Disney's "Tomorrowland" topped the box office over the Memorial Day weekend but fell short of expectations with an estimated four-day total of $41.7 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Ticket sales overall were a far cry from the robust hauls of Memorial Day weekends past. If estimates hold, the four-day take for all movies combined will be just $192 million, according to Rentrak — a 17% decrease from 2014 and a 39% drop from the record-setting holiday weekend two years ago, when "Fast & Furious 6" propelled the domestic box office to $314.2 million.
Going into the weekend, "Tomorrowland" had been tracking to open at $50 million. Directed by Brad Bird at a cost of $170 million, the futuristic fantasy follows a teenager (up-and-coming actress Britt Robertson) as she embarks on a journey with former boy-genius Frank (George Clooney) to unearth the secrets of a place known as Tomorrowland.
INDIE FOCUS: Sign up for our weekly movies newsletter
"It's less than what we were hoping for, but it's also really early in the run," said Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution. He added that one of the trade-offs of non-franchise, original films "is that you don't necessarily get to count on a bigger first weekend."
As expected, families flocked to the film, making up about 35% of moviegoers. Surveys show no skewing along gender lines.
"To have this as a Disney PG-rated offering to the underserved family market gives us an unbelievable amount of hope that we are still going to have a solid run when all things are said and done," Hollis said.
The movie scored a B from audience polling service CinemaScore, but reviews were mixed, with critics giving "Tomorrowland" a lukewarm 50% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
By comparison, another Disney film inspired by the company's theme-park attractions, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," holds the Memorial Day weekend record. It opened in 2007 with $139.8 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Meanwhile, Universal Pictures' "Pitch Perfect 2" finished in second place, adding $38.5 million for the four-day weekend. Female filmgoers flexed their box-office might, building on the movie's surprisingly strong $69.2-million opening and raising its domestic total to an estimated $126 million. The sequel, which cost just $29 million to make, stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow as members of the college a cappella group the Barden Bellas.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" retained a higher percentage of its opening weekend audience, rounding out the top three with $32.1 million. The latest George Miller franchise film maintains an impressive 98% positive rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a B-plus grade from audience members polled by CinemaScore. The film, starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy in the title role made famous by Mel Gibson, has made about $95.3 million domestically to date.
Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" nabbed the No. 4 spot, adding $27.8 million and crossing the $400 million threshold domestically since its release May 1. The movie's ticket sales overseas now top $770 million.
"Poltergeist," 20th Century Fox's reboot of the 1982 horror favorite, beat expectations with a $26.5-million holiday weekend — this despite receiving mostly negative reviews and poor word or mouth, reflected in a CinemaScore grade of C plus.
The horror movie, which cost $35 million to make, drew a younger audience with stars Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt. An estimated 59% of moviegoers were younger than 25; about 55% of the audience was female.
Heading into the weekend, the studio had projected a modest opening of $20 million to $22 million.
Two smaller films performed particularly well in limited release.
"I'll See You in My Dreams," the rom-com drama starring Blythe Danner, played in 23 theaters and earned $14,554 per screen, the second highest average for the weekend. Buoyed by strong reviews (The Times review called it "a film about those final years that gets to the heart of things like loss and love without patronizing or parody), it expands to Palm Springs and eight additional markets this weekend.
"When Marnie Was There," the new Japanese animated movie from Studio Ghibli, averaged $17,894 per screen at just two theaters. The film, which Times critic Kenneth Turan called "visually spectacular," also rolls out to additional locations this weekend.
Despite the slow weekend, the box office is still up an estimated 4.5% year-to-date compared with 2014. The summer slate includes anticipated blockbusters such as "Jurassic World," "Terminator: Genisys," "Ant-Man" and "Fantastic Four," as well as female-driven flicks such as "Spy," "Magic Mike XXL" and "Paper Towns."