A summer box office that was hurtling toward record-breaking numbers hit its first speed bump this Memorial Day after “Tomorrowland” landed with more of a whimper than a bang.
The Disney adventure film debuted to a disappointing $41.7 million across 3,972 theaters, less than the $50 million it was projected to make over the four-day weekend. Even if it had hit those initial estimates, “Tomorrowland” faced an uphill climb if it hoped to make back its $180 million production budget plus tens of millions more spent hawking and distributing the fantasy film.
More troubling, foreign numbers for “Tomorrowland” were lackluster. The picture brought in $26.7 million through Sunday from 56% of the international marketplace. There are still several major territories left to open such as China and Japan, but it seems likely that “Tomorrowland,” which starred George Clooney and was directed by Brad Bird, will result in a write-down for the studio.
Dave Hollis, Disney’s distribution chief, argued that the film would benefit from being the only family release until Pixar’s “Inside Out” debuts next month. With school getting out, he maintains that audiences could still find the picture.
“It’s going to take more time for word-of-mouth to build,” he said.
In the absence of a Memorial Day juggernaut, Universal’s “Pitch Perfect 2” continued to draw crowds, picking up an estimated $38.5 million over the four-day period. The acappella comedy has earned $126 million in its first two weeks in the theaters.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” also showed some staying power, dropping 45% in its sophomore weekend. It nabbed third place and $32.1 million over the four-day holiday. The Warner Bros. release has earned $95.5 million domestically and has picked up $124.3 million internationally through Sunday — respectable results, but there is still ground left to cover before the studio recoups the $150 million it spent making the picture.
Fifth place went to “Poltergeist,” a remake of the 1982 horror classic from Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that brought in a solid $26.5 million across 3,240 screens. The haunted house film carries an economical $35 million price tag. A PG-13 rating helped “Poltergeist” attract a younger crowd that might be unfamiliar with the hazards of placing a housing development on a cemetery. The opening weekend audience was 22% teen, 55% female, 44% Caucasian, 21% African-American and 21% Hispanic.
“We thought it was an effective sort of counter-programming to what was in the marketplace,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution chief. “It had been awhile since there was a horror picture.”
There was some good news for Disney. Fourth place finisher “Avengers: Age of Ultron” crossed the $400 million mark domestically after bringing in $27.8 million over the holiday weekend. Globally, the superhero adventure has made more than $1.1 billion.
Overall box office numbers were not immediately available, but they will likely be down sharply from last year when “X-Men: Days of Future Past” debuted to a massive $110.6 million, the sixth biggest Memorial Day opening in history. In contrast, “Tomrrowland’s” debut ranks 22nd on the all-time list of Memorial Day bows.
In a summer that some analysts expect will hit $5 billion for the first time, Memorial Day ranks as a bust, with numbers suggesting it will be the worst box office results for the holiday in at least five years.
“Usually there is one huge movie on Memorial Day, but it didn’t happen that way this year,” said Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “The movies people really wanted to see opened the weekend prior.”
In short, there was not a lot to celebrate.