Weekend Box Office (May 1 - 3, 2015)
THIS WEEKEND It didn't match lofty industry expectations, however the super hero jumbo-pack sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron still did colossal business and generated the second biggest opening weekend of all-time with an estimated $187.7M. That was 10% below the record $207.4M of its predecessor The Avengers from this same weekend in 2012, but ahead of every other movie in history as it kicked off another busy summer movie season.
Because the first Avengers movie shattered the all-time record and was a well-loved film with great legs, the follow-up was expected to go even higher by some margin. Instead, it joined other recent action franchises that saw part two's open below or just barely above part one's such as Star Trek, The Hobbit, and The Hunger Games. Marvel has had a better track record with all Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor sequels opening significantly higher than their predecessors so Ultron was expected to edge out the first assembly flick from 2012. Still, no film opening north of $180M can ever be called a disappointment.
Factors in the weekend business were the many live sports distractions on Saturday which appealed to a big part of the Ultron audience. The Mayweather-Pacquiao match smashed boxing sales records, the NBA had a critical playoff Game 7, plus there was the Kentucky Derby and the NFL Draft going on. These were all scheduled well in advance so moviegoers interested in watching any of them had time to shift their multiplex habits to accommodate everything. But the new Avengers did suffer a sharp drop in box office on Saturday, more than what was expected. The key for Disney and Marvel will be to pick up that lost business on Sunday or future days.
Age of Ultron began its weekend with $27.6M in Thursday night pre-shows starting at 7pm which ranked sixth best all-time. It was well behind the $43.5M of 2011's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 which was the final film in the series and opened in July when all students were out of school. The full opening day of Friday (including pre-shows) was $84.5M which was second best of all-time trailing the $91.1M of the final Potter. It beat the $80.8M of the first Avengers by 5% but that film started later with midnight shows on Thursday night.
Saturday came crashing down by 32% to $57.2M. The first Avengers dropped 14% while the following year's Iron Man 3, again on the same first weekend of May, fell by 10%. Sports certainly had an impact especially in the Pacific time zone where the fight was on in primetime. Disney is projecting a slim 20% decline on Sunday to $46M making for a weekend estimate of $187.7M. Because of Saturday's distractions, the studio expects Sunday to have a softer fall.
But what if Sunday falls harder? Holdovers saw Saturday increases that were well below the jumps they would have seen so the impact was felt throughout the marketplace. Other films in the top five are all projecting Sunday declines of 35-50%. If Ultron were to dip by 30% on Sunday instead of 20%, it would shave another $6M off of the weekend estimate. 2012's Avengers - which had stronger reviews and audience scores - dipped only 18% on its first Sunday but was not looked at as a true sequel.
Robert Downey Jr. now owns the top three opening weekends of all-time with Avengers, Ultron, and Iron Man 3's $174.1M. Of course, Marvel and Disney have co-ownership of these three medals with Mr. Stark with two more Avengers films on the calendar for 2018 and 2019.
Ultron averaged a potent $43,886 per location this weekend from 4,276 theaters. 44% of the gross came from 3D screens which was down from the 52% of the 2012 pic but up from the 40% of last year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. IMAX accounted for $18M from 364 screens this weekend, or 10% of the total take. Many theaters had higher prices than three years ago including the AMC Lincoln Square in New York City which offered the IMAX 3D version for $22 per ticket - and yes, some of those shows were sold out. For this weekend, Ultron alone commanded a whopping 82% of all ticket sales in North America.
Studio data showed that Age of Ultron played to the usual super hero audience. Males were 59% of the crowd and 59% were over 25. Reviews were generally good, but critics were not rushing to pile on the praise as they did with the last film. Paying fans also liked the film as evidenced by the solid A CinemaScore grade. It was a notch below the rare A+ that the first Avengers earned, but equal to all three Iron Man pics. Though adding some new characters, Ultron essentially gave fans the same concept of putting several mighty super heroes under one roof. It was a novelty the first time around, not as exciting or special the second time.
The road ahead may be promising, globally speaking. Sequels are typically front-loaded, but Ultron is getting respectable buzz and there is nothing substantial on its second weekend to challenge it. But if the tentpole follows the same path as Iron Man 3, it would reach a domestic final in the neighborhood of $440M which would be 29% below the $623.4M of The Avengers.
