‘Hangover 2’ on $135M+ Pace, Just Short of R-Rated Record (Sunday Update)

Todd Phillips’ huge-grossing comedy just misses “Matrix 2’s” $91.8M 3-day premiere record; “Tree of Life” has Fox Searchlight’s best per-screen average ever

Last Updated: May 29, 2011 @ 2:19 PM

Sunday update:

Warner Bros. has what you'd call a champagne problem this weekend: Its "The Hangover Part II" could gross as much as $140 million over its first five days following a huge $29.7 million Saturday, but it probably won't break any of the R-rated-opening records set by the studio's second "Matrix" movie in 2003.

"Hangover 2" grossed an estimated $91.4 million through Saturday. "The Matrix Reloaded" grossed $91.8 million over its first three days (although actuals might change that outcome). The critically eviscerated "Reloaded" also grossed $144.4 million over its first five days of release, also a bar that would appear difficult for Todd Phillips' R-rated follow-up.

For an R-rated comedy like "The Hangover 2" to beat out a huge tentpole like "The Matrix" franchise would have been nothing short of extraordinary.

"Hangover 2" does, however, appear to have the all-time comedy-opening record, besting the $85.7 million start for "Bruce Almighty" over Memorial Day weekend in 2003. The $29.7 million Saturday gross was also a comedy record.

Also among all-time best this weekend, Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or winner "The Tree of Life" has an estimated three-day gross of $352,320 at four New York and Los Angeles locations. The $88,080 per-theater average is Fox Searchlight's best ever, even beating out the $80,212 pace set by "Black Swan" in December.

"Tree of Life's" did not have the best limited opening of 2011, however. That mark belongs to Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," which averaged an incredible $99,834 per screen last weekend.

Expanding from 6 to 58 locations this weekend, "Midnight in Paris" grossed an estimated $1.9 million over the standard three-day weekend period.

Back among the tentpole trees, DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 2" grossed $18.7 million Saturday, according to studio estimates. That film could end up grossing more than $70 million over its first five days (it's currently on pace for around $68 million).

A flashy number with a seven in front of it might be enough to influence a punitive Wall Street, which cratered DWA stock 5 percent Friday amid "Panda 2"s $13.2 million second day.

"Panda 2" has also grossed $57 million so far opening at 8,023 locations in 11 foreign markets.

Also performing big internationally, Disney's fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, "On Stranger Tides," is expected to have a two-week global total of over $645 million through Monday.

The film is also predicted by studio estimates to gross $50 million domestically over the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend, a second-week decline of around 45 percent.

Saturday update:

Warner Bros.' "The Hangover Part II" grossed an estimated $30 million Friday, putting the Todd Phillips-directed R-rated comedy sequel on pace to exceed $130 million over its first five days of release, according to studio data.

The raunchy film, which re-cast Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis in their "OMG, what happend last night?" roles, was widely expected to break R-rated opening records while grossing around $125 million from its Thursday-morning midnight opening through Monday.

It's surpassing even that big tracking right now — but it'll need a Saturday performance of at least $30.2 million to break the all time first-three-days R-rated mark of $91.8 million, set in 2003 by Warner's "The Matrix Reloaded."

That highly disappointing "Matrix" sequel (well, disappointing from a content point of view) opened on a non-holiday weekend, so comparing five-day to five-day is bit of apples and oranges.

"The Hangover Part II" was co-produced by Legendary Pictures at a cost of around $80 million.

Also opening widely this weekend at 3,925 North American spots, most of them able to show 3D, DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 2" grossed $13 million on Friday, putting the Jack Black-voiced sequel on pace to gross just under $65 million for its first five days.

Pre-release expectations had the well-reviewed animated sequel taking in somewhere between $65 million – $70 million over its first five days of release.

So is this opening for the $160 million sequel solid or soft? Big or little? Nice or nasty?

In the case of DWA, it's not so much Hollywood that gets to decide, it's Wall Street, which saw the company's stock steadily decline about 5 percent through Friday.

Of course, there's always Tuesday trading, and the "Panda 2" target market, kids, are out of school Saturday, so things could very well turn around.

Certainly, Wall Street always sets the bar high for DreamWorks Animation films. On the Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend last year, traders plunged DWA stock about 11 percent after the $70.8 million opening for "Shrek 4."

Also notable: The first "Kung Fu Panda" movie — also distributed by Paramont — opened to $60.2 million over a June non-holiday weekend in 2008, without the aid of 3D ticket prices.

With Disney's fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, "On Stranger Tides, set to surpass $50 million over the four-day holiday weekend domestically — and finish the frame with more than $500 million globally — the North American box office is trending about 44 percent up over last year's bummer Memorial Day weekend. That's good news for a domestic market that's starting to pick up a little momentum.

