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Best Memorial Day Weekend Box Office Ever?

The Hangover Part II Bradley Cooper Zach Galifianakis
The Hangover Part II with Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis.

June 3: Featuring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha, Todd Phillips’ The Hangover Part II brought in $5.5 million at the North American box office on Thursday, June 2, according to The Hangover Part II has thus passed the $150 million milestone on its eighth day out. (Meet the Fockers had been the original record-holder – not adjusted for inflation – in the comedy category, reaching $150 million after 11 days in early 2005.) The Hangover 2’s total to date: $154.4 million.

The not-so-great news: compared to Tuesday, The Hangover 2‘s Thursday box office take was down 28 percent. Among the top twelve movies on the chart, it’s the only one to have gone down every single weekday this week.

Additionally, The Hangover 2 will in all likelihood lose its top spot at the North American box office, as X-Men: First Class, starring James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, opened today. The X-Men prequel is expected to collect around $50–$60 million.

Even so, expect The Hangover 2 to soar again this weekend, perhaps taking in as much as $35–$40 million. And some time within the next week or so, it’ll quite likely become the biggest domestic box office hit of 2011, surpassing both Fast Five and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

May 31: Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life, featuring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, collected $494,000 since it opened on Friday, May 27, at four theaters in Los Angeles and New York.

The three-day weekend average for the Fox Searchlight release was $93,231 per location. That’s the second-highest opening of 2011, behind Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris’ $99,834 average at six theaters.

The Tree of Life also had the biggest opening ever for a Fox Searchlight release, surpassing Black Swan‘s $80,212 last December.

Such a comparison, however, is lopsided, for Black Swan opened at 18 theaters. All things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be.

In fact, one could say that Black Swan fared better than The Tree of Life, considering that it opened at 4.5 more theaters than the Malick drama while its per-theater average was only 14 percent lower. (But then again, there are other issues at work, e.g., the number of seats available per screening and the number of screenings per day – The Tree of Life‘s running time is 35 minutes longer than Black Swan‘s.)

Back in 1998, Malick’s The Thin Red Line averaged $56,506 (approx. $94,648 today) at five theaters. The Academy Award-nominated war drama went on to gross $98.1 million (about $164 million today*) worldwide, with 62 percent of that figure originating overseas.

In 2005, The New World opened at 3 theaters with a quite modest $10,288 per-theater average. The $30 million period drama went on to gross only $30.5 million worldwide.

The Tree of Life, which cost a reported $32 million, will expand to 18 theaters next Friday. It should be playing at 200–300 theaters by early July.

* Estimate based on the “inflation-gauge” found at Box Office Mojo. International figures, however, are particularly difficult to update not only because one would have to take into account various inflation indexes, but also because of exchange-rate fluctuations.

May 27–30 weekend: Featuring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Jamie Chung, and Ken Jeong, Todd Phillips’ comedy sequel The Hangover Part II brought in $105.76 million this extended Memorial Day weekend, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

For comparison’s sake: the previous Memorial Day weekend record-holding live-action comedy was the Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty, which collected $85.7 million (Fri-Mon) in 2003. Adjusted for inflation, Bruce Almighty would remain ahead of The Hangover 2: $111.6 million vs. $105.76 million.

But in all fairness, the Jim Carrey flick opened on Friday, whereas The Hangover 2 was out on Thursday (or rather, at midnight Wednesday). Thus, if we do a “first four days” comparison, The Hangover 2 ends up ahead of Bruce Almighty: $117.64 million vs. $111.6 million.

Even taking inflation into account, The Hangover 2 is ahead of every comedy in recent memory – quite possibly ever, as movies opening at 3,000+ theaters was almost unheard of prior to the mid-’90s. For instance, in its first five days out, The Hangover 2 has collected an estimated $137.4 million. The next comedy on the North American “top five-day chart,” Austin Powers in Goldmember, earned $92.4 million in 2002, or approximately $125 million today. Rush Hour 2‘s $85.7 million in 2001 would represent about $119 million today.

Led by The Hangover 2, and with the assistance of Kung Fu Panda 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Bridesmaids, and Thor – all of which grossed more than $10 million from Fri-Mon – Memorial Day weekend 2011 is now officially the most successful ever at the North American box office (not taking inflation/3D ticket-price boost into account): $280 million vs. $254.6 million earned in 2007, led by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Shrek the Third, and Spider-Man 3.

Also worth noting, revenues are up about 45 percent compared to last year’s Memorial Day holiday. Led by Shrek Forever After‘s $57.1 million, box office receipts totaled $192.5 million.

