Friday, May 28, 2010

Sex and the City 2 pulls in $14.2 million on opening Thursday.

With $3 million in midnight screenings, the opening day tally for Sex and the City 2 is $14.2 million. At first glance, it would appear that Warner Bros has again hurt themselves by splitting their proverbial opening day over Thursday and Friday, as opposed to getting one massive opening day total on Friday that can be bragged about. There really isn't much to compare this to, as there have only been a handful of movies that have chosen the 'worldwide all-at-once' Thursday release date. Films generally open on Thursdays in other parts of the world, so studios have occasionally tried simultaneous worldwide releases to combat international piracy. Nine films have previously chosen to open on Thursday in the last eight years. Four of them were on Christmas Day, 2008. They were Marley and Me ($14.3 million on Christmas Day), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($11.8 million), Bedtime Stories ($10.7 million), and Valkyrie ($8.4 million). Taking into account this anomaly, let's simply concentrate on the other five pictures that used the Thursday jump over Memorial Day weekend or pre-Memorial Day weekend.

The gambit was first tried with Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which opened with $30 million on its opening Thursday on May 16th, 2002. The film eventually pulled in $110 million in its four-day weekend, which easily surpassed the Wed-Sun $106 million total for Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. Lightning struck twice over the same weekend in 2003, when The Matrix Reloaded opened with $42 million on its opening Thursday (aided by $5 million worth of Wednesday-night advance screenings). Said sci-fi sequel took in $134 million in its first four days. The final Star Wars chapter, Revenge of the Sith, broke the single day record on the same weekend in 2005, opening with $50 million on its initial Thursday (with the help of a then-record $16.5 million in midnight screenings). The four-day total for that one was a mammoth $158 million. Said opening holds the record for the biggest Thursday of all, and its first three days (Thurs-Sat) were actually the largest three-day take on record at the time $124 million, even if said gross didn't count as an actual three-day opening weekend record (which was still Spider-Man with $114 million at the time). The first film to use the Thursday tactic over Memorial Day weekend itself was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It pulled in $25 million on its opening Thursday and remained steady over the weekend, ending its five-day holiday frame (Thurs-Mon) with $152 million. Finally, and this is the closest likely comparison, Warner Bros. opened Terminator Salvation on a Thursday last Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps to get a jump on Night at the Museum 2, the film earned just $13.3 million in its first day. The film held steady over the long weekend and ended up with $65 million by the holiday's end.

So, instead of unleashing the anticipated sequel on Friday and attempting to challenge its predecessor's $26.7 million opening day from Summer 2008 as well as the original's $57 million opening weekend (still a record for a romantic-comedy), Sex and the City 2 instead opted for an opening Thursday and now has to settle with a middling Thursday debut. In the realm of purely opening-Thursday takes, the film falls between Marley and Me ($14.3 million) and Terminator: Salvation ($13.3 million) for sixth place on said list. Counting all Thursdays, it's the 20th-biggest Thursday take, just ahead of the $14.2 million second-day gross of Men in Black back in July 1997. And it just barely surpasses the $13.2 million earned by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End just during advance-night Thursday screenings prior to its official Friday opening day over Memorial Day weekend 2007. Of course, Sex and the City 2 very well may be a beneficiary of the Shrek 2 variable. In that, I mean it may be the sort of film that is given a long-weekend release, yet the fans have absolutely no need to rush out and see it until the weekend proper (it's easier to plan a womens' night out on a Friday night than a Thursday night). If you recall (because I bring it up all the time), Shrek 2 opened with just $11.7 million on its opening Wednesday and $9.7 million on its first Thursday before exploding over the Fri-Sun weekend and earning $28 million on Friday, a then-record $44 million on Saturday, and a then-record $34 million on Sunday. The film earned $129 million in five days, and $108 million of that was from just the Fri-Sun weekend.

If Sex and the City 2 still pulls in $20-25 million today, then it will be a case of the fans just waiting until the weekend to catch the film. However, if the film only makes a token amount more today than it did yesterday, it will again be a case of Warner squandering a brag-worthy opening day tally for the sake of two middling initial days. That will be especially embarrassing if the three-day weekend is a close match between Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. If TV-sequel follows the Terminator Salvation pattern, it ends up with $69 million by Monday. If it plays like Indiana Jones 4, the 'chick flick' ends up with a five-day take of $86 million. Just for fun, if the film follows the Shrek 2 pattern (a five-day weekend 11x its open-day tally), it ends up with $156 million by Monday or about what the original grossed total. As always with these somewhat-wacky Thursday openings, Friday totals will likely tell the tale.

Scott Mendelson

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