As the only major studio release this weekend, it’s no shock to find The Wolverine in first place. With an estimated $55 million from 3,924 locations, the sixth entry in Fox’s X-Men franchise more than doubled the total of the second place The Conjuring but still managed to look a bit disappointing in the process.
|3.||Despicable Me 2||$16,000,000||$306.3|
|5.||Grown Ups 2||$11,500,000||$101.6|
So how does first place and $55 million read as a disappointment? When both expectations and tracking put The Wolverine much higher. Though summer 2013 was not light on action, it has been six weeks since Man of Steel soared to the top and five since World War Z debuted a surprise hit in second. Since then, the box office has hosted huge animated hits like Despicable Me 2 and huge live-action misses like The Lone Ranger. Even taking July’s over-packed schedule into account, most observers thought there was room enough for The Wolverine to claw his way past $60 million – especially with the weekend all to himself. So what happened?
The last time audiences saw Wolverine wield his claws was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The prequel to the blockbuster X-Men trilogy debuted with $85 million in May of 2009 which, at the time, ranked as the fifth best summer opening in history. The film went on to earn $373 million worldwide but was neither well loved by fans or well-reviewed by critics – proving, like Crystal Skull before it, that box office receipts do not always rise in proportion to cinematic quality.
Wolverine also made a brief appearance in X-Men: First Class, which opened with $55.1 million in June of 2011. Though that film went on to earn over $350 million at the worldwide box office, its domestic opening was lower (after adjusting for inflation) than any X-Men feature before it – a fact that was blamed on the absence of Wolverine in a major role at the time.
Although no one expected The Wolverine to equal the debut of Origins, few thought it would have trouble topping First Class. Most projections put The Wolverine between $60-$70 million this weekend, which would have ranked fourth on the list of X-Men openings behind 2006’s The Last Stand ($102.7 million), 2003’s X2: X-Men United ($85.5 million) and Origins. The original X-Men opened to $54.4 million in July of 2000 – a number that is surprisingly close to today’s Wolverine estimate… given that the latter had 3D prices and 13 years of inflation working in its favor.
The good news for The Wolverine is that it has improved over Origins in one important aspect. With a current Rotten Tomato rank of 67% and an A- from CinemaScore audiences, The Wolverine should hold better than its 2009 predecessor, which was down by almost 70% by its sophomore frame. And, of course, there’s the international market to consider. The Wolverine opened in most overseas market except China and Japan this week and, considering that First Class passed $200 million overseas without the benefit of 3D or Hugh Jackman, the film’s worldwide prospects still look promising.
Although The Wolverine was this weekend’s only major new release, it was not the only movie to make news. The Conjuring earned an estimated $22.1 million in its sophomore frame: a drop of just 47% from its first-place debut last weekend. That is an incredible hold for a horror movie – a genre that routinely sees its ‘hits’ fall by 60% or more by week two. Finally, after two weeks in very limited release, Fruitvale Station expanded to 1,064 locations this weekend and took in an estimated $4.65 million to crack the top ten.
With The Wolverine now behind us, summer 2013 has just a handful of big titles left on its schedule. Next Wednesday brings Smurfs 2, the sequel to 2011’s giant worldwide hit. The sequel is not generating as much excitement here in the US, unfortunately, so anything close to The Smurfs $35.6 million would come as a shock.