Weekend Box Office: Ultron Holds, Witherspoon Bombs

Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron had no trouble fending off the dismal debut of Warner’s Hot Pursuit to repeat as the number one film at the North America box office. Despite Age of Ultron’s solid second go around, business overall was down five percent from last year at this time when Universal’s Neighbors debuted with $49 million and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 scored $35.5 million in its second round.

Ultron faced the typical 60% drop off for a front-loaded event film, which translates into an estimated $77.2 million sophomore session from 4,276 theaters and a ten-day total of $313 million. The film’s second weekend was more in line with 2013’s Iron Man 3 than it was with 2012’s The Avengers, the latter which dropped 50% to earn $103 million in its second weekend. Age of Ultron crossed the $300 million mark in ten days, the same amount of time it took 2008’s The Dark Knight to accomplish that and one day longer than The Avengers.

Depending on how quickly Ultron plays out at the multiplexes, it could finish its run around $450 million, roughly 25-30% less than its predecessor. The decrease in domestic business will be more than compensated by overseas markets, which have contributed $562 million thus far. With $875 million earned so far, the Joss Whedon feature will have no problem crossing the one billion mark this week when the movie opens in China on Tuesday. Depending on how much that country and Japan –where the film opens in July- contribute, Ultron could eventually surpass its predecessor’s $1.5 billion final when all is said and done.

Landing in second place this weekend with a weak $13.3 million from 3,003 screens is the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara comedy Hot Pursuit. The Warner Brothers release was offered up as counter-programming for the likes of Ultron over the Mother’s Day holiday. Thanks to terrible reviews from the nation’s critics, who gave the movie a whopping six percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an ad campaign that was practically laugh-free, that plan was quickly subverted.

Making matters worse for the film’s long-term prospects was lukewarm feedback coming from opening day ticket buyers (a “C+” CinemaScore rating) and the upcoming Thursday release of the anticipated Pitch Perfect 2, which will draw away Pursuit’s targeted female audience.

Another factor that contributed to Pursuit’s low opening numbers was Lionsgate’s The Age of Adaline, which has benefited from word-of-mouth over the past two weekends. The Blake Lively drama dropped a mere 10% from last weekend to bring in $5.6 million on 3,070 screens. After three weeks Adaline has earned $31.5 million. The final domestic tally is now looking to be between $40-45 million.

Enjoying its final week as 2015’s highest grossing release, Universal’s Furious 7 had a solid sixth weekend of business in fourth place. Still on 3,004 screens the action blockbuster earned $5.2 million, a drop of only 21% from last weekend. The domestic total now stands at $338.4 million. The new global total stands at $1.46 billion. Rounding out the top five was Sony’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with $5.1 million. Off 12%, the comedy sequel has earned $58 million after four weeks.

Just outside the top five was A24’s sci-fi thriller Ex Machina. The critically acclaimed Alex Garland feature has slowly built up its screen count since opening on April 10th, counting on word-of-mouth to help build business. Judging from the moderate $3.47 million brought in this weekend from 2,004 screens, it remains to be seen if the movie will catch on with suburban crowds in the way it has in cities. Still, with $15.7 million in the bank so far Ex Machina has become A24’s biggest hit to date.

The remainder of the top ten was as follows:

  1. Home (Fox/Dreamworks) $3 million (-14%); $162.1 million
  1. Woman In Gold (Weinstein) $1.65 million (+3%); $27 million
  1. Cinderella (2015) (Disney) $1.5 million (-43%); $196 million
  1. Unfriended (Universal) $1.4 million (-36%); $31 million

In addition to Universal’s Pitch Perfect 2, next weekend brings the long-awaited arrival of Warner’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Both Pitch and Fury are currently forecasted to open near or above the $40 million mark. If that is the case, it’s going to be a three-way race for first when you factor in Ultron’s third weekend of release. Right now, my money is on Pitch Perfect 2 for the win as Fury Road‘s R rating may limit its box office.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

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