Memorial Day weekend: the official start of the summer movie-going season that gives mid-year blockbusters an extra day to reach into the wallets of prospective audiences.
Two high-profile studio releases join an already-crowded marketplace this holiday weekend, as Fox unleashes X-Men: Apocalypse into the arena to do battle with Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. Both films are sequels to top-grossing movies with passionate fan bases, and they face stiff competition from strong holdovers including The Angry Birds Movie, Captain America: Civil War, and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.
Who will come out on top? Here’s what the May 27-30 four-day weekend box office totals could look like:
1. X-Men: Apocalypse - $100 million
Though it’s the second major superhero film to open this May alone, genre fatigue hasn’t set in just yet, as tracking has the film on-par with its predecessor, X-Men: Days of Future Past, which grossed $110 million over the 2014 Memorial Day weekend. The studio is anticipating anything above an $80 million gross for the movie, which cost a reported $178 million to make. Worldwide grosses thus far are through the roof, with the film raking in over $130 million from 77 markets (debuting at No. 1 in 71 of them) over the course of the last week.
Though Apocalypse star Jennifer Lawrence has appeared in several films that have grossed well over $100 million, the 2015 vehicle Joy ($56 million), largely carried by her performance, proved once and for all that her presence alone is not a big enough draw for audiences unless it’s surrounded by a larger franchise. With little other bankable star power and middling reviews (it currently stands at 53 percent on Metacritic), Apocalypse is relying almost entirely on the pre-existing appeal of the brand itself to make its millions. As the widest new release of the week at 4,147 theaters, Apocalypse should have no trouble reaching the top spot over the four-day weekend, but just how long it will stay there remains to be seen.
2. Alice Through the Looking Glass - $63.5 million
Industry analytics have the CGI-heavy sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass pegged for an opening in the mid-to-low $60 million range, though pre-sales are on-par with Disney’s 2014 film Maleficent, which was also penned by Alice Through the Looking Glass screenwriter Linda Woolverton and opened to $69 million over its first weekend. Still, Alice lacks a powerful box-office draw like Maleficent’s Angelina Jolie. Debuting to 3,763 theaters, the film’s cast includes returning actors Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter, though Tim Burton, who directed the original, relinquished his chair to the largely untested James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) this time around. Living up to the first installment’s $116 million weekend gross was always going to be a tough feat to match, and Alice Through the Looking Glass’ poor reviews (29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday) certainly won’t help.
3. The Angry Birds Movie - $25.1 million
The Angry Birds Movie finds itself at a crossroads; as a family-oriented animated title, it should be looking at a relatively small drop from its first to second weekend, but as a video game adaptation, history tells us it will take a nose dive across its sophomore frame. The extended nature of the upcoming weekend will work in its favor, as most kids (and their parents) will be out of school (and work) for Monday’s holiday, adding to the film’s earning potential over the next four days. As the only major animated offering aimed squarely at families until Finding Dory hits theaters on June 17, The Angry Birds Movie will likely align with the box office trends of its animated brethren and see a smaller-than-average dip from $38 million to around $25 million as it runs through the next few weeks on strong legs.
4. Captain America: Civil War - $20.3 million
Clashing with nearly the exact same audience X-Men: Apocalypse is gunning for, Captain America: Civil War potentially faces a large drop in the wake of a fellow superhero movie hitting the mainstream scene. While statistics tell us there are no real patterns — superhero movies can either drop drastically (Batman v Superman fell 61 percent) or minimally (The Avengers: Age of Ultron dipped only 44 percent) over their fourth weekend runs — the presence of X-Men: Apocalypse would pose more of a threat to Civil War if it didn’t land on a holiday weekend. The added day ensures Civil War will bleed very little as it dukes it out with Apocalypse.
5. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising - $15.4 million
It can’t be said enough: summer comedies have legs for months. With most college students now on summer break as the holiday weekend approaches, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising stands to benefit from a greater portion of its target demographic heading to the movies. Though it nearly doubled the sequel’s opening weekend gross, the original Neighbors cruised through the summer of 2014, not falling more than 50 percent from weekend-to-weekend until its sixth three-day frame. Spy ($110.8 million), Trainwreck ($110.2 million), and Pixels ($78.7 million) all had summer debuts in the $20-$30 million range, and went on to gross healthy amounts by the time the season ended. Neighbors 2 will follow suit.