Weekend Box Office – SUPER 8 Defies Expectations with $37 Million Debut

     June 12, 2011

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After months of buildup, Super 8 took top honors this weekend with an estimated $37 million from 3,379 locations.  That figure is significantly higher than the film had been tracking just five days ago.  Is it higher than the studio was hoping for five months ago?  Not exactly.

Title Weekend Total
1 Super 8 $37,000,000 $38
2 X-Men: First Class $25,000,000 $98.8
3 The Hangover Part II $18,500,000 $216.5
4 Kung Fu Panda 2 $16,635,000 $126.9
5 Pirates of the Caribbean 4 $10,845,000 $208.7
6 Bridesmaids $10,154,000 $123.9
7 Judy Moody $6,267,000 $6.2
8 Midnight in Paris $6,146,000 $14.2
9 Thor $2,370,000 $173.6
10 Fast Five $1,714,000 $205

Paramount is breathing easier this morning, as its last minute rush to make sure Super 8 didn’t crash looks like it paid off.  The film’s debut is in the same range as the $37.3 million District 9 earned back in August of 2009.  Of course, District 9 didn’t have a Super Bowl ad.  Or a well-known director.  Or a cushy release date nearly all to itself…

We are still in summer’s early weeks.  We have not travelled back to March when Sony’s Battle: Los Angeles looked like a big hit with its $35.5 million opening.  In fact, until very recently, Super 8 was expected to open in the $45 million range.  That’s about what Cloverfield made over its four-day holiday debut in 2008… in January.  Considering its pedigree Super 8 could have been bigger.  But maybe I feel that way because I was among the small percentage of folks who believed that the film would be bigger.  It hurts to be wrong.

A few months back Super 8 looked like just what its marketing claimed it would be: the must-see mystery movie of the summer.  Director JJ Abrams played the hush-hush angle that had worked so well for Inception throughout the film’s long, targeted promotional campaign.  Until a funny thing happened.  Tracking indicated that few people cared what kind of secret Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg had cooked up.  Tracking figures were bleak and, for awhile, it looked like Super 8 might derail in the $25 million range.  To jump start word of mouth, the studio leaked images from the film and arranged sneak-peaks in key markets as early as Wednesday night.  That and the film’s positive critical reception seemed to turn the tide – Saturday’s estimate was up almost 15% over Friday which is how $37 million ends up looking like a big win.

That estimate is also promising if Paramount’s reported budget of $50 million is accurate.  This is not a franchise film with huge expectations behind it, like last weekend’s X-Men: First Class ($55.1 million), or a remake with a built-in fanbase, like last year’s Karate Kid ($55.6 million).  Of course, it’s not exactly a little arthouse flick either.  Considering its genre, its rating and its provenance, Super 8 could have been a sci-fi event straight out of the Spielberg playbook.  Instead it will settle for crushing the $30.5 million that The Happening brought in on this same weekend three years ago.  It hurt me just to type that.

x-men-first-class-movie-image-michael-fassbender-james-mcavoy-02X-Men: First Class placed second with an estimate of $25 million.  That puts the film’s domestic total just shy of the $100 million mark after 10 days with a global cume of $173.4 million.  That’s better than things were looking one week ago but still significantly below any previous X-pic.  On the positive side, the film’s 54% sophomore weekend drop is more promising than the 69% decline of X-Men Origins: Wolverine or the 67% of X-Men: The Last Stand.

The Hangover Part II broke the $200 million mark on Friday and, one day later, the comedy became the official top-grossing film of 2011.  After seventeen days the sequel has brought in a giant $368 million worldwide – again, not quite as impressive as its predecessor at the same point but you can’t get hit by lightning in a bottle twice, or whatever.

In other news, Bridesmaids managed its best hold yet on its fifth weekend, falling just 15% and bringing its domestic total up to nearly $124 million.  Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris expanded into 944 locations and earned an estimated theatre average of $6,510 per.  That was more than double that of Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, the only new release of the weekend after Super 8.  Based on a popular book series, the family film opened with an estimate of $6.2 million which was slightly higher than it’s projections.

Next weekend a smallish, unobtrusive release with limited appeal will hit theatres.  Just kidding.  We all know next weekend belongs to Green Lantern.  With Super 8 trailing last year’s number one The Karate Kid, this weekend fell slightly behind 2010’s earnings total.  We’ll see if Ryan Reynolds’ superhero can help get the box office back into the black… (thought I was going to go with green, didn’t you?)

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