Sorry, haters. The Brett Ratner-ized X-Men: The Last Stand suctioned up $120 million over its four-day opening, hobbling The Da Vinci Code and finally breathing real commercial fire into a tepid summer season.
Let’s start with the records. The third X outing soared past The Lost World: Jurassic Park’s $90 million to become the top Memorial Day opener ever. At $103.1 million, it inched past Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to post the third-highest three-day start — holiday or not — of any film in history, trailing only the last Star Wars and the first Spider-Man. And within the X-Men franchise, it saw a 20 percent bump over the $85.6 million 3-day bow of X2: X-Men United, and nearly doubled the original’s $54.5 million. It averaged $27,947 per theater, and its theater count of 3,690 was a small notch lower than Mission: Impossible III (remember that old two-reeler at the bijou?) and ultra-wide releases of recent years. For the first of four summer weekends so far, a movie so thoroughly dominated that there was no chance to second-guess the numbers.
The weekend extends a winning streak for 20th Century Fox, which had mega-grosser Ice Age: The Meltdown in March. In both cases, the synergies between the film studio, the Fox TV network, and MySpace, the website now fully owned by Fox parent company News Corp., seems to be kicking in. The home page of MySpace in the days leading up to last Friday was blanketed with X-Men promos, as was the Cannes Film Festival, where the film launched with a lavish premiere. Contestants on Fox’s American Idol also insidiously plugged X-Men in between melismas.
As for the movie itself, director Brett Ratner endured slings and arrows aplenty when he was tapped to helm the third installment of the wildly popular Marvel Comics-based series, replacing Bryan Singer, who was busy with Superman Returns. Naysayers, especially online, griped that Ratner, the self-confessed playboy known for broad urban comedies like Rush Hour movies (and for effectively halting the Hannibal Lecter series with Red Dragon) would have no clue what do do with the mutants of X-Men. Many critics agreed, and their lukewarm response was a noticeable downturn from the hosannas that greeted the first two films.
And what did all those spinning turnstiles mean for the competition? Trouble, mostly. No other movies dared open against X-Men (except the Al Gore-produced documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which put $366,000 into the lock box on just four screens). The Da Vinci Code, riding high off of a $224 million international launch — and a strong $77 million here at home — lost a chunk of its audience to the X crowd, collecting $43 million. It genuflected 56 percent from last weekend to this Friday-Sunday period, and 44 percent when comparing the four-day span to the three-day. The book adaptation’s total domestic tally stands at $145.5 million, meaning $200 million is hardly a certainty. Whatever profits flow into hit-starved Sony (which owes a bigger-than-average chunk of them to Da Vinci’s many profit participants) will come thanks to robust overseas business. According to Variety, the worldwide gross is already $450 million and the overseas decline was milder than in the U.S.
Even DreamWorks’ attitude-laced animated caper Over the Hedge suffered slightly in the wake of superheroes, though it’s enjoying the lucrative family spotlight until Pixar’s Cars arrives June 9. It dropped 30 percent from 3-day to 3-day weekend, but only 8 percent counting the total holiday frame, adding $35.3 million over the long weekend to reach $84.4 million after 11 days in theaters.