From 'Empire Strikes Back' to 'The Avengers': A Short History of the Biggest Opening Weekends in Recent Movie History
Here's a list of whichever movie has held the opening-weekend box-office record since 1980:
|Release||Movie||Opening||% of Total||Theaters||Total Gross|
|6/20/1980||The Empire Strikes Back||$10,840,307||5%||823||$209,398,025|
|6/4/1982||Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan||$14,347,221||18%||1,621||$78,912,963|
|5/25/1983||Return of the Jedi||$23,019,618||9%||1,002||$252,583,617|
|5/23/1984||Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom||$25,337,110||14%||1,687||$179,870,271|
|5/20/1987||Beverly Hills Cop II||$26,348,555||17%||2,326||$153,665,036|
|5/24/1989||Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade||$29,355,021||15%||2,327||$197,171,806|
|5/23/1997||The Lost World: Jurassic Park||$72,132,785||32%||3,281||$229,086,679|
|11/16/2001||Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone||$90,294,621||28%||3,672||$317,575,550|
|7/7/2006||Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest||$135,634,554||32%||4,133||$423,315,812|
|7/18/2008||The Dark Knight||$158,411,483||30%||4,366||$533,345,358|
|7/15/2011||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2||$169,189,427||44%||4,375||$381,011,219|
source: Box Office Mojo
A lot of lame sequels here: “Superman II,” “Beverly Hills Cop II,” “Ghostbusters II,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest,” and “Spider-Man 3.” They're sugary and contain no nutritional value. Think of them as the jujubes of movies.
The title for biggest opener flipped nine times in the 1980s, including three times within a month (May/June 1989) before “Batman” finally shredded the competition. Interesting seeing a few comedies in the mix. It's not just the Indiana Joneses and Luke Skywalkers battling it out; Murphy and Murray get in their punches, too.
Only two record-holders in the 1990s: Batman (three versions) and dinosaurs (two versions). The aughts began with Harry, swung over to Spidey, who got stumbled over by Capt. Jack Sparrow, who got thwipped by Spidey again, who got coldcocked by the Dark Knight. Then it was the boy wizard until Earth's Mightiest Heroes stormed onto the scene this past weekend.
That's a helluva jump, by the way: $169 million to $200 million. If it holds, it'll be the biggest jump for any new record-holder over the previous record-holder, besting Spidey's $24 million jump over Harry in 2001. That 18% advantage, though, while remarkable, isn't close to the best percentage leap, since “Jedi” bested “Khan” by 60% back in 1983. No one's going to do that anymore. Not even James Cameron.
Speaking of: the list is most interesting for what's not on it, namely “E.T.,” “Titanic” and “Avatar.” Our most popular movies.
OK, so they weren't all winners...
UPDATE: According to weekend actuals, “The Avengers” actually did better than projected: $207,438,708. Meaning it beat the last “Harry,” the previous record holder, by $38 million. Percentage-wise, that's a 22% jump, which is the biggest jump since “Spider-Man” bested “Jurassic Park II” by 27%. Since then, the record has been broken in the following incremental fashion: 18%, 11%, 4%, 6%. “Earth's Mightiest Heroes,” indeed.
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