News

'X-Men' Marvels with Memorial Record

by Brandon Gray
Hugh Jackman in X-Men: The Last Stand
May 30, 2006

Mutants cured the box office blahs as X-Men: The Last Stand evolved into a Memorial Day weekend juggernaut.

Storming over 8,700 screens at 3,690 locations, X-Men: The Last Stand exploded with $122.9 million over the four-day holiday weekend, clawing past the previous Memorial opening benchmark, The Lost World: Jurassic Park's $90.2 million from 1997.

Twentieth Century Fox's third entry in the Marvel Comics franchise drew a colossal $102.8 million from Friday to Sunday, ranking as the fourth highest-grossing weekend ever. Its $45.1 million opening day, which included $5.9 million from midnight screenings, marked the second-biggest single day, behind Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith's $50 million.

The previous mutant mash, X2: X-Men United, drew $85.6 million out of the gate at 3,741 venues on course to $214.9 million, while the first X-Men kicked off with $54.5 million at 3,025 sites on its way to $157.3 million. Both beastly debuts were on non-holiday frames and carried production budgets significantly lower than X-Men: The Last Stand's reported $165 million to $200 million plus.

"It would have been spectacular to equal X2's three-day over the four days with all the competition from The Da Vinci Code, Over the Hedge, etc." said Bruce Snyder, Fox's president of distribution. "I did not expect to exceed X2, which opened all by itself at the beginning of May. It's beyond core fans when you get this high."

According to Snyder, Fox's exit polling indicated an audience split evenly across the four quadrants, an industry term referring to the four demographic categories of males under 25 years old, males over 25, females under 25 and females over 25. Though X-Men: The Last Stand played at 51 fewer theaters than X2, Snyder said it was on 1,500 more screens.

X-Men: The Last Stand's weekend progression suggested an urgency among moviegoers—business declined 29 percent on Saturday—and the Memorial holiday, when Sunday behaves like a second Saturday, always inflates grosses, leading to precipitous drops the following weekend. The first two X-Men movies were far from paradigms of theatrical longevity, grossing 35 percent and 40 percent, respectively, of their final grosses in their first weekends.

Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand
While most franchises stumble by their third outings, including the current Mission: Impossible III, X-Men: The Last Stand benefited from the good will generated by the well-liked first two movies, and it built on their momentum with a timely release and continuation of the saga. It was also the first movie of the season to have an epic scope, at least on the surface, capitalizing on audience's desire for a summer event.

Mostly from X-Men alone out-gunning last Memorial weekend's debuts of Madagascar and The Longest Yard combined, overall business from Friday to Sunday was up four percent from the same three-day frame last year. Tallying $188.4 million, the weekend's top 12 as a whole was the highest grossing ever, inching past the previous best, Memorial weekend 2004's Shrek 2-led $185.6 million.

In its second weekend, The Da Vinci Code dove 56 percent, the steepest fall of star Tom Hanks' career following his biggest opening, which was boosted by millions of eager readers of the blockbuster novel. For the four-day weekend, the theological thriller claimed $42.4 million, raising its total to $144.9 million in 11 days.

Following a similar pattern as fellow DreamWorks title, Shrek 2, but at one third scale, Over the Edge grabbed $35.3 million over the long weekend. Down 30 percent from Friday to Sunday, the computer-animated comedy has gathered $84.4 million in 11 days.

Playing at four theaters, An Inconvenient Truth averaged a promising $70,332 per site over the three-day weekend, the highest of the year and for a documentary. Former Vice President Al Gore's environmentalist tract has grossed $490,860 in five days, and distributor Paramount Classics plans to expand it throughout June, reaching its widest point over the Independence Day holiday.

RELATED ARTICLES
• Review - X-Men: The Last Stand
• 5/31/05 - 'Star Wars' Edges Out 'Madagascar' and 'Longest Yard'
• 5/5/03 - 'X2' Evolves Past Predecessor
• 5/1/03 - 'X2' Unites Theaters in Record Bow

RELATED CHARTS
Memorial Day-by-Day Comparison, 1989-Present
All Time Opening Weekends
Top Memorial Day Weekends
Superhero Movies
3-day Weekend Box Office Results
4-day Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally written on Monday, May 29 and was revised on Tuesday, May 30 with actual grosses.



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