Overseas markets have been red hot for Age of Ultron. With Mexico and Spain opening and Friday's May Day injecting holiday business into many markets, the weekend delivered a stellar $168M from 88 territories pushing the international cume to $439M for a global gross of a stunning $626.7M.
Mexico scored the biggest opening weekend of all-time with a fantastic $25.5M while Korea leads all overseas markets with a cume of $55.4M after its second weekend. Part of the film is set there. China opens on May 12 and has the potential to gross north of $300M all by itself. Japan launches on July 4.
That gives Ultron the potential to score an international box office haul that easily beats the $895M of the first Avengers and break the $1 billion mark. Worldwide, the new super hero spectacular may still be on a trajectory to cross the $1.5 billion box office milestone becoming one of the top five largest global blockbusters of all-time.
Marvel routinely stakes out the first weekend of May for its many properties. The comic studio already has claimed the summer kickoff frame for the next few years with Captain America: Civil War in 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in 2017, and Avengers: Infinity War parts 1 and 2 on the following years, all through Disney. But hey, May 1 in 2020 is wide open.
No other film came anywhere close to Ultron's levels this weekend. In fact, nothing else managed to break $7M over three days. Rising one position from third to second place was the romance The Age of Adaline with an estimated $6.3M in its sophomore frame. Lionsgate positioned the Blake Lively drama in the marketplace to serve as counter-programming for adult women and it managed to win the silver medal sandwiched in between two testosterone action sequel tentpoles. Off 53%, Adaline has grossed $23.4M to date and could be headed for the $35M range.
Following its four-week run at the top, Furious 7 dropped down to third place this weekend with an estimated $6.1M, down a steep 66% thanks to direct competition from another action sequel tentpole. Universal is still amassing huge numbers around the world with North America rising to $330.5M (number 34 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters) and the international haul climbing to an incredible $1.1 billion.
Furious 7 has grossed a staggering $1.43 billion globally led by China's $381.8M where breaking the $400M mark is a possibility since it still has more than a week before Ultron arrives. Friday's May Day holiday in much of the world helped drive the international weekend estimate to $52.8M from 67 territories. In 23 months, Universal will unleash the eighth Fast & Furious film with the franchise grossing a stunning $3.8 billion globally to date.
Kevin James stumbled with his comedy sequel Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 which fell a hefty 62% in its third weekend to an estimated $5.6M. The $30M Sony production has banked a solid $51.2M though and may see a final domestic gross that doubles its budget.
The animated hit Home also got shoved to the side by Earth's mightiest heroes. Fox's toon release tumbled 59% to an estimated $3.3M putting the new total at $158.1M.
Thanks to revenue from being coupled with Ultron at drive-in double features, Disney's other major release Cinderella saw its weekend gross slip only 15% from the last frame to an estimated $2.4M. All other films in wide release fell by at least 50%. That puts the princess at $193.7M domestic and $494.3M worldwide.
The sci-fi drama Ex Machina fell 58% to an estimated $2.2M putting the new cume for A24 at $10.9M. Micro-budget horror hit Unfriended grossed an estimated $2M, down a steep 68%, for a sum of $28.5M for Universal.
Fox's The Longest Ride dropped 60% to an estimated $1.7M and has collected $33.2M to date. The Helen Mirren film Woman in Gold took in an estimated $1.7M, down 50%, giving The Weinstein Co. $24.6M.
Opening in limited release was Fox Searchlight's period drama Far From The Madding Crowd with an estimated $172,000 from ten locations for a moderate $17,200 average. The Carey Mulligan starrer generated good reviews but has no easy road ahead. Alchemy platformed the Kristen Wiig comedy Welcome to Me in two sites and collected an estimated $38,000 for a solid $19,000 average.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $218.8M which was up a healthy 55% from last year when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opened at number one with $91.6M; and up 5% from 2013 when Iron Man 3 debuted in the top spot with $174.1M.
Compared to projections, Avengers: Age of Ultron opened below my $214M forecast.
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For a NEW review of Avengers: Age of Ultron visit The Chief Report.
Watch the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Be sure to check back on Monday for final figures and again on
Thursday for a complete summary, including
projections, for next weekend when Hot Pursuit
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: May 3, 2015 at 2:55PM ET
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