Attendance, as usual, was a different story: At around 125 million, May 2011 ranked towards the lower end of this century, surpassing only 2010, 2006, 2001 and 2000.
Though it wasn't the top grosser of the month, April holdover Fast Five made all of the difference. Opening April 29 in a bid to jumpstart the summer movie season, the action sequel drew $133.5 million from May 1-31, and, without that movie, it would have been the least-attended May of the century.
Other than Fast Five, May featured only two exceptional performers, the R-rated comedies The Hangover Part II and Bridesmaids. The rest of the movies failed to create much excitement: Thor was solid in its own right but soft for a summer kick-off, both Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Kung Fu Panda 2 fell far short of their predecessors, and the long-delayed Priest flopped.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was the top grosser of the month with $166.8 million, edging out Thor's $163.3 million. The Hangover Part II ranked third with $142.6 million in just six days of play, followed by Fast Five. Bridesmaids landed in fifth with $91.3 million, and Kung Fu Panda 2 was sixth with $70.1 million.
The 3D format had four at-bats in May: Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Kung Fu Panda 2 with record-level 2,700-plus 3D location counts apiece and Priest at around 2,000. Only Thor was relatively successful, boasting a 60 percent 3D share its first weekend (and 55 percent for the month overall). Priest also had a 60 percent 3D share of its opening, but it only made $27.9 million for the entire month. Alarms were set off, though, with the mid-40 percent 3D shares of On Stranger Tides and Panda 2, two movies that were expected to come in closer to 60 percent.
Total 2011 box office through May rang in at $3.9 billion, which trailed 2010 by nine percent and 2009 by five percent but was higher than any previous year through the same point. May's record gross improved 2011's standing versus 2010: at the end of April, 2011 was off 15 percent from 2010. On the attendance front, 2011's still a serious laggard. Estimated at just over 490 million, 2011 had the least-attended January-to-May period since 1996.
• April Sees Box Office Rebound
• May Calendar Grosses (Premier Pass)
• 2011 Grosses (2011-only releases)• Year-to-Date Comparison