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Mutants Hope to have a Memorable Weekend

May 25th, 2006

Memorial Day long weekend is the busiest weekend of the year. Many times it has been compared to the Superbowl, and for good reason. Over the next four days more than 25 million people will go to see a movie, each of them will be inundated with ads for upcoming releases. Trailers, posters, stands, ads on their popcorn boxes, ads on their drinks, ads, ads, ads. If the films fail to bring in moviegoers this weekend, the effects will be felt for months. All this pressure falls on just one wide release and last week's superstar.

X-Men: The Last Stand is the final chapter in the hugely successful X-Men trilogy. After tremendous growth in box office between the first and second movies, the studio is obviously looking to continue the trend. However, there are several obstacles that need to be avoided in order to do that. First of all, the film is dealing with a lot more competition than the first two films had to deal with. Granted, while X-Men: The Last Stand is the only major release of the week, the same can be said for the previous movies as well. (The Lizzie McGuire Movie was counter-programming and was not competing in any way with X-Men's core audience.) However, the earlier films started the summer blockbuster season and the holdovers they had to deal with were no threat. This time around it goes up against The Da Vinci Code, which is a monster hit in every sense of the word.

Also hurting the film's chances are its critical reception, which has been even weaker than anticipated. As stated in the spotlight, the switch in directors from Bryan Singer to Brett Ratner led many to predict that The Last Stand would not earn the critical reception the other films did. But, at the moment, its Tomatometer reading is at just 52% positive and falling. This is not the worst case scenario, but it is certainly lower than many expected.

The final hurdle is the film's buzz, or lack thereof. For a tentpole release, there's not nearly enough buzz and I blame The Da Vinci Code. That film was so anticipated by fans of the book, it was surrounded by so much controversy by critics, and then it made so much money that it is the only movie people are talking about. However, X-Men: The Last Stand does have a huge built-in fanbase and these people should flock to the theatres over the opening weekend regardless of the lack of buzz, poor, reviews, or the competition.

It all adds up to $75 million from Friday through Sunday with a chance at topping $100 million if you include Monday. Personally, I think it will fall just short with $97 million.

Whether you agree or disagree, don't forget to enter our Ultimate Marvel Contest for a shot to win the Ultimate Avengers Movie on DVD.

The Da Vinci Code beat almost all expectations last weekend, pulling in $77.1 million, and it will reach $100 million by the end of today. However, its prospects for the future are not as rosy. Because the film's opening weekend box office was based so heavily on hype and controversy rather than quality, there is a good chance that the film will have short legs, despite the more mature target demographic. Some evidence of this includes the film's small (for its genre) internal multiplier of just 2.69. Also, I have not been impressed by the film's midweek numbers, as it has fallen off by 41.8% from Monday to Wednesday compared to Over the Hedge's decline of 29.3%. (On a side note, these declines are higher than normal because Monday's box office numbers were inflated by the Victoria Day long weekend up here in Canada.) Over the four day weekend, the film should add about $50 million, which is in line with its opening weekend predictions and will give it $150 million after just 11 days. That total is enough to pay for the film's estimated worldwide P&A budget while, taking into account its international numbers, it could be profitable by the end of the weekend.

Next up is Over the Hedge, which got off to a much slower start than expected. On the other hand, it should hold on better than The Da Vinci Code for several reasons. First of all, it is the best reviewed film in the top five, with a Tomatometer reading of 74% positive, which should be enough to encourage repeat viewings. Also, kids films and those aimed at families tend to do very well when it comes to long legs, especially when it comes to holiday weekends. The only question mark is whether fans of digital animation will be saving their money for Cars, but I don't consider that a very likely scenario. Over the three-day period, Over the Hedge should have the smallest week-to-week drop-off in the top ten, and over the four-day period it should remain flat with $38 million.

The rest of the top five almost seems inconsequential at this point.

The competition is really starting to get to Mission: Impossible 3 as it loses nearly 400 more theatres and falls to just over 3,000. This will take its toll on the film's box office numbers, reducing them to $6 million from Friday though Sunday and $8 million including Monday.

Any chance Poseidon had of recovering domestically died last weekend and while there's a shot it might be salvageable on international scene, it seems less likely with each box office figure released. $5 million / $6 million looks the most likely outcome this weekend.


Filed under: X-Men: The Last Stand, The Da Vinci Code, Over the Hedge, Mission: Impossible III, Poseidon