What would the summer turn into without big sequels? The blockbusters certainly did not disappoint as for the first time ever, we had 2 films over 9.5m and just missed having 2 films break the 10m mark. We begin though with Captain Jack Sparrow as Pirates of the Caribbean 4 opened in May and did unexpected things.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was the first look at a challenger for the summer crown. It opened on May 18 (unofficially) and got the ball rolling with a 4-day OW gross (including previews) of more than 2m. Its OW came in below any other Pirates movie in the franchise (Pirates 1 notwithstanding -- OW data not available) and, at that time, it had the largest rollout of any movie with 116 screens. Its recovered on its 2nd weekend, however, and that carried it to a new franchise record. By and large, what made its total look respectable is the very good 2nd weekend drop of 50%. Typically, Pirates movies sees drops of 60% or more in its 2nd weekend but weak competition allowed it to achieve a great drop. While 3D prices masked dropping attendance sales, it achieved the best legs ever for the franchise ending with a 2.50 multiplier. Nothing could have prepared us for what was to come, however...
Transformers: Dark of the Moon staked its claim for the summer title when it got an early head start in Hong Kong as this opened on July 28 with late night screenings. It was a rare feat as no other movie has gotten this type of release in a long time. When the numbers came in, midnights stood at a very solid $63,853. 96% of midnight business were from 3D showings and for the first time ever, theaters introduced 2D showings of the 3D robots movie to cope with high demand and make a few extra bucks. Midnights lead into its official opening day where it thrashed the competition and took home a new record, the biggest non-holiday opening day ever. This continued on into Thursday where it got boosted by the holiday Friday. Where it was at its peak was on Friday with the July 1 holiday. It took advantage and posted a gigantic $1,286,235, $300,000 more than Spider-Man 3's record, and seized the biggest single day record. It was the first movie to gross more than 1m in a single day. Saturday pushed it over 4m mark while Sunday finished off a subline weekend with its weekend tally coming in at an astonishing 5m in 5-days. Its feat was very impressive as Toy Story 3 had just broken the OW mark last year set by Kung Fu Hustle before with $3.2m. This completely blew everything away and caused all wide releases that weekend to drop 57% or more. It also broke admission records as well. It is now the proud owner of the opening weekend and 5-day admissions records with over 500,000. 2nd weekend was not as impressive and it was shocked by Mr. Popper's Penguins in admissions and actually lost individually to it that weekend. 3rd and 4th weekends saw big drops with the release of Harry Potter and Kung Fu Panda 2 respectively. It crossed 10m in its 4th weekend and will finish with about 10.8m, a huge feat for the Transformers franchise.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the final Harry Potter movie after a span of 10 years. It lived up to the hype in its OW as it posted the biggest non-holiday gross with $790,625 beating Transformers 3 from 2 weeks before and that propelled it to a big opening of $3,617,114. While it wasn't up to the OW standards of Transformers 3, it increased 21.5% from Half Blood Prince and 81.4% from Deathly Hallows Part 1. 2nd weekend saw it held up very well with Kung Fu Panda 2 opening. It, like Transformers 3, saw a better than normal fall in its 2nd weekend and it passed Order of the Phoenix in 11 days to become the highest grossing movie in the franchise. It hung around the 50% mark for 2 weekends after that then dropped -65% with the combination of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Cars 2 in its 5th weekend. By then, it had already made 9.5m and was primed to join the 10m club but a poor hold in its 7th weekend caused that milestone to disappear. Instead, it will finish with 9.8m and the distinction of being the only movie to break 9m but fail to pass 10m. Its total of $9,863,623 betters Order of the Phoenix by 48%. All in all, fantastic performance from the last Harry Potter.
Mainland releases falter
While blockbusters sizzled, Mainland releases didn't do much. Starting off the political drama Beginning of the Great Revival, it was seen by many as propaganda and as a result, its box office suffered. No matter how many stars it boasted, they didn't do much except associate themselves with a government funded picture. Box office wise, it began with a weak $287,549, off 43% from Founding of a Republic. Unfortunately, it had Transformers 3 in its 2nd weekend, but it held the best of any wide openers with a 57% drop. It bled 81% 3rd weekend and was gone after 6 weekends racking up a total of $595,050. Its total while not horrible wasn't good and didn't do much to change the state of Mainland releases in Hong Kong.
