"X-Men: First Class" Ready to Begin Session at Number One
For the third straight weekend, a franchise film aims to grab the top spot, as the comic book prequel X-Men: First Class opens as the weekend’s sole wide release. With only one new film, holdovers should have decent declines, though the post-holiday effect will be felt for several. Following a terrific May, the box office looks to start June with strong numbers that will far exceed 2010’s slow frame.
The second leg of Marvel Comics’ summer three-pack opens this weekend with Fox’s X-Men: First Class. The fifth film in the X-Men franchise, the prequel tells how Charles Xavier started his mutant school and began his life-long battle with arch-villain Magneto. Gone are the previous series stars, replaced by actors like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones and Kevin Bacon, while Kick-Ass’ Matthew Vaughn takes the director’s chair. Despite the changes, Fox is still counting on the X-Men name to be biggest selling point.
The X-Men have served Fox well for the past decade. The first X-Men opened in July 2000 to $54.4M, and finished with a terrific $157.2M, effectively kicking off a decade of comic book adaptations. X2: X-Men United proved to be even more popular in May 2003, with an $85.5M bow and stronger $214.9M final. The third film, X-Men: The Last Stand, soared even higher with $122.8M over its four-day Memorial Day bow in 2006, and a franchise best tally of $234.3M. However, fans had mixed reactions to the trilogy ender, thus leading the prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine to post a smaller bow of $85M and a weaker tally of $179.8M in May 2009. Fierce, direct competition from Star Trek also put a damper on the last film.
With so many fans being dissatisfied with Wolverine, a sizable drop-off is certain for the opening weekend. Even the theater count is much lower with 3,400 compared to Wolverine’s 4,000+. Reaching Thor’s $65.7M opening from a month ago may not happen either, especially without IMAX or 3D. The die-hard comic book fans will surely come out, but others may be more hesitant about paying to see the same material for the fifth time, and new fans jumping aboard is unlikely, even with a prequel. Plus, the absence of popular characters like Wolverine, Storm and Rouge could have an effect. However, with Pirates, Thor and Fast Five slowing down, competition for the action crowd shouldn’t be too tough, and a lack of 3D may actually be a bonus. Reviews have quite strong (on par with Thor), which may help. Invading over 3,400 theaters, X-Men: First Class could see $58M this weekend.
The Hangover Part II posted spectacular numbers last weekend, but is a sequel coming off a holiday weekend, so the drop should be sizable. However, with good word-of-mouth, it should be smaller than the 60% fall Sex and the City 2 saw a year ago. A decline of 55% would give Warner Bros.’ comedy sequel a strong $40M for the weekend, and an explosive $194M in just 11 days.
Kung Fu Panda 2 got off a somewhat unspectacular start last weekend, but will use its terrific word-of-mouth and lack of family competition for a solid second weekend. In 2005, DreamWorks’ Madagascar dropped 40% following its Memorial Day bow, and Panda may play out the same way. A 40% drop would give Paramount $28M for the weekend, and a solid $107M in 11 days.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will suffer the biggest blast from X-Men: First Class. Disney’s adventure sequel could drop a bit over 50% to $18M, giving the studio a domestic tally of $191M in 17 days.
Despite the arrival of another raunchy wedding comedy, Bridesmaids has continued to pull in strong numbers, and will still be the top choice for adults. A 33% drop to $10M would give rebounding Universal its third blockbuster of the year with $105M to date.
The box office should far exceed 2010, when Shrek Forever After led a weak frame with $25.4M, and top 2009, when The Hangover bowed to a very potent $45M.