So far, 2013 has been a little light on winning weekends – even the phenomenal success of Iron Man 3 represented a decline from 2012 when The Avengers reigned. But the ridiculous bounty of big-time releases this holiday weekend has delivered a win over last year’s frame and set a new record for the biggest Memorial Day box office of all time.
|1.||Fast & Furious 6||$98,528,000||$98.5|
|2.||The Hangover III||$42,400,000||$54.2|
|3.||Star Trek Into Darkness||$38,000,000||$146.8|
|5.||Iron Man 3||$19,424,000||$367.5|
|6.||The Great Gatsby 3D||$13,705,000||$114.4|
Before we delve into the minutiae of this weekend’s big releases (and there is a lot to cover), let’s take a moment to talk about the Memorial Day box office. There’s a reason that both Universal and Warner Brothers chose to schedule their high-profile sequels on this weekend (a move that was widely questioned in the box office press): traditionally, it is the highest-grossing holiday of the entire year. Three of the top five all-time Memorial Day titles earned over $100 million in their first three days, but because the holiday covers a four-day period, studios get to pad their weekend numbers a bit.
The all-time Memorial Day champ is still 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, which earned $114.7 million in three days and $139.8 million after four. If today’s projection for Fast & Furious 6 ($122 million through Monday) proves accurate, the sequel will rank fourth on the list of all-time Memorial Day earners, surpassing (appropriately enough) The Hangover Part II. The debut of that comedy sequel helped 2011 become the highest grossing Memorial Day weekend of all time with $223 million. With holdovers like Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 still very much in play, however, this year’s total easily topped that and gave 2013 the new Memorial Day box office record.
That Fast & Furious 6 now ranks in the top five Memorial Day openings of all time is only a fraction of the good news for the sequel. The latest F & F feature also boasts the highest opening in the 12-year history of the franchise. The series’ previous best was the $86.1 million Fast Five earned in 2011 – an impressive opening for two reasons. First, the film put up summer-sized numbers in April and, second, it pumped new life into a franchise many believed was on the decline. The unheralded success of Fast Five explains why Universal did not abandon their spot on the holiday schedule after Warner Brothers chose the same date to open The Hangover Part III. Although both films target the same demographic, the studio bet that audiences would favor F & F over H3. They bet right.
On the losing end of that same bet was The Hangover Part III. The three-quel’s weekend estimate of $42.4 million from 3,555 locations represents a 51% decline from The Hangover Part II on this weekend two years ago. At the time, H2 set a record for a live-action comedy opening and placed second on the list of R-rated debuts of any genre. Of course, we all know that success at the box office does not automatically indicate audience approval (Crystal Skull, anyone?). In the end, lingering resentment over The Hangover Part II probably dampened turnout for the follow-up enough that the studio would have been better off abandoning the prestigious, but far more competitive, Memorial Day weekend.
The major disappointment of The Hangover III had the benefit of putting last weekend’s Star Trek Into Darkness debut into perspective. Deemed a disappointment because it failed to top its 2009 predecessor’s weekend opening, Star Trek 2 saved some face in its sophomore frame by holding on to 55% of its opening gross. After ten days, Into Darkness has earned $146.8 million – nearly equal to the $147.6 million of its predecessor at the same point. It is still unlikely that the sequel will outperform the $257 million final tally of JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek feature but, with a much larger international gross expected, there is little chance that the label ‘disappointment’ will continue to apply.
Though the showdown between Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III was always destined to grab the headlines, 2013’s Memorial Day box office got a big boost towards its holiday record from Epic. The animated adventure from Fox and Blue Sky (the studio behind the Ice Age franchise) opened Friday and earned an estimated $34.2 million from 3,882 locations for it first three days. That doesn’t match the $43.6 million The Croods put up in March but, on this sequel-heavy holiday, the all-original Epic managed a very solid start.
Lost in the wake of this weekend’s big-sequel headlines were a few more stories of note – including the incredible hold of Mud (despite shedding 248 locations) and an update on Iron Man 3 (which extended its worldwide tally to more than $1.1 billion). Next weekend should prove a bit more peaceful, with Will Smith in After Earth providing the only real point of interest.