"Thor" to Thunder in Summer 2011
Though the season got an early jumpstart last weekend, summer 2011 officially kicks off this Friday with the comic book actioner Thor. For those who prefer love to superheroes, two romantic comedies open in the form of Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom. Add in strong numbers from Fast Five, and the marketplace stands a realistic chance of reaching last year’s numbers.
For the fifth year in a row, a Marvel Comics superhero christens the summer season, this time with Paramount’s Thor. The PG-13 film is based on the classic comic book, and stars Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth as the title hero, with Oscar-winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman in supporting roles, and director Kenneth Branagh at helm. Though not as famous as Spider-Man, Batman or The Hulk, the character is well-known to genre fans, and will have no problem courting that crowd, though others may take a wait and see approach. Three years ago, the studio was in a similar position with Iron Man, and exceeded expectations with an explosive $102.1M over 3.5 days. Like the flying metal man film, Thor has similar starpower and comparably strong reviews. However, no summer kickoff pic has ever faced another action collecting over $30M, as Fast Five is likely to do this weekend, despite a sure-to-be-massive drop. Usually early May is clear sailing for an action epic to monopolize the marketplace, but the street racing sequel has made a historic difference.
Thor has been generating a lot of buzz from a public with little to be excited about this year, and the 3D and IMAX surcharges can only boost grosses. Audiences shouldn’t mind paying for the third dimension this time. The good reviews won’t necessarily help, but they can’t hurt either. International grosses began last weekend, with the tally standing at a mighty $108.3M, despite sharing the spotlight with Fast Five. If the film fails to reach the heights of other superhero films launching in early May, it could make up for that with strong grosses in the long run. Thundering into over 3,500 theaters, Thor could turn up $73M this weekend.
It’s typical to counter-program a superhero epic with a romantic comedy, and Warner Bros. follows that tradition with Something Borrowed. The PG-13 stars Kate Hudson as a woman who falls in love with her friend’s fiancé, with John Krasinski and Jennifer Goodwin costarring. Three years ago, Maid of Honor opened to $14.7M against Iron Man. A year later, Ghost of Girlfriends Past saw $15.4M when it battled X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Like Patrick Dempsey and Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson boasts wattage in the rom-com genre, and the film has a garnered similar negative reviews. Warner Bros. is hoping starpower and marketing will trump critics, and with Mother’s Day adding an extra boost on Sunday, they should get lucky. Thor and Fast Five will distract young men, and outside of Water for Elephants there’s not much for older women. Opening in 2,900 theaters, Something Borrowed could see $18M this weekend.
Sony counters with its own rom-com in Jumping the Broom. Rated PG-13, the film stars Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine, and is being pitched to African-American women. Though that segment has had little besides Grandma Madea in recent months, Jumping the Broom seems unlikely to cause much excitement with its uninspired premise, soft ad campaign, and competition from Something Borrowed. In March 2010, the similar themed Our Family Wedding opened to a weak $7.6M, despite starpower from Forest Whitaker and America Ferrera. Like that comedy, the new filmhas generated awful reviews. Opening in 1,900 theaters, Jumping the Broom could see $7M this weekend.
After shattering multiple records last weekend, Fast Five will slam the brakes this weekend, as befits an action sequel facing a new action film. Fast & Furious collapsed 61% in 2009, despite having Easter on its sophomore frame. Fast Five has better reviews and word-of-mouth, but will face intense competition from Thor. A 60% drop would give Universal a still-powerful $35M for the weekend, and an explosive $143M in just ten days.
Rio will round out the top five, and with no new family films, will see another good hold. Fox’s hit toon will lose 3D screens to Thor, so a 35% fall to $9M seems likely, giving the Blue Sky Studios production a potent $116M to date.
In limited release, Summit opens The Beaver in 20 theaters. The Jodie Foster-directed drama stars Mel Gibson as an emotionally wounded wan who uses a beaver hand-puppet as his only communication. The off-beat film played at this year’s Sundance festival, and has been generating terrific marks from critics.
Overall, the box office could match 2010, when Iron Man 2 rocketed to a sensational $128.1M, and exceed 2009, when Star Trek beamed up a fantastic $79.2M over 3.5 days.