FRIDAY 1:30 PM, 5TH UPDATE: I’ve just received from my sources the first Friday and Memorial Weekend estimates which assume the four-day (and even 4 1/2-day) holiday period’s total box office can expand significantly over 2011′s record $270M. The easy #1 is Universal’s Fast & Furious 6 is pulling out ahead with $35M today (including Thursday late shows and Friday midnights) to target $100+M for the long weekend from 3,658 domestic theaters. This will be the franchise’s biggest opening by far. The #2 film is Warner Bros’ The Hangover Part III co-financed with Legendary Pictures making $14M today after earning $11.7M for its Wednesday late shows/Thursday midnights. It’s aiming for a $50M Memorial Weekend from 3,555 North American theaters over its 4 1/2 day debut. And #3 right now is Twentieth Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios’ toon Epic which is looking at $11M today and expecting $50M in 3,882 U.S. and Canadian locations for Memorial Weekend. It’s tracking after what has been a drought of family fare since March.
The real question is how much this Memorial Weekend box office can expand over last year’s to accommodate all 3 new tentpoles. There’s also 3 proven blockbusters still in the marketplace: Disney/Marvel’s Iron Man 3 in 3,424 theaters, Warner Bros/Village Roadshow’s The Great Gatsby in 3,090 locations (which today crossed $100M domestic after only 14 days and is the first Baz Luhrmann film to do so), and Paramount/Skydance’s Star Trek In Darkness in 3,907 theaters. Big online ticketseller Fandango reports this is its biggest Memorial Day weekend for sales ever with Fast & Furious 6 selling 53% more Fandango tickets than The Hangover Part III.
After 12 years, five films and more than $1.5 billion at the global box office, the sixth Fast & Furious installment should successfully transition from street racing to heist action to terrorist plot as it opens wide today. F&F6 debuted in 2,409 North American theaters for Thursday 10 PM late shows and Friday midnights and made $6.5M which speeded past Fast 5‘s $3.8M late show grosses from an uncrowded April 29, 2011. F&F6 debuts day and date in 59 total international territories this weekend after popping Universal’s biggest opening in the UK and Ireland last Friday. Pic already has $53.4M from 34 international markets, opening #1 in all of them as the franchise’s biggest opener. Another 25 territories release today.
THURSDAY 11:30 PM, 2ND UPDATE: Warner Bros’ The Hangover Part III co-financed with Legendary Pictures went wide in 3,555 North American theaters today and my sources say it opened to $11 million which includes Wednesday late shows and Thursday midnights. That’s miniscule compared to The Hangover Part II‘s Thursday opening of $31.6M - 3,615 locations on May 26, 2011 - which was the highest-grossing opening day ever for a live-action comedy. (H3‘s also is less than Thursday’s $13.5M debut a week ago for Star Trek Into Darkness.) Plus audiences only gave The Hangover Part III a ‘B’ CinemaScore compared to the ‘A-’ which the sequel scored. This threequel also scored even worse reviews (only 26% positive on Rotten Tomatoes) than H2 (34%) which was considered embarrassingly awful. By contrast, F&F6 and Epic both scored 70+% positive RT reviews. But H3 is still going to make a lot of moolah: worldwide moviegoers really like this mindless crap especially during the summer months. Internationally, the comedy is taking off in 3 markets this weekend – the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The studio tells me early numbers in Australia indicate a strong opening day of A$1.75M from 494 screens, dominating 80% of the Top 5. NZ also opened big, controlling over 70% of the Top 5. Next weekend H3 opens in 32 markets, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil.