WINNERS OF THE WEEK: This weekend's new movies. Yes, it was an overwhelmingly good weekend for Warner Bros.' accountants, with the Super-sized debut of Man of Steel, but opening opposite Superman was hardly the end of the world for This Is the End, which debuted in second place and did just fine on its own terms, thank you very much.
Man of Steel set a June opening record with an estimated $113.1 million, surpassing the mark set in 2012 by Toy Story 3 ($110.3 million). Add to that another $12 million from Thursday night screenings, and you have an impressive $125.1 million, far outstripping the debut of Superman Returns seven Junes ago. (That 2006 reboot opened with $52.5 million from Friday to Sunday and a five-day-weekend total of $84.6 million.)
Henry Cavill's Superman was able to leap small estimates with a single bound. Even his own studio had lowballed his opening weekend prospects at $75-$80 million, while industry observers' predictions ranged from $84 to $110 million. He also overcame mixed reviews, garnering positive word-of-mouth (evidenced by a strong A- from CinemaScore). Ticket surcharges certainly helped; the movie earned about 11 percent of its money from IMAX screenings and 41 percent from 3D shows. But most of the credit belongs to Man of Steel's ubiquitous marketing, which included trailers emphasizing director Zack Snyder's imaginative visuals, pre-release buzz centering on producer Christopher Nolan and writer David S. Goyer (the team behind Warner's smash Batman trilogy), and $160 million worth of free marketing from more than 100 retail promotional partners. It's easier to escape from General Zod's phantom zone prison than to escape Man of Steel's relentless hype.
None of that, including the likelihood that most of the potential young male audience was watching Superman, prevented This Is the End from opening at the high end of expectations. Debuting in second place, it earned an estimated $20.5 million over the weekend, for a five-day total of $32.8 million. It benefited from the novelty of its comic premise (real-life celebrities facing the apocalypse), solid word-of-mouth (it earned a B+ at CinemaScore), surprisingly strong reviews and general good will toward stars Seth Rogen and James Franco. It's not selling as strong as the pair's Pineapple Express did five years ago (that 2008 stoner flick earned $23.3 million in its opening weekend and $41.3 million its first five days). Still, it cost just $32 million to make, so its profitability is assured. With no other raunchy comedies coming for a couple of weeks, End's run should continue for a while.
LOSERS OF THE WEEK: Last weekend's new movies. The Purge plunged 76 percent in sales from last week and fell from its Number One debut spot to Number Five on estimated earnings of $8.2 million. Not that anyone at Universal is weeping, since the sci-fi/horror film has grossed $51.8 million over two weekends and cost just $3 million to make.
They're probably less sanguine over at 20th Century Fox, whose comedy The Internship fell from its fourth place debut to sixth place and lost 60 percent of its business. Its estimated $7.0 million this weekend brings its two-weekend total to just $31.0 million, or about half of the $58 million it cost to make, a figure the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson film appears unlikely to recoup.
By contrast, older holdovers Now You See Me and Fast & Furious 6 continued to show staying power. Now's men of steal held onto third place with an estimated $10.3 million, for a three-week total of $80.0 million. Fast 6 dropped two slots to fourth place but picked up another estimated $9.4 million, for a four-week total of $219.6 million.
ALMOST FAMOUS: Among indie films, Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, about a group of Los Angeles teens who became infamous for burglarizing the famous, opened strongly on five screens with an estimated $210,000, cracking the top 20 at Number 19. Its per-screen average of $42,000 is by far the biggest of any film this weekend. (Man of Steel earned $26,879 per screen.) Also opening big was 20 Feet From Stardom, the documentary about classic back-up singers, with $52.200, or an average of $17,400 on three screens.
Meanwhile, Purge star Ethan Hawke's Before Midnight finally expanded to a nationwide release. Now playing in 893 theaters, it earned an estimated $1.5 million this week, for a four-week total of $3.2 million. For an art-house romance, that's pretty super.