Forecast: 'X-Men' Targets $100 Million Memorial Day Debut

by Ray Subers
X-Men: Days of Future Past

May 22, 2014

Friday AM Update: Playing at 2,900 locations, X-Men: Days of Future Past opened to $8.1 million from late Thursday shows. That's lower than recent superhero movies Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($10.2 million) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($8.7 million).

Still, it's twice as much as The Wolverine earned from similar 10 p.m. shows last Summer. For the four-day weekend, X-Men is still likely to wind up over $100 million.

Forecast: Uniting the casts from the original series and the First Class reboot, X-Men: Days of Future Past is poised for one of the biggest openings of the year this weekend. Meanwhile, Adam Sandler comedy Blended targets family audiences over the long Memorial Day weekend.

In some ways, the X-Men franchise kicked off the modern era of superhero blockbusters. The original movie arrived in Summer 2000, nearly two years before Sam Raimi's Spider-Man hit theaters, and spawned two very successful sequels. From there, the franchise splintered off in a few directions: a 2009 prequel focused on Wolverine's origins, while 2011's X-Men: First Class attempted to reboot the franchise with a new cast.

The two most recent entries—First Class and last Summer's The Wolverine—are also the lowest-grossing outings with $146.4 million and $132.6 million, respectively. In a time when comic book movies are a dime-a-dozen, the X-Men brand alone isn't enough to get people to theaters.

To counteract that trend, Fox is pulling out all of the stops with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Its story is loosely based on a popular run of "The Uncanny X-Men" comics that involves time travel, and it utilizes this device as a way to include both the original and reboot casts in a single movie. Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is the one sent back in time, which makes sense given the popularity of the character. The "Days of Future Past" storyline also allows the series to finally incorporate the Sentinels, which are among the X-Men's biggest adversaries.

Befitting a movie of this size and ambition, X-Men: Days of Future Past has been marketed very aggressively over the past few weeks. Advertisements establish the stakes and make clear that both the old and new casts are involved ("The world's greatest threat will face the world's most powerful team"). They also feature plenty of big-budget spectacle, including impressive imagery of Magneto levitating a baseball stadium. Some recent ads have begun utilizing critical praise, including one quote suggesting it's "the best superhero movie ever." While that may be hyperbole, the movie is receiving strong reviews: as of Thursday afternoon, it had a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It's also worth noting that Days of Future Past has one of the biggest publicity campaigns in recent memory. The cast attended premieres all over the world, then returned to the U.S. in the past week for a final push across all kinds of major platforms. This includes a handful of appearances from Jennifer Lawrence, who has seen her star rise substantially in recent years due to her role in The Hunger Games franchise and her Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook.

All of this should add up to a blockbuster debut this weekend. Fox is modestly predicting $95 to $100 million for the four-day holiday, which would be noticeably lower than 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand ($122.9 million).

While that movie was the culmination of a trilogy and faced little competition, Days of Future Past is a sort-of hybrid that arrives on the heels of two other superhero movies and a surprisingly-strong Godzilla. Still, with eight years of ticket price inflation and the addition of 3D premiums, Days of Future Past could wind up close to The Last Stand this weekend.

The movie is also opening day-and-date in nearly 100 countries. That includes all major markets except for Japan (May 30th) and Spain (June 6). The franchise hasn't been particularly strong overseas—the biggest entry was last year's The Wolverine with $282 million—though that will likely change this time around. An opening weekend north of $100 million seems likely.

Opening at 3,555 locations, Blended reunites Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who previously appeared together in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. While Barrymore has worked on-and-off in the years since, Sandler has starred in nine $100 million movies since 2005.

There is reason to believe Sandler's popularity is fading a bit, though. Jack and Jill and That's My Boy both underperformed, and Grown Ups 2 earned noticeably less than its predecessor. It doesn't help that Blended's premise is particularly weak: does anyone really care to see Sandler and company on vacation in Africa?

Still, Blended will get a boost from the Sandler/Barrymore pairing. Also, while it is rated PG-13, the physical comedy and "kids say the darndest things" type of humor make this an attractive option for family audiences that haven't had much come their way in May. Ultimately, it could wind up close to $30 million for the four-day weekend.

Forecast (May 23-25)

1. X-Men - $98 million ($119 million four-day)
2. Godzilla - $38.2 million (-59%)
3. Blended - $23 million ($29 million four-day)
4. Neighbors - $15.3 million (-39%)
5. Spider-Man - $9.2 million (-45%)

Bar for Success

When the X-Men franchise was in its prime, it had three-straight entries open north of $85 million. With the combination of both casts and the addition of 3D ticket pricing, Days of Future Past ought to be opening at least that high over the three-day weekend. Recognizing that Adam Sandler's popularity has probably faded a bit, anything over $25 million is a fine start for Blended.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

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