Prior to opening, allegedly soft tracking in industry polling led Paramount and others to project Super 8's weekend at $25-30 million. However, even if Super 8 beat last-minute expectations, that doesn't necessarily make it a success. The most important expectations for any movie are the ones that are set when a movie is greenlighted as well as the ones that guide a marketing campaign. A Spielberg-produced movie aiming to emulate his blockbusters of yore has high expectations attached to it, especially with the super-hyped Abrams at the helm. Super 8's marketing was conducted as if the movie were an intended blockbuster: the campaign was massive, ranging from a Super Bowl spot through a raft of television ads as well as promotions on American Idol and the MTV Movie Awards. $35.5 million is not a blockbuster opening for this type of movie in this day and age. Super 8's attendance wasn't even much higher than E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial's on the same weekend back in 1982, and Super 8 had over three times the locations.
To counter the lack of opening kick, Super 8 is being cast as a crowd-pleaser with long playability. Paramount noted that the movie's B+ CinemaScore was the same as True Grit and Bridesmaids, trying to send the message that Super 8 should have staying power, even though those movies weren't apples-to-apples comparisons in terms of genre (or release date). In general, a "B+" from CinemaScore's opening night moviegoer polling is nothing special. On Sunday morning, Paramount amended its comparisons to include District 9, which earned a B. For perspective, last year, The Karate Kid boasted an A CinemaScore, yet that movie was hardly a paragon of longevity. If Super 8 holds as well as Karate Kid or District 9, it would wrap up its run with $110-115 million.
The bottom line is that Super 8 had a decent sampling this weekend, but it will have to hold strongly to earn kudos. The mysterious marketing backed the movie into this corner: people were led on too long and there was too little revealed in the final stretch (and what was shown seemed pedestrian). Intrigue is fine early on, but cards need to be on the table at crunchtime. With Cloverfield, E.T. and others, people might not have known what the creatures looked like, but they knew what those movies were about and basically what the creatures were before purchasing tickets. Plus, hiding the creature doesn't mean that the story and characters have to be hidden too. Or perhaps the story and characters just weren't compelling enough to draw a crowd.
In second place, X-Men: First Class pulled in $24.1 million, retreating 56 percent. That was the second-smallest percentage drop yet for an X-Men, behind X2: X-Men United (53 percent) and ahead of the first X-Men (57 percent). It was also a marked improvement over X-Men Origins: Wolverine (69 percent) and X-Men: The Last Stand (67 percent). Still, First Class's $98 million ten-day tally trailed all of its predecessors, and the disparity's only exacerbated in terms of estimated attendance.
The Hangover Part II crossed the $200 million mark in just 16 days and stabilized after crashing last weekend. The comedy sequel made $17.7 million, down 44 percent. It's losing steam at a much faster rate than The Hangover and has been trailing its predecessor by a wide margin on a daily basis since last Sunday. With $215.7 million in the till, Hangover II surpassed Fast Five to become the top-grossing movie of 2011 so far.
Kung Fu Panda 2 bounced back somewhat with its 31 percent slip, which was a better hold than Kung Fu Panda, Shrek Forever After and Madagascar at the same point. The animated sequel grabbed $16.5 million, slotting fourth, but its $126.8 million 18-day haul still lagged behind those comparable movies.
Bridesmaids had its smallest weekend drop yet and, again, the best hold among nationwide releases. It eased just 16 percent to $10.1 million, lifting its tally to a sensational $123.8 million in 31 days and exceeding the final gross of Superbad.
Newcomer Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer landed in seventh with a soft $6.1 million at 2,524 locations, which was less than Ramona and Beezus's $7.8 million last summer. Distributor Relativity Media's research showed that the audience was mostly comprised of children under 12 years old (52 percent) and their parents (36 percent) and that it was predominantly female (78 percent).
Meanwhile, Midnight in Paris expanded nationwide, ranking eighth. The Woody Allen movie made an okay $5.8 million at 944 locations, bringing its tally to $14.2 million in 24 days. That was Allen's highest-grossing single weekend ever.