Between The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2, this Memorial Day weekend should be a real scorcher, particularly compared to last year's Sex and the City 2/Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time debacle. With Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides also in the mix, this could very well be the highest-grossing Memorial weekend ever, topping 2007's $256 million haul (led by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End).
The Hangover Part II hits 3,615 locations, while Kung Fu Panda 2 lands 3,925 locations (including 3D presentations at 2,707 locations). Hangover II improves upon its predecessor's 3,269 count, while Panda 2 retreats from the last movie's 4,114 count. Both Hangover II and Panda 2 are sequels to movies that opened the first weekend of June, in 2009 and 2008 respectively, and both moved a week forward.
The first Hangover grossed a genre-busting $277.3 million, but comedy sequels rarely live up to their predecessors, particularly when they repeat the same premise in an artificial way. Sure, some comedy sequels have swelled (Austin Powers 2, American Pie 2), but their predecessors didn't reach the saturation level of the first Hangover. On the surface, Part II looks like it went the Sex and the City 2 route, and it's offering the same set-up but different location (Bangkok instead of the more relatable Las Vegas). In the trailer, the characters literally say "It happened again?"
The first Hangover, though, was driven by its mystery storyline, and the sequel continues this angle, which may make Hangover a different beast than other comedy franchises. The Hangover Part II's marketing campaign has been strutting with a confident air and with good cause: people just want to go on another debauched adventure with the Wolf Pack, even if it's redundant or contrived. That's because the first movie brings an enormous amount of audience good will, though Due Date may have squandered some of that capital with its Hangover 2-like marketing.
Like The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2 is banking on audience good will from its predecessor. DreamWorks Animation went all out with the first Kung Fu Panda, creating a crowd-pleasing family movie that grossed a potent $215.4 million. Though DreamWorks stumbled a bit with Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Panda 2 has been positioned to follow in the footsteps of Ice Age: The Meltdown, Toy Story 2 and, of course, Shrek 2. Given Panda's action-adventure orientation, a sequel's a natural or at least easily justifiable progression.
While Kung Fu Panda 2 should be strutting like The Hangover Part II, its advertising has been a major concern. For a property with such blockbuster potential, Panda 2's marketing has been meek, especially early on. It effectively took a "we're back!" angle as opposed to upping the ante. (Last May, Iron Man 2 suffered from this as well and ended up grossing less than its predecessor, when it should have soared, though the movie itself was problematic.) Worse still, two different messages were sent regarding the plot: the trailer introduced a new villain threatening kung fu, while television ads were about the titular panda searching out his birth origin. DreamWorks Animation, though, usually takes a ubiquitous shotgun approach to its marketing, and they've focused and made Panda 2 more exciting as the release date approached.
In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling, The Hangover Part II has racked up the highest opening weekend score for a comedy at over 41 percent. The first Hangover nabbed 24 percent at the same point. Kung Fu Panda 2 improved upon its predecessor as well, logging just under 32 percent for "opening weekend" compared to the first Panda's 23 percent. Panda 2's no animation high, but its result is bigger than Shrek Forever After, Tangled and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (which ranged from 21 to 24 percent) among other titles. Based on these and other pre-weekend indicators and historical antecedents, here's how the weekend might play out:
The Forecast, May 27-30 (4-day Memorial Weekend)
1. The Hangover Part II - $88 million
2. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $85 million
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $47 million
4. Bridesmaids - $17 million
5. Thor - $10 million
Bar for Success
The pressure's on for Kung Fu Panda 2. It needs around $90 million in its five-day launch to ensure it out-grosses its predecessor, because that's the new norm for animated sequels in its position, especially with the supposed 3D boost. The Hangover Part II can take it easier, because it's normal for comedy sequels to make less than their predecessors. Still, it needs to demonstrate solid retention, and, to do that, it needs $100 million in five days.
• Extended Summer Forecast: 'Harry Potter,' 'Transformers' & More Vie for Top Gross
• 'The Hangover Part II'
• 'Kung Fu Panda 2'