Bouncing back from its second-place finish on Friday, Thor: The Dark World was back on top this weekend. That victory may have felt a bit more thunderous, however, had it not been for The Best Man Holiday. Instead of opening with the respectable $18 million that was forecast, Holiday’s weekend estimate came closer to first place than most had imagined.
|1.||Thor: The Dark World||$38,454,000||$149.9|
|2.||The Best Man Holiday||$30,593,000||$30.6|
|8.||12 Years a Slave||$4,700,000||$24.9|
Late last month, this weekend’s box office release schedule became much less competitive. Paramount announced that it was delaying the opening of The Wolf of Wall Street until Christmas, leaving The Best Man Holiday as the only nationwide release left standing. Did the announcement cause box office watchers to rethink the odds for the R-rated ensemble? Not really. In fact, it looked like Thor 2 would be the big winner after Scorsese made the move to December. Instead, the Avengers alum saw no noticeable advantage from the diminished field of competition while The Best Man Holiday surged. Go figure.
Thor: The Dark World took in an estimated $38.4 million on its second weekend, a drop of 55% from its debut. In the wider world of Marvel superheroes, that hold is about average: the original Thor fell by 47% in its sophomore frame, while Iron Man 3 was down 58% earlier this year. Of course, IM3 came out of the gate with the second-highest domestic debut of all time where Thor was seen as a bit of an underperformer in 2011, so those holds should be weighed accordingly. While it’s true that, for the second week in a row, Thor 2 saw an impressive jump in Friday-to Saturday sales, it’s hard not to see the sequel’s failure to capitalize on this weekend’s wide-open field as an opportunity wasted.
For their part, Disney is anything but discouraged by The Dark World’s estimate. The film dominated the international market all week, taking in almost $480 million worldwide in total. The film’s Chinese debut beat out The Avengers’ launch and surpassed the total box office haul of Thor in that country. The sequel’s robust worldwide run (it has already overtaken the original’s global take of $449 million) helped break a studio record at Disney. Earlier this week, the studio announced that it had already topped $3.79 billion in global earnings this year, beating an internal record set in 2010. So really, no one at Disney or Marvel is sweating the fact that The Best Man Holiday came out stronger than expected.
The folks at Universal, on the other hand, have got to be feeling pretty satisfied with the Holiday opening. A casual glance at this weekend’s release schedule back in October left the dramedy looking like a mid-level counter-programmer, at best. The Best Man Holiday is a follow-up to The Best Man, a Universal release from 1999 that starred up and comers like Taye Diggs, Nia Long and Terrence Howard. The original film debuted to $9 million and realized a final domestic total of $34.1 million (or $54 million, adjusted for inflation). Because it was budgeted at just $9 million, The Best Man qualified as a financial hit; even so, a sequel would not have seemed feasible if the by-now big-name actors hadn’t returned for the production.
The Best Man Holiday ended up with an opening estimate of almost $31 million – nearly doubling the sequel’s $17 million reported budget. Making this morning’s estimate look even more impressive is the fact that Holiday was playing in just 2,024 locations – 1,817 fewer than Thor 2. In terms of per-theatre averages, The Best Man Holiday brought the hammer down on Thor, averaging $15,000 per venue compared to the Marvel god’s $10,000. And, unlike Thor, The Best Man Holiday should not be adversely effected by the arrival of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire next week, so Universal could find their under-the-radar sequel performing well for much of the holiday season.
Overall earnings equaled $127.3 million this weekend – down a giant 50% from the same time last year, when Breaking Dawn Part 2 began The Twilight Saga’s farewell run. This year, the prestigious pre-Thanksgiving release date belongs to Catching Fire, which will easily burn past Breaking Dawn 2’s $141 million opening. In fact, the original Hunger Games already burns brighter than the Twilight series in terms of opening weekends, having hit $152.5 million in March 2012. At this point, expectations for Catching Fire are between $165 and $170. Either amount would top The Dark Knight Rises and give the sequel the best opening of a non-3D feature in box office history. And everyone loves a record, right?