‘X-Men’ and ‘Alice’ make for underwhelming Memorial Day weekend

Although the Memorial Day weekend was expected to be a massive draw with films like Fox’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” and Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” debuting, neither picture attracted the audience numbers analysts projected and the industry hoped for.

This weekend holiday is usually a bright spot for the industry, but this year’s three-day total is projected to nab an estimated $162 million to $163 million and over four days, $203 million to $204 million. This is a far cry from 2013’s record Memorial Day weekend, led by “Fast & Furious 6,” which pulled in a massive $314.2 million over four days.

Overall, however, box office numbers are up about 5% from last year’s Memorial Day weekend, which brought in $194.8 million over four days.

20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” sequel fared best this weekend, pulling in an estimated $65 million in ticket sales through Sunday with an expected total of $76 million through Monday, the end of the holiday weekend. This is well below analyst projections, which predicted more than $100 million through Monday. The studio was more modest with an estimated tally closer to $80 million.


“I don’t know what to make of tracking sometimes,” said Chris Aronson, the studio’s head of distribution. “I think people tend to have short memories. While it’s easy to compare the last [‘X-Men’ movie], each and every one of these sequels are different entities. And we’re happy with how this one performed.”

Bryan Singer, who directed three previous “X-Men” movies, led the new, $178-million picture starring series regulars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy and newcomers such as Oscar Isaac and “Game of Thrones” actress Sophie Turner.

The new sequel’s performance is a shock considering Singer’s 2014 entry, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” reached a high point for the franchise with $110 million at the box office during its opening Memorial Day weekend. A difference this go-round, however, appears to be a split between audiences and critics -- which seems par for the course for many of this year’s blockbuster debuts.

According to audience polling firm CinemaScore, moviegoers gave the “X-Men” sequel an A-minus grade. Only 48% of Rotten Tomatoes critics, however, favored the picture positively.

“I don’t think people read reviews anymore,” Aronson said. “But what we’re seeing is that people really like the movie. It speaks to the durability and popularity of the ‘X-Men’ universe.”

The superhero adventure will have grossed more than $265.8 million globally by the end of the holiday weekend.

Coming in second was “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the latest in Disney’s series of live-action fairy tales. It grossed an estimated $28.1 million through Sunday, on its way to missing analyst expectations of more than $60 million through the holiday. The studio projects a four-day total of $35.6 million.

“It’s a disappointing weekend for ‘Alice,’” said Dave Hollis, the studio’s distribution chief. “It’s frustrating more than anything that so much work and creative energy goes into it and [the film] underperforms.”

The $170-million fantasy attempted to recapture some of the success of the original, “Alice in Wonderland,” which surprised Hollywood with $116 million in ticket sales during its weekend debut in 2010. That remake of the beloved Lewis Carroll tale, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp at the height of their commercial powers, eventually hit a stunning $1 billion worldwide.

The follow-up, directed by James Bobin, didn’t perform as well, in part, because of the massive competition during the holiday weekend (the previous film opened in March).

Additionally, the novelty of 3-D technology, which had just become mainstream in 2010, is largely absent among moviegoers.

When the original “Alice” premiered, 3-D screens accounted for 71% of the film’s total run, Hollis said. This weekend, 3-D accounted for just 41% of “Alice’s” ticket sales -- provider RealD pulled in $19 million of the film’s three-day total, while IMAX garnered just $3.6 million of the four-day total.

“That’s an encouraging statistic relative to the typical mid-30 percentage of debuts, but that 30% percent does have meaning,” Hollis said.

Fans gave it an A-minus CinemaScore. As for the critics, most panned the film, with only 29% on Rotten Tomatoes rating it positively.

The film also opened in major international countries like China and Mexico this weekend. It brought in an estimated $65 million, which will make for a global gross, post-Memorial Day, of $100.6 million.

Sony Pictures and Rovio Entertainment’s “The Angry Birds Movie” landed in third with an estimated $18.7 million through Sunday in its second week. The $73-million film adaptation of the popular video game of the same name now has a domestic gross to date of $66.4 million.

Taking the fourth-place spot, in its fourth week, was “Captain America: Civil War.” The comic book mash-up from Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel Studios added another $15.1 million through Sunday to its stellar domestic run of $372.6 million to date. After the holiday weekend, the film’s global gross is projected to be at $1.1 billion.

Universal’s “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” landed in the fifth spot with an estimated $11.2 million through Monday in its second week. Worldwide the film has brought in an estimated $76.9 million.

The summer box office period will be in high swing next week with a host of new releases. Warner Bros.’ romantic “Me Before You,” Universal’s comedic “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” and Paramount’s live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” will battle it out among the holdovers.

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