Globe Warms to 'Day After Tomorrow'

by Brandon Gray
May 31, 2004

HOLLYWOOD (Box Office Mojo)—Audiences around the world stormed theaters showing The Day After Tomorrow over the weekend.

Playing domestically and in 102 countries overseas, the $125 million disaster picture raked in an estimated $155 million through Sunday. Distributor 20th Century Fox noted that was the top non-sequel worldwide bow ever, and the movie has yet to debut in major markets Japan and South Korea. The overall worldwide opening record still belongs to The Return of the King, which earned $250.1 million in its first five days domestically and in 28 territories.

Overseas alone accounted for an estimated $85 million. Breaking the regions down, Day pulled in $53.9 million from Europe, $19.2 million from Asia and $11.9 million from Latin America.

Domestically, director Roland Emmerich's eco-epic took in an estimated $70 million at 3,425 theaters for its three-day Memorial frame, delivering the biggest opening ever for a disaster picture—eclipsing Emmerich's own Independence Day's $50.2 million.

Despite the scorching box office, Day nonetheless landed at No. 2, behind Shrek 2's estimated $72.2 million second weekend. Prior to the ornery ogre's return, no one had forecasted such an order or result for the Memorial frame, but the marketplace grew to accommodate both pictures and posted the highest grossing top 12 ever: $186.2 million. Indeed, Day also holds the peculiar record for biggest non-No. 1 debut ever, nearly doubling former title holder Lilo and Stitch's $35.3 million.

For the four-day holiday weekend, Fox is estimating $86 million, which, if it holds, is nearly identical to last year's Memorial opener Bruce Almighty's $85.7 million. Though a comedy, that Jim Carrey picture also featured weather-related shenanigans. Bruce led its weekend to a then four-day Memorial top 12 record of $193.5 million, but Day's frame came in at $234 million—a 21% improvement.

"The marketplace expanded incredibly," Fox head of distribution Bruce Snyder told Box Office Mojo, citing "the quality of the two pictures." "About 40 million tickets were sold this weekend, and I think there's still room for more. I think it will expand again when Harry Potter opens next weekend. Day After Tomorrow and Shrek aren't just going to go away."

Snyder suggested that the reason for Day's success is that it's "good, popcorn, summer escapist fare." "It's a thrill ride and ends in a positive way," he said.

Day was buoyed by a massive marketing effort that even included a 10-minute preview amidst Fox TV's American Idol juggernaut. In addition to ubiquity, the ads were effective—like the exploding White House of Independence Day, Day's frozen Statue of Liberty is arguably the most concise and striking hook of the summer (although the "Watch Lady Liberty Get Wiped Out" line of some of its ads was of questionable taste albeit honest about the appeal).

Chatter in the media about Al Gore and his environmentalist cronies stumping for Day probably had little effect on business other than to help raise the profile—with such an immense opening the movie was clearly not seen as a political statement, but simply as mass entertainment (though some people's impression may have changed after viewing it). A four-year drought of event-style disaster pictures also enhanced audience interest.

According to studio exit polling, Day played across the board. On Friday, the audience was 52.5% under the age of 25 and 49.6% male. On Saturday, it skewed older with 58.5% over 25 and 50.9% male. At press time, Fox didn't have information available on moviegoers' reactions, but so far Box Office Mojo readers have graded it a C+, while Yahoo! Movies users have rated it a B.

Breaking the weekend down, Day amassed an estimated $24.0 million on Friday, inched up 0.8% on Saturday—the lowest increase on record for a Memorial opener—to an estimated $24.2 million and then eased 9.9% to an estimated $21.8 million on Sunday. Fox is projecting a 26.6% dip on Monday to $16.0 million.

Estimates will be revised with actual numbers on Tuesday afternoon.

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