2. Every potential revenue source counts. "X-Men" enjoyed the fifth-biggest Memorial Day weekend debut ever, with an estimated $90.7 million from Friday to Sunday and a projected $110.0 million over the four-day weekend. Still, that was on the low end of expectations. After all, the second-biggest Memorial Day weekend opening belonged to 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand" (which was the last time -- until now -- that we got to see the original X-Men cast playing the iconic mutant heroes), and its $102.8 million was scored at cheaper ticket prices, and without the benefit of 3D or IMAX. The new X-film did have 3D but not IMAX to boost ticket prices. Imagine if it had opened on a couple hundred of the giant screens; it could have cracked $100 million in three days.
3. This year's blockbusters ain't what they used to be. Among 2014's biggest movies to date, the biggest so far is actually "The LEGO Movie," at $254.5 million. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is only $1 million (and probably a couple of days) shy of surpassing it. Otherwise, however, the $250 million mark appears out of reach to the remaining current blockbusters, including "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" ($184.9 million to date), "Godzilla" ($148.8 million), "Divergent" ($147.9 million), and "X-Men: Days of Future Past." That doesn't mean we won't get bigger hits later in the summer, but so far, they're not swinging for the fences.
4. Adam Sandler's audience is... who? On paper, "Blended" looks like a smart idea, pairing Sandler with Drew Barrymore for the third time, and counter-programming the romantic comedy against an action spectacle. But the film opened in third place with just $14.2 million from Friday to Sunday and a likely $18 million over the entire holiday weekend. That's well below expectations, which were around $25 million for the first three days and $30 million for the four-day weekend.
The problems here are many: First, the adolescents who like Sandler's bathroom humor and slapstick, as well as the women who might be drawn by Barrymore, were both more likely to go see "X-Men" this weekend. Or, if they were in the mood for a comedy, the still-strong "Neighbors" (No. 4 this weekend with an estimated $13.9 million three-day take and a projected $17.3 million four-day take). Also, "Blended" earned very poor reviews, which is typical for Sandler film but usually not a factor for his under-25 viewers. But this one was also trying to target adults, who do care about reviews. Sandler, who used to be able to count on $40 million opening weekends, has been very hit-or-miss at the box office in recent years, perhaps because, as he ages and addresses adult topics like marriage, parenthood, and divorce, his hot-tempered boy-man persona remains juvenile, as does his humor. Again, "Neighbors" seems to have addressed this same adult/adolescent divide a lot more deftly.
5. Speaking of adults, the studios haven't quite forgotten about them. This week's chart offers a couple of interesting test cases. One is "Million Dollar Arm," which slipped only a modest 33 percent from last week's debut for a three-day take estimated at $7.1 million and a total to date of $20.6 million (a projected $21.8 million by the end of the holiday). That's not great for a movie that cost $25 million to make, but what's more astonishing is that a big studio like Disney even made a $25 million movie, instead of spending under $15 million for a comedy or horror movie or $100 million or more on a cartoon or a summer spectacle. The midrange movie, typically a drama made for grown-ups, either appears only at the end of the year (awards season) or not at all. So it's a big deal that Disney tried to launch one this summer, and that it hasn't really panned out in a way that will encourage Disney or any other major studio to try again any time soon.
On the other hand, there's also Jon Favreau's "Chef," which finally expanded wide this weekend (to nearly 500 screens) and cracked the top 9 as a result (with an estimated $2.3 million through Sunday and a likely $2.9 million through Monday). On that scale (it's playing in only one-sixth as many theaters as "Million Dollar Arm,") the movie looks like a promising success, one that might continue to grow throughout the summer as the studios fight for kiddie dollars at the multiplex. (It doesn't hurt that "Chef"'s distributor is Open Road, owned by the same corporate parents as Regal and AMC, two of the nation's biggest theater chains, so it should be able to hold on to its screens longer than it otherwise might.)
6. Those accusations against director Bryan Singer don't seem to have had any effect on the box office for "X-Men: Days of Future Past." This is true not just in North America, but in more than 100 other countries where "X-Men" opened this weekend, to the tune of $261.8 million worldwide. So, that's good news for Woody Allen and Roman Polanski.
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.