The Disney’s blockbuster rallied for a narrow victory over the Leonardo DiCaprio frontier epic “The Revenant” this past weekend, after the frontier epic beat it on Friday, but Universal’s Tim Story-directed comedy sequel is tracking to open a little under the $41 million. That’s the same three-day total that the original “Ride Along” debuted with in the same Martin Luther King Day weekend slot two years ago.
“The Force Awakens” fell off roughly 55 percent this past weekend, and a similar drop will put it around $20 million next week, so its streak of weekends at No. 1 will likely end at four.
We’re talking the highest-grossing movie in U.S. history in “The Force Awakens,” one that has rolled up its huge grosses in record time, and beat the runner-up movie by an average margin of more than $100 million since it opened on Dec. 18.
Given that dominance, why will it fall out of the top spot after four weeks?
A month-long run atop the box office is impressive, but it doesn’t compare with the leaders. Steven Spielberg‘s “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” held the No. 1 position for 16 weeks in 1982. “Titanic” topped the list for 15 weekends in 1997 before “Lost In Space” ended its streak, and 1984’s “Beverly Hills Cop” and 1983’s “Tootsie” both led 14 weeks.
Long runs at No. 1 were easier back then because studios generally steered clear of January, February and March with major releases, as well as September and August. The thinking was that most kids were back in school, and there was the potential for bad weather to ruin a weekend in the winter and spring. Kids still still skip school and lousy weather hasn’t gone anywhere, so why has Hollywood been able to colonize the fallow months over the past three or four years?
“Moviegoers habits were different then,” Fox Distribution president Chris Aronson told TheWrap. “Audiences were dominated by youngsters but that’s not the case today. Adults have become the most reliable group.”
Nikki Rocco and Dan Fellman, the former distribution chiefs at Universal and Warner Bros., respectively, were major advocates of expanding the release calendar. Hollywood got on board about three years ago and major releases roll out, complete with commensurate marketing campaigns, in just about every month now.
The decision to spread things out has paid off. The bigger movies are connecting and moving them to the quiet months has cut the crowd for other movies.
The movies and months with new opening weekend records for grosses:
January — “American Sniper” ($89 million, 2014);
February — “Fifty Shades of Grey” ($85 million, 2014);
March — “The Hunger Games” ($152 million, 2012);
April — “Furious 7” ($147 million, 2014);
May — “The Avengers” (2012, $207 million);
August —“Guardians of the Galaxy” ($94 million, 2013);
September — “Hotel Transylvania 2,” (2015, $48 million);
October — “Gravity” ($55 million, 2013).