A Brief History of Memorial Day Weekend
by Brandon Gray
May 22, 2000
Return of the Jedi was the first mega-opener over this frame, pulling in $30.5 million from 1,002 theaters in 1983. The next year, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ventured forth with $33.9 million from 1,687 theaters. Spectacular when considering inflation and that these pictures weren't playing at nearly as many theaters as is commonplace today.
Things cooled slightly the year after that, when Rambo: First Blood Part II grunted its way to $25.5 million from a then-record 2,074 theaters. To be fair, it went up against two other major contenders in a first for the frame. They were A View to a Kill with $13.3 million and Brewster's Millions with $9.6 million.
It wasn't until 1996 though, that the May uber-opening was indelibly ushered in by the first Mission: Impossible (along with Twister's $41.1 million two weeks earlier). It opened on a Wednesday at a then-record 3,012 theaters. It scorched the tarmac with $74.9 million in just its first six days (including Tuesday night previews). $56.8 million of which was over the weekend with Twister in second place with $38 million in its third frame.
In 1997, The Lost World: Jurassic Park scored the biggest opening in history with $92.7 million and raising the theater count record again to 3,281 this time. The following year, another giant lizard, Godzilla, hoped to achieve similar success, even opening at yet another record of 3,310 theaters, but fell well short with $55.7 million. Last year, The Phantom Menace's second weekend was still the main event, and it took in an astonishing $66.9 million.