Are $100 Million Opening Weekends Approaching the Age of Extinction?
Could we really be getting tired of whatever this is?
While I was away last weekend, the fourth “Transformers” movie, “Age of Extinction,” became the 27th movie, and the first this year, to gross more than $100 million during its opening weekend. Barely: $100,038,390, according to Box Office Mojo and Paramount Studios. That’s down from the $108.9 million “Transformers 2” grossed opening weekend 2009, but up slightly from the $97.8 million “Transformers 3” grossed during its opening weekend in 2011. Is that $2 million jump because of star Mark Wahlberg? Is it his GAR (Gross Above Replacement)?
Either way, it’s a bit late in the year for our first $100 million domestic opener. Here’s the 27 broken down by month:
From 2004 to 2008, there was always a $100 million opener in May. In 2009, we didn’t have one until late June, “Transformers 2,” but 2010 gave us Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” inexplicably grossing $116 million during a March opening weekend. The first “Hunger Games” repeated that March feat in 2012 and then “The Avengers” seemed to reset the bar with a $207 million opening weekend in May 2012. We had four $100 million openers that year (none lower than $140) and three last year (none lower than $116). So it seemed like $100 million openings would soon be no big deal.
Until this year. This year, $100 million openings have been the benchmark that would-be blockbuster movies can’t quite bench. “Captain America” came close at $95 million, “Godzilla” at $93, “Amazing Spidey 2” at $91, “X-Men” at $90. But no cigars until “T4.” Kind of. Many in Hollywood feel Paramount’s numbers are inflated. And even with that inflation, it still just wheezed across the finish line.
So are the tentpoles creaking and bending? Is this franchise fatigue or something more?
Look at Box Office Mojo’s summer predictions from April. Its writer, Ray Subers, thought “How to Train Your Dragon 2” would be the big summer movie at $325 million; but after three weekends and $129 domestic, it’ll be lucky to gross half that. He predicted $290 for “X Men,” and it’s done well ($225), but not that well. His “Godzilla” prediction felt low ($230) but Godzilla is still clawing its way there ($197). Ditto “Spidey” ($225/$200). In the superhero realm, there’s a lot of wheezing going on. Comedies, too. Subers thought “A Million Ways to Die in the West” was a $125 million movie but it's stuck below $50.
The one surprise based upon his predictions? “Maleficent.” He guessed $150 and after more than a month it’s at $206. Or about what “The Avengers” did in three days in 2012.
Is there a breakout movie to come? A new normal that gets us past traditional superheroes? The “Planet of the Apes” sequel? “Guardians of the Galaxy”? Or for the year’s first true $100 million opener, will all the boys in Hollywood have to wait for Katniss to come to their rescue in November?