Reality check: taking inflation into account, Memorial Day weekend 2007 remains ahead of this year’s: approx. $283.6 million vs. $280 million.

And finally, revenues remain down 8.4 percent compared to last year’s figures, 3.9 percent compared to 2009, 15.6 percent compared to 2008, and 13.5 percent compared to 2007. Accounting for inflation, ticket sales are even lower compared to 2009, 2008, and 2007.

It remains to be seen whether this year’s upcoming summer sequels X-Men: First Class, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Cars 2, will outperform last year’s summer sequels like the animated blockbuster Toy Story 3, in addition to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Iron Man 2, and Shrek Forever After. Or if 2011’s “originals” Captain America: The First Avenger and Green Lantern will outdo 2010’s Despicable Me, Inception, and Grown Ups.

Following Todd Phillips’ highly popular comedy The Hangover Part II at the North American box office this four-day Memorial Day weekend (May 27–30), was newcomer Kung Fu Panda 2, which took in an estimated $62.2 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Total after five days: $68 million.

Kung Fu Panda 2 remains slightly behind the original Kung Fu Panda, which collected $72.6 million during its first five days out in 2008.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides added $50.4 million over the four-day weekend.

As mentioned in a previous post, On Stranger Tides is now the biggest worldwide box office hit of 2011, with an estimated cume of $634.8 million.

May 29: Featuring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, and Ken Jeong, Todd Phillips’ The Hangover 2 brought in $86.5 million this weekend (May 27–29), according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. That’s the highest-grossing weekend ever for a live-action comedy – not adjusted for inflation – and the second-best weekend for an R-rated movie (once again, not adjusted for inflation) after The Matrix Reloaded in 2003.

The Hangover 2 would surely have had the best opening weekend of 2011 as well if it hadn’t debuted at midnight Wednesday. On its first three days (Thu-Sat, including the Wed. midnight screenings), The Hangover 2 pulled in $91.4 million, which would have placed it ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ $90.15 million.

Made for a reported $80 million – plus marketing/distribution expenses – The Hangover 2 has grossed $118.09 million after four days. Two years ago, it took ten days for the original The Hangover to pass the $100 million milestone domestically.

For comparison’s sake: The Hangover 2 made more money in four days than two other relatively recent comedy sequels: Jackass 3D ($117.2 million) and 2010 Memorial Day weekend release Sex and the City 2 ($95.34m) during their entire run.

The Hangover 2 is also outperforming another highly popular comedy sequel, Meet the Fockers, which came out in late December 2004. In its first four days, Meet the Fockers earned $51.1 million (approximately $64 million today). The Meet the Parents sequel went on to gross $279.3 million at the North American box office.

The Hangover 2 has also scored an estimated $59 million at the international box office. Worldwide total: $177.1 million.

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R-rated, panned by critics, set in a strange place (for most Americans). That’s Todd Phillips’ The Hangover Part II, which exploded on Thursday at the North American box office, earning $31 million. The Hangover sequel earned another $30 million on Friday (May 27), and is poised to earn around $90 million over the three-day weekend and possibly $135 million over the five-day Memorial Day weekend – if early, rough estimates found at are correct. That’s about as much as Rio has earned domestically in six weeks.

Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha, The Hangover 2 may have the best weekend gross of 2011 – in case it surpasses Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ $90.15 million, which, I should add, had the advantage of costlier 3D/IMAX ticket prices.

The Hangover 2 may also be the leader of the best Memorial Day weekend ever – not accounting for inflation, of course – in case Kung Fu Panda 2, On Stranger Tides, Bridesmaids, and Thor help 2011 beat 2007, the year Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Shrek the Third, and Spider-Man 3 propelled the domestic box office to an astounding $254 million. (More than half of that total – $139.8 million to be near-exact – came from At World’s End; Shrek the Third contributed with $67 million and Spider-Man 3 with $18.1 million.)

Kung Fu Panda 2 earned an estimated $13.5 million on Friday, and is expected to gross $66 million over the five-day (Thu-Mon) period.

Following Todd Phillips’ comedy The Hangover Part II at the North American box office this weekend, May 27–29, was newcomer Kung Fu Panda 2, which took in an estimated $48 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Though hardly a weak figure, the amount earned by Kung Fu Panda 2 can be seen as a disappointment.

