non-sequel and the fifth-biggest debut ever at the time. Batman Returns and Batman Forever both also broke the opening weekend records in their day ($46 million and $53 million respectively), while X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand both pulled down the fourth-biggest opening ever at the time of their releases ($85 million and $102 million respectively).
So like the Batman series before it, X-Men was used to being near the top of the box office charts, but now has to rebuild from the ground up, emphasizing quality and character over big-budget spectacle. Viewer dissatisfaction over X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: the Last Stand played the same role as the presence of Batman & Robin did last time around. There is a clear sense of caution on the part of general moviegoers. But critical raves and solid word of mouth will hopefully help the film reach a solid $150 million final gross, with much more overseas coin than was plausible back in 2000 (because no one is better at milking overseas grosses these days than Fox). The film had a decent B+ from Cinemascore. But more encouragingly, the Saturday grosses were down only 5% from Friday figures, meaning that audiences are indeed spreading the word. Alas, the X-Men series has had notoriously short runs, with only Harry Potter and Twilight having worse legs (the last two entries barely grossed 2.2x their opening weekends). So next weekend will tell the tale. Oh, for those wondering, had Fox decided to release the film in 3D, the opening weekend (presuming the now normal 55/45 2D preference) would have been around $64 million, or nearly identical to Thor's $65 million debut last month. So Fox gets points for choosing art over commerce.
Both of last weekend's debuts took tumbles, which is to be expected coming off a holiday weekend. The Hangover II plunged 62% in weekend two, grossing $33 million. For the record, the first film also grossed $32 million in its second weekend, but it was coming off a $45 million debut, not an $85 million opening weekend. Still, the film already has $186 million after eleven days, which makes it the tenth-biggest R-rated grosser and puts it on track to become the first R-rated franchise ever to have two $200 million earners. Kung Fu Panda 2 dropped 49%, for a $24 million second weekend, which is a bit high of a drop and a bit small of a second weekend for a Dreamworks cartoon. Still, the film crossed the $100 million mark today and has equaled the ten day gross of the other Dreamworks Memorial Day opener, Madagascar. That film ended with $193 million, so the Kung Fu Panda sequel will likely finish around $175 million (or just under the $180 million earned by Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa). That's a solid figure, but it will be foreign sales that will likely determine the fate of Kung Fu Panda 3. Madagascar 2 made $423 million overseas, so we are indeed getting a Madagascar 3. Kung Fu Panda 2 has $225 million worldwide thus far.
And that's it for this weekend. Join us next weekend for J.J. Abrams's Spielberg homage Super 8 (was invited to see it last week but had to pass, so will likely wait until opening day for IMAX) and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, which I will gladly see if Allison is interested. It looks amusing and Heather Graham looks hotter than she has since Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (I certainly hope it's a better film). Until then, keep reading and commenting.
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