On a weekend where we honor real-life heroes, the onscreen heroes of X-Men: Days of Future Past conquered the North American box office without breaking a sweat. The eagerly-awaited Sci-Fi sequel had no trouble displacing last week’s champ Godzilla. Wolverine and Godzilla also had no issue leaving the Adam Sandler comedy Blended in the dust way back in third place. Despite the big X-Men bow, the holiday box office was down a steep 29% from last year at this time when Fast and Furious 6, The Hangover Part III, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Epic all earned north of $30 each.
Ever since it hit a franchise-grossing high $234 million with 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, Fox’s X-Men franchise has seen its fortunes on the decline with each successive film. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine earned just over $180 million while 2011’s X-Men: First Class earned $146 million. The Marvel mutants’ North American fortunes sank further last year with the $132 million-grossing The Wolverine. Given the direction the franchise’s popularity appeared to be taking, the decision to pour $225 million into the next X-Men feature, Days of Future Past, looked to be a financially risky one.
Or was it? After all, Bryan Singer would be directing the film, the cast members from the popular original trilogy and the acclaimed 2011 prequel — which includes the super-popular Jennifer Lawrence — would be starring and the plot would be based on one of the more popular X-Men comic book series from the early 1980s. If there was a film in this 14-year old franchise to pour so much money into, it would be this one.
Judging by the massive $90.7 million earned from 3,996 theaters, it appears that the costly gamble has paid off handsomely. Not only did X-Men: Days of Future Past deliver the second-best opening for the series to date, it also earned the best notices of the entire series thus far. The film’s 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes was higher than the 87% X2: X-Men United and First Class earned during their releases. The CinemaScore rating was a rock solid “A.”
For the four-day Memorial Day weekend Fox is projecting a $105-110 million opening, fueled in large part by 3D ticket surcharges. The opening for Days ranks as the fifth highest opening over the Memorial Day weekend. Only the third Pirates of the Caribbean, the fourth Indiana Jones, the third X-Men and last year’s Fast and Furious 6 have opened higher. Days of Future Past did open lower than recent Marvel features Captain America: the Winter Soldier ($95 million) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($91.6 million). It even opened lower than the recent Godzilla ($93.1 million). Strong word-of-mouth, however, should more than help make up for that. While it’s doubtful it will pass Captain America’s $253 million domestic haul, it will certainly earn more than Spidey or Godzilla. Days of Future Past’s foreign campaign started this weekend as well and earned a fantastic $171 million in its first weekend. The eighth film in the series, X-Men: Apocalypse arrives in 2016.
Speaking of Godzilla, the Warner Brothers blockbuster got blindsided by the arrival of Wolverine and company as the reboot dropped a steep 66% in its second go around on 3,952 screens. Still, the movie delivered a sizable $31.4 million over the weekend to bring its domestic haul to $149 million after ten days. Depending on the drops over the next couple of weeks as Hollywood begins to roll out its big pics, Godzilla could make its way to the $190-195 million mark. Overseas the monster movie has earned a big $166 million so far.
Landing with a loud thud in third place was Warner’s Adam Sandler comedy Blended with a dismal $14.2 million from 3,555 screens. The PG-13 rated family comedy faced the usual film critic scorn reserved for Sandler’s features. It received a toxic 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, those that turned out for the film, were more receptive to the latest pairing of Sandler and Drew Barrymore. They gave the film an “A-” CinemaScore rating. While the low opening for Blended is one of the weaker ones for the usually reliable Sandler, the $40 million production cost should eventually be recouped once home video and cable sales are factored in.
One comedy that has had no problem making money is Universal’s Neighbors, which landed in fourth place this weekend with a $14 million weekend haul, which represents a 44% drop from last weekend. After three weeks, the $18 million Seth Rogen feature has earned a great $113.6 million domestically and another $67 million overseas. Neighbors may get the wind knocked out of it a bit next weekend with the arrival of A Million Ways to Die in the West, but it should make its way to $135-140 million by the end of its North American run.
Rounding out the top five was another Marvel superhero flick The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The Spidey sequel dropped 54% in its fourth weekend to earn $7.8 million from 3,160 theaters. Its domestic total now stands at a disappointing $185 million. At this point, the $200 million mark is questionable. Making money overseas has been anything but an issue for the Sony Production. The total from foreign markets stands at $489 million and should cross the half-billion mark by the end of its run.
The remainder of the top ten is as follows:
6. Million Dollar Arm (Disney) $7 million (-32%); $20.6 million
7. The Other Woman (Fox) $3.6 million (-42%); $77.7 million
8. Rio 2 (Fox) $2.5 million (-33%); $121.6 million
9. Chef (Open Road Films) $2.2 million (+219%); $3.5 million
10. Heaven is for Real (TriStar) $1.95 million (-55%); $85.7 million
Next weekend sees the arrival of Seth McFarlane’s raunchy Western comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West and the Angelina Jolie fantasy feature Maleficent. Depending on the drop for X-Men: Days of Future Past, there is a strong possibility that Maleficent could take the top spot away from the mutants.