It does not appear at this point, however, that the domestic box office will surpass the Memorial Day weekend-record $246 million gross set in 2007.

In terms of limited openings, Terence Malicks' Palme d'Or winner "The Tree of Life" got off to a hot arthouse start Friday, grossing $115,311 at four New York and L.A. locations — a per-screen one-day start of more than $28,000.

Friday update:

Yes indeed, "Hangover Part II" is really going to open that big.

Todd Phillips' follow-up to 2009's breakout comedy hit grossed $31.7 million Thursday, according to Warner Bros. estimates, putting the R-rated film on pace to meet huge pre-release estimates in the neighborhood of $125 million for its first five days in U.S. and Canadian theaters.

In fact, it could end up north of that. It should shatter opening weekend records for R-rated comedies. 

Also opening wide on Thursday, DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 2" grossed $5.8 million, according to rival-studio data. That 3D-animated sequel is expected to gross over $70 million for its first five days.

Thursday update:

Warner's "The Hangover Part II" got off to a solid start Thursday morning, grossing about $10.4 million at 2,600 locations with midnight showings, according to studio estimates.

The Todd Phillips-directed follow up to 2009's R-rated breakout comedy hit is expected to gross around $125 million over its first five days of release. It's also predicted to break the three-day opening record for an R-rated movie, set in 2003 by Warner's "The Matrix: Reloaded," which premiered to $90.1 million.

Wednesday preview:

Get ready for a number of records to fall at the domestic box office this weekend, with Warner's hugely anticipated "Hangover" sequel set to lead an overall Memorial Day market that could very well be the biggest ever for the four-day holiday frame.

The hot box-office action gets started Thursday, when Warner releases Todd Phillips' big-tracking "The Hangover Part II" in 3,615 U.S. and Canadian theaters, and DreamWorks Animation and its distribution partner, Paramount, put out the 3D follow-up to 2008's "Kung Fu Panda" in 3,925 locations.

These two tentpole releases will combine forces with Disney holdover "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" to form a powerful ticket-selling trinity that could easily shatter the $246.4 million four-day record established in 2007, according to BoxOffice Mojo. (That record was also set on the backs of sequels, with "Pirates 3," "Shrek 3" and "Spider-Man 3" leading the charge.)

Also notable this weekend: the limited release of Terence Malick's Cannes Palme d'Or winner, "The Tree of Life" (pictured below) which will open in two New York locations, and two in L.A.

But all the talk seems to be centered around "Hangover 2," which — based on a consensus of box-office watchers TheWrap spoke to Wednesday — seems to be a lock to break the all-time opening record for an R-rated film, set in 2003 by Warner's critically despised first "Matrix" follow-up.

That mark of $91.8 million — established with a similar release profile of 3,603 locations — was set in mid-may over a standard three-day weekend.

So what can "Hangover Part II" do over a five-day frame? The predictions are baffling, with some outliers predicting a possible five-day opening of more than $150 million.

"I think audiences were bored by 'Thor' and 'Pirates,' and they're ready for an event," said one rival-studio executive.

More "safe" predictions from outside Warner come in the $125 million range.

For their part, Warner officials are predictably conservative, predicting the "Hangover" follow-up to open to $90 million in its first five days — which would still be double the $45 million the first film debuted with June 2009.

Co-produced by Legendary Pictures at a cost of around $80 million, and returning not only Phillips, but also a core cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong, "Hangover 2" boasts some truly mesmerizing tracking data.

According to tracking firm NRG, 94 percent of males under 25 report awareness and nearly 72 percent of that group convey definite interest in seeing the movie. Thirty-six percent from that group list "Hangover 2" as their first choice.

Basically, a huge a portion of the male audience, both young and old, intend to see this movie this weekend, and the female data isn't too shabby either, with 69 percent of females under 25 reporting definite interest.

Also set to pull in a big number this weekend, "Kung Fu Panda 2" is being projected by most studio outsiders to open to $65 million – $70 million.

The movie, reportedly shot for around $160 million and returning voice star Jack Black, arrives Thursday with solid reviews, but some potentially troubling tracking data, with a low percentage of each quadrant — 10 percent or less across the board — listing the movie as their first choice.

The family movie follows up on the $60.2 million non-holiday June start of the 2008 original "Kung Fu Panda," which established that benchmark without the benefit of 3D dollars.

The good news for DreamWorks Animation: Fox's "Rio," the last big animated release, is entering its seventh weekend, and there isn't a lot of family-targeted competition in the market right now