Kung Fu Panda 2‘s per-theater average was a relatively modest $12,229, especially considering that about 50–60 percent of its box office take originated at costlier 3D venues. For comparison’s sake: even without the 3D box office “enhancement,” The Hangover 2‘s per-theater average was $23,923.

Made by DreamWorks/Paramount for a reported $150 million, Kung Fu Panda 2 is also trailing the original Kung Fu Panda, which drew $60.3 million over the same period in 2008.

The reasons for the more modest performance of Kung Fu Panda 2 are unclear. One could blame the marketing campaign; the rotten American economy; Rango, Hop, and Rio; or even that people are staying away from the Kung Fu Panda sequel in protest over the fact that the original beat WALL-E at the Annie Awards.

Regardless of any unproven theories, it’s puzzling that Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t perform better, especially considering that there hasn’t been any major animated releases on North American screens since Rio about six weeks ago.

And let’s keep things in perspective: on its debut weekend, Kung Fu Panda 2 has outperformed every other animated release so far this year. And it’s doing quite well internationally.

Kung Fu Panda 2‘s domestic total: $53.8 million. Worldwide: a not inconsiderable $110.8 million.

Pundits and movie fans alike are always complaining that Hollywood keeps churning out too many remakes and sequels; that moviemakers have lots their imagination, etc. etc.

May 26

The biggest Memorial Day ever at the North American box office? (Not adjusted for inflation, that is.)

That’s a possibility according to pundits who say this year’s three-film combo – The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – may help propel box office figures over the holiday weekend above the record-breaking 2007 total of $256 million. Not coincidentally, much of that amount came from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

The Hangover Part II has already had a solid opening night, grossing an estimated $10.4 million at 2,600 locations at midnight Wednesday. Additionally, The Hangover 2 broke the R-rated midnight record set by Paranormal Activity 2‘s $6.3 million last year.

For comparison’s sake: despite the advantage of costlier 3D tickets, On Stranger Tides took in only $4.7 million at midnight screenings. Two years ago, The Hangover collected a relatively modest $1 million at 760 sites; the popular comedy went on to reach $277.3 million domestically.

Box-office pundits expect The Hangover 2 to gross north of $100 million, possibly reaching $125 million over the five-day Memorial Day weekend. Now, that depends on Warner Bros.’ marketing blitz, on how good word-of-mouth is, and whether or not people who go watch something like The Hangover 2 on opening weekend actually bother to read movie reviews: the film has a mere 21 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. (The original The Hangover had a 77 percent approval rating.)

At no. 2, Kung Fu Panda 2 (78 percent approval rating) should reach $80-100 million (pundits aren’t quite in agreement there), followed by On Stranger Tides’ $45m-$55 million.

The Hangover Part II image: Melinda Sue Gordon | Warner Bros.

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zac -


Your info is partly incorrect:

The 55% “average” from domestic grosses is correct.
The 40% “average” from foreign grosses is correct.

The studios get about 40% (this is a “loose” average) of their films’ grosses outside North America. So, where did you get that 15%?

If studios only got 15% of their films’ grosses overseas, a) they wouldn’t bother releasing their films abroad b) they wouldn’t make movies such as IRON MAN II, THOR, FAST FIVE, and ON STRANGER TIDES c) they’d have gone broke a long time ago.

I also don’t know where you found that “perspective” that WATER FOR ELEPHANTS needs $110m “to cover the cost of the film.” Even if Fox spent another $38m plugging/distributing WFE, that would total $76m.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will quite likely end up making money for the studio once ancillary revenues (both domestic and abroad) are factored in. It’s DEFINITELY no flop.

Marie -

Three days ago I researched the difference between domestic sales and foreign sales. The domestic market makes about 55% back for the studio. The foreign market makes about 40% and then the studio will only make 15% of that. To put this in perspective Water For Elephants needed to make 110 million to cover the cost of the film. Not a profit just cover it. So far domestically WFE has made 55 mil domestically which is only 30 mil for the studio and foreign sales of 48 mil which means less than 3 mil for the studio. That’s 33 mil WFE has made when it needed to make 110mil. This was a major failure for Robert and Reese. It might be a movie that some went to see that isn’t a drama but that is the only recognition the money shows. A studio that loses 77 million on a movie can’t call it a success!

Gray -

There is a mystery about this film that makes it intriguing and inviting. Considering the usual movie going fare, this may be the thing to clear the palate of cinema enthusiast.

MJ -

Thank you :)

zac -


Thanks for the reminder. The post has been amended.

MJ -

You forgot to mention that Remember Me budget was only $16M.


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