Weekend Box Office: Bellas, Max and Ultron Drive Box Office

Déjà vu was the name of the game at the North American box office this weekend as four of the five top films in the market was a sequel. The big winner among the quartet was Universal’s Pitch Perfect 2, which bowed to record numbers for a musical. Warner’s long-awaited Mad Max: Fury Road revved its engines quite loudly in second. Combined with a solid third weekend for Avengers: Age of Ultron, the North American box office was up five percent over last year at this time when Godzilla roared into town with a monster-sized $93 million opening.

2012’s Pitch Perfect was a modest box office hit. The $17 million production earned $65 million in the States and an additional $50 million from overseas, a respectable amount but hardly numbers that cried out for more adventures with the Bellas. That desire became a bit louder thanks to the film’s popularity really taking off once it hit home video, where its audience grew in large numbers.

That legion of devout fans showed up in force this weekend as Pitch Perfect 2 earned a tuneful $70.3 million from 3,473 theaters. The $29 million production was directed by Elizabeth Banks and reunites most of the original cast, including Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson. Reviews were decent for the sequel, earning a 69% approval on Rotten Tomatoes and a 66/100 Metacritic rating.

The opening for Pitch Perfect 2 represents not only the highest opening for a musical comedy and the third highest opening for a comedy ever, it was also the second highest opening for a film directed by a woman. Perfect 2’s debut is right behind the $85 million earned by Fifty Shades of Grey, which was helmed by Sam Taylor Johnson. Like Pitch Perfect 2, Universal Pictures also released Grey. The film has brought in an additional $38 million from foreign markets since opening last weekend.

It’s been thirty years since Mad Max walked off into the sunset at the end of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, an image that usually signifies the end of the road for a particular character or film series. Roughly fifteen years passed before news arrived that there would be a new Mad Max adventure on the horizon. Series originator George Miller would once again be calling the shots and Mel Gibson would be returning to the iconic role of “Mad” Max Rockantasky. The project fell apart, and it would be another fifteen years before we would see the return of Max.

For fans, the wait was finally over this past Thursday night as Mad Max: Fury Road roared into 3,702 theaters to earn an estimated $44.4 million. The $150 million production debuted to euphoric reviews (98% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, 89/100 Metacritic) and an enthusiastic reception at the Cannes Film Festival. The new film stars Tom Hardy as Max, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult. Once again, George Miller served as director. The audience was comprised largely of males over the age of 25. 3D showings represented a surprising 46% of the weekend take.

Given the R rating in the States, the $44 million opening for Fury Road is quite impressive. Reviews and an excellent marketing campaign helped open the film, but now the studio will need to rely on viewer word-of-mouth to keep Road moving along during the increasingly competitive summer movie season. Fury Road should benefit greatly from foreign markets, where the series has always been more popular. It has already taken in $65 million from overseas.

After having the box office all to itself for the past two weeks Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron abdicated the throne and moved down to third place this weekend. The blockbuster sequel earned $39 million from 4,276 screens to bring its total to $372 million. Ultron is currently running 19% behind 2012’s The Avengers and is still aiming for a final domestic haul around $445 million.

The film got a shot in the arm overseas this weekend thanks to a huge opening in China (shocker!). The $156 million earned in the first six days of release marks the second-biggest weekend of all time at the Chinese box office. Ultron’s international total currently sits at $770 million.

Warner’s Hot Pursuit landed in fourth place with an estimated $5.8 million. Off 59%, its ten-day total is a dismal $23.5 million. Rounding out the top five was another Universal Pictures’ blockbuster, Furious 7. The action flick earned $3.65 million from 2,238 theaters in its sixth week of release. Off 33%, its domestic total currently stands at $343.7 million. With $1.49 billion in the bank overall, Furious 7 only needs $30 million more to tie Marvel’s The Avengers on the all-time global chart.

Outside the top five:

  1. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (Sony) $3.6 million (-32%); $63 million
  1. The Age of Adaline (Lionsgate) $3.2 million (-45%); $37 million
  1. Home (Fox/Dreamworks) $2.7 million (-12%); $166 million
  1. Ex Machina (A24) $2.1 million (-40%); $19.5 million
  1. Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) (Fox) $1.3 million (+67%); $2.6 million

For the Memorial Day holiday weekend, only two films will open in wide release: the remake of Poltergeist from Fox and the George Clooney fantasy Tomorrowland from Disney. Currently, Tomorrowland is being pegged for a $50 million opening. If that holds, it would be more than enough for a first place finish.

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