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. But it’s 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. Here in the U.S., the Hollywood studios now think weekends should start on Wednesday just to wring every last dollar from moviegoers (and ensure I’m even more sleep deprived than usual). The result is a norm of 4 1/2-day holidays. Warner Bros claims H3 got off “to a great start” with $3.1M from Wednesday late shows and Thursday midnights. But that’s still a lot less than the last one.
The real question is how much this Memorial Weekend box office can expand over last year’s to accommodate three new movies tracking very well. Universal’s actioner Fast & Furious 6 opens Friday in 3,658 North American theaters as does Twentieth Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios’ toon Epic in 3,882 locations. Both have 70+% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Plus three tentpoles remain 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, and Paramount/Skydance’s Star Trek In Darkness in 3,907 theaters. What I don’t comprehend is why the weekend of May 31st stayed open for so long until Sony Pictures at the last minute moved Will Smith’s After Earth there. Hollywood expected either Warner Bros (who was Johnny-come-lately to Memorial Weekend and then moved from a Friday to Thursday wide release) or Universal (who tagged Memorial Weekend from the beginning) to blink. “But they just stared each other down as they both were driving off a cliff,” one rival studio exec says.
Meanwhile, one Hollywood marketer needs a vacation after positioning the pic with the words ‘epic’ and ‘Hangover Part III‘ in the same sentence: “It’s the epic conclusion to the trilogy of mayhem and bad decisions. Fans have to see how the most popular comedy franchise of all time ends. This time there’s no wedding, no bachelor party – just one simple road trip. What could possibly go wrong?” Not much considering again the brief running time of only 1 hour and 40 minutes for the Todd Phillips-directed repeat antics that return Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and nemesis Ken Jeong to las Vegas where it all began. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I want my 2-hour money’s worth. More Friday.