Comedy wuxia film Treasure Inn had the unfortunate distinction of opening against Great Revival. While it boasts HK stars Nicholas Tse and Cheung Ka Fai and is technically considered as a HK film, it was financed in China and director Wong Jing himself stated this was aimed at Mainlanders. This opened very poorly, grossing slightly more than $140,000. Weekend drops afterwards were very steep and this was gone in 4 weeks grossing $291,950 total.
Horror film Mysterious Island opened on July 7 in just 4 theaters but only managed an OW of $5,254. Its PSA was $1,314 and it was gone after 1 week. Its total stands at an appalling $7,580.
The Warring States didn't do much better when it opened on August 4. It secured an $5,970 OW from 5 theaters for a $1,194 PSA and its total was a paltry $8,351.
A Chinese Ghost Story's run was nothing to write home about. This opened to over $200,000 and finished with a total of $558,988. It was another Mainland loser that squandered its very wide release and did mediocre numbers opening weekend mixed in with poor legs afterwards.
Original movies turn in surprising results
Original movies that weren't 3D were few and far between. What did come out though gave us some shockers. Super 8 snuck by X-Men: First Class to claim #1 on its opening weekend with $573,008. The sci-fi thriller opened mildly and finished the same way. It snagged a 2.17 multiplier for a $1.2m total. Its opening and total weren't anything special but with it being the only alien movie of the summer, I think a bit more was expected out of the movie.
Mr. Popper's Penguins stunned everyone when it beat Transformers (individually) in admissions Thursday. That turned into a shocking $919,768 opening weekend, one of a few surprises this summer. The exceptional opening was due to penguins (of course) and Jim Carrey. Penguins have a certain "cuteness" factor here so no surprises that couples made up a strong percentage of sales. Kids also flocked to this because of the funny penguins. Jim Carrey also brought in some people as well. Its 2nd weekend was hit by Harry Potter but it fell 52%, an indicator of very strong sales/WOM. By this time, it had already doubled its total to 1.8m. It drew direct competition from Kung Fu Panda 2 in its 3rd weekend but it still kept on going strong, dropping 55%. 4th weekend saw a Japanese anime contend with its audience but it held on for another 52% decline. The combination of Smurfs and Cars 2 destroyed it though as its 5th and 6th weekends suffered declines over 65% each. Its total stands at a frosty $2.494m and it beat out such stalwarts like Thor, Cars 2, Black Swan and Green Lantern.
Another hit came from an unlikely candidate. The Tree of Life was released on the same weekend as Popper's and this opened semi wide with an opening over $135,000. For an artsy drama, that is fantastic. Usually, arthouse movies are given a limited release but Tree of Life had post-discussions with Chinese speakers to help viewers understand what they just saw. Even with Harry Potter and Kung Fu Panda 2 releasing in the following two weekends, Tree of Life avoided dropping above 50%. It wasn't until its 6th weekend that it slid more than 50% but by then it had already banked $450,000. So far, it has collected $470,000, a wonderful sum for a movie of this nature.
The hits came on coming with the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes on August 11. It opened against Cars 2 and was expected to be beaten by 3D prices but it roared to life with a victory (Cars 2 previews notwithstanding) and an opening weekend above 1m. Its big opening was due to very positive reactions to the trailer and excellent WOM from reviews. 2nd weekend was very good even with local crime thriller Overheard 2 opening on top. It declined 40% and was already up to 2.2m at this point. 3rd weekend saw the release of Cowboys & Aliens and it tumbled 59% as a result. It declined another 52% on its 4th weekend and passed 3m on its 4th Monday. The release of Contagion and 4 other wide releases caused it to drop massively in its 5th weekend. It will finish with 3.08m, a very good gross for this action flick.
The last original foreign film of the summer belonged to Cowboys & Aliens and boy did it ever disappoint. The much hyped release opened on the last weekend of summer to a very poor opening of just $400,000. Its OW ranked behind such movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Overheard 2, The Hangover 2 and Super 8. Its 2nd weekend crumbled 66% to a little more than $135,000. 3rd weekend saw it disappear with a 97% drop. It will finish with less than $750,000 and its multiplier stands at a pitiful 1.78, possibly the only release that didn't break a 2 multiplier.
Coming up in part 3, we will look at animation movies, local releases, Hollywood comedies, romance movies and sequels.