5/6 Update: In its midnight opening, Thor packed $3.25 million at 1,800 locations. That was solid albeit less potent than Fast Five's $3.8 million midnight start at 1,132 locations. More direct midnight comparisons would be Iron Man 2 ($7.5 million at 2,700 locations) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($5 million at 2,000 locations).
5/5 Forecast: This weekend, Thor officially starts the summer movie season, even if Fast Five may have stolen its thunder with its blistering $86.2 million launch last weekend. Never before has an end-of-April release had a blockbuster start, so it will be interesting to see what effect it has, if any, on early May. If Fast Five is subjectively the first movie of the summer in the eyes of audiences (as its ads declared), then that would relegate Thor to the unenviable second fiddle position, which may be an issue considering that both are brawny action movies.
Thor marks the fourth Marvel Comics adaptation leading up to the brand's ensemble event The Avengers (2012), which will kick-off the Summer 2012 movie season. Thor's preceded by Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, and Captain America: The First Avenger follows on July 22. The first Iron Man showed that superheroes don't necessarily have to be Batman, Spider-Man, Superman or X-Men to draw massive crowds. It started Summer 2008 with a mighty $98.6 million, while The Incredible Hulk, saddled with the baggage of its unloved 2003 predecessor, drew $55.4 million in its opening later that season.
While Iron Man may not have been an A-list superhero, the movie was sold essentially as a happy Batman with cool robot action and Robert Downey, Jr.'s entertaining lead character. Though the sci-fi quotient was high, it was still grounded in the real world. Unlike nearly all successful superhero movies, Thor brings in the element of the supernatural. The main character is a god, which may make him less relatable than a human might have been. The moviemakers seemed to have recognized this limitation and tried to mitigate it by sapping Thor of his powers as part of the premise. Still, this aspect should hold Thor back from breaking out like Iron Man.
Thor's marketing has been relentless, as it would be for any would-be summer blockbuster, but some ads have been a blur of action and effects that make the movie look nondescript (its Super Bowl ad didn't stand out in Box Office Mojo's polling) and the poster's red close-up of Thor didn't help. Marketers seemed to have intentionally echoed Iron Man with shots of a giant robot blasting things. Thor, though, will mark the first summer kick-off to be presented in 3D.
If Thor can blast past the opening attendance numbers of The Incredible Hulk and previous non-sequel summer kick-offs like Van Helsing and The Mummy, that would be impressive. Other comparable titles may be Clash of the Titans (2010) ($61.2 million), Troy and Gladiator (the latter two would be in the $50-60 million range, adjusted for ticket price inflation). It would be unrealistic to expect Thor to match X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($85.1 million).
To counter Thor, also opening nationwide are female-skewing comedies Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom. Each one has a wedding theme (as does Bridesmaids next weekend), which has proven to be a popular subject matter in the past. However, the history of similar early May releases is not inspiring and includes disappointments like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Just Wright. Jumping the Broom might have an edge over Something Borrowed with its culture clash/meet-the-parents angle, but neither has made a strong impression thus far. Something Borrowed has relied heavily on the appeal of its cast (Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, John Krasinski), but its premise of a young woman in love with her best friend's fiance may not be sympathetic and may seem better-suited as a storyline in one of those ensemble movies like He's Just Not That Into You or Valentine's Day.
Thor will show at 3,955 locations, which includes the broadest 3D release yet (2,737 locations) and 214 IMAX venues, while Something Borrowed grabs 2,904 locations and Jumping the Broom nabs 2,035 locations.
In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" polling, Thor has logged nearly 54 percent for "opening weekend," which was greater than Clash of the Titans (2010) (50 percent) and The Incredible Hulk (46 percent) at the same point. Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom had distressingly low scores by genre standards, scoring just 2.1 percent and 1.8 percent for "opening weekend," respectively. Based on these and other pre-weekend indicators and historical antecedents, here's how the weekend might play out:
The Forecast, May 6-8 1. Thor - $65 million 2. Fast Five - $38 million 3. Rio - $9.5 million 4. Jumping the Broom - $9 million 5. Something Borrowed - $8.5 million
Bar for Success As a summer kick-off, the pressure's on for Thor, but anything over $60 million should cast it in a positive light. Something Borrowed needs to get the the mid teen millions at least, just to say it's in Made of Honor's league, while Jumping the Broom could get a pass with around $10 million.