Box Office Report: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM Damns TERMINATOR SALVATION

     May 24, 2009

head.jpgIt’s always a bad sign when studios start scaling back their financial expectations for a new film – especially on a Memorial Day weekend and most especially in regards to a highly anticipated action franchise release.  So why was Warner Brothers throwing the under-achieving figure of $50 million out for “Terminator Salvation”?  That would be $50 million for the whole four-day holiday weekend, by the way.  Didn’t “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” top that figure in two days last May?  True, Indy had the field all to himself while “Terminator” is up against the “Night at the Museum” sequel, but still!  I was thinking that this estimate was just false modesty, but it turns out, um, not so much…

Title Weekend Total Last
1 Night at the Museum II $53,500,000 $53,500,000 New
2 Terminator Salvation $43,010,000 $56,382,000 New
3 Star Trek $21,951,000 $183,585,000 #1
4 Angels & Demons $21,090,000 $81,200,000 #2
5 Dance Flick $11,113,000 $11,113,000 New
6 X-Men Origins: Wolverine $7,800,000 $163,053,737 #3
7 Ghosts of Girlfriends Past $3,720,000 $45,858,000 #4
8 Obsessed $2,000,000 $65,900,000 #5
9 Monsters vs. Aliens $1,345,000 $192,991,000 #7
10 17 Again $1,005,000 $60,314,000 #6

night_at_the_museum_2_battle_of_the_smithonian_movie_poster_.jpgAs we told you yesterday, “Terminator Salvation” saw a modest bump from Thursday ($13.4 million) to Friday ($14.9 million). That works out to a gain of about 10% – which works out to pretty bad.  Not quite as bad as seeing an almost 2% drop from Friday to Saturday, however.  Going back to “Crystal Skull” for a moment, last year’s Memorial Day champ managed to increase from $30.5 million to $36.5 million from its first Friday to Saturday.  Even with all of its built-in franchise frenzy, “Terminator Salvation” could only manage to bring in a paltry $14.75 on Saturday, which means that those $50 million projections were on the mark after all.  I’m not sure what this opening means for the franchise’s future.  I do know that Halcyon went to a lot of trouble to get the rights to “Terminator” so I’d be surprised if this weekend would be enough to discourage them from another bite at the trip 8 apple – perhaps they’ll aim for a PG rating next time?

With all this talk about “Terminator Salvation” I almost forgot to mention that it couldn’t even pull in a number one finish.  That honor (dubious though it may be) belongs to Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”.  The last time we saw Ben Stiller in his security guard togs it was Christmas 2006.  Back then the family-friendly film walked off with a $46 million opening weekend despite the fact that it was an unknown franchise commodity.  With name recognition going for it this time around – not to mention the fact that it is the first family film to hit since March’s “Monsters Vs. Aliens” – “Battle of the Smithsonian” should have had no trouble besting its predecessors total, right?  Again, not so much.  Fifty million was the projected take for “Battle of the Smithsonian” and $53.5 was all it could do.  That was enough to claim the top spot for the weekend, but it doesn’t even get it close to the top ten in terms of all-time Memorial Day openings.

This weekend matchup of “Terminator” versus “Night at the Museum” was billed as some sort of ‘families versus teen boys’ war for box-office supremacy.  Funny, because I saw both films and I’m a single gal…

Looking at the stats alone I’d have to say that, if this was a war, it was the boring ‘nobody wins’ kind.   Neither film was well-reviewed – though “Terminator” had it the worst on Rotten Tomatoes, coming in at only 34% fresh (3% less fresh than “Wolverine”!!) – and neither film managed to exceed their already fairly-low financial expectations.  In fact, the whole weekend looks like a draw from where I’m sitting.  The only way to declare a winner is in terms of theatre averages.

“Terminator” opened a day earlier than “Night at the Museum” but in almost 500 fewer locations – 3,530 to 4,096.  That said, by Sunday the per-screen average of “Terminator Salvation” had dropped from $4,178 to $3,761.  Sunday found “Night at the Museum” averaging $4,456 per-screen so there you have it – not much of a difference but just enough to crown an official winner in this Memorial Day war of the mediocre summer blockbusters…

Oh, crap!  I almost forgot that there was a third new release out there this weekend.  Paramount’s “Dance Flick” opened in 2,450 locations and pulled in a surprisingly robust $11 million.  I’m not gonna waste any time talking about this film – any effort spent promoting these cheapy-spoof movies just encourages the Wayans boys to make more of them.  You don’t want that, do you?  Didn’t think so.

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