Memorial Day revenue at the domestic box office falls to its lowest level in nearly two decades; overseas, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ makes up ground with a $208.4 million launch.
Memorial Day weekend was no picnic this year for Hollywood at the domestic box office.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales may have won the holiday frame with a four-day haul of $77 million from 4,276 theaters, but it is the lowest start for any Pirates movie outside of the first film. It did make up ground overseas, where it found plenty of treasure with a $208.4 million launch.
While Dead Men Tell No Tales wasn’t sunk by bad reviews, the same can’t be said for Baywatch. In a surprise twist, Paramount’s R-rated adaptation of the classic TV show belly-flopped with a four-day gross of $23 million in a rare miss for Dwayne Johnson, who stars alongside Zac Efron in the Seth Gordon-directed big-screen adaptation.
Adding insult to injury, Baywatch even lost out to Disney/Marvel holdover Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which took in $25.1 million over the long holiday weekend to place No. 2.
Overall, Memorial Day weekend revenue at the domestic box office fell to its lowest level in 18 years, or $176 million, according to preliminary estimates from comScore. Baywatch is certainly a contributing factor, combined with several other 2017 summer titles that have underperformed so far, including Alien: Covenant and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Plus, Pirates 5 wasn’t able to clear the $100 million mark. The big exception is Guardians 2, which has grossed $338.5 million to date in North America, besting the $338 million earned domestically by Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014.
Dead Men Tell No Tales, which cost roughly $230 million to make before marketing, is being billed in marketing materials as the final chapter in the film franchise, based on the iconic Disney theme park attraction. Studio execs said they were pleased with the pic’s opening, both domestically and abroad.
“We’re making movies for a global audience. This is one of the most prolific franchises in history, and will cross $4 billion in combined box-office revenue today,” said Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis, whose studio is also celebrating crossing $1 billion in 2017 domestic ticket sales, the first studio to do so this year. “That is extraordinary by any measure.”
Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who helmed the breakout international darling Kon-Tiki, directed Pirates 5. Starring alongside Depp are Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush.
The film opened to $67.8 million in China, where its world premiere was strategically held to boost the new Disney Shanghai resort. That’s more than the entire runs of the last two films in the franchise. Imax theaters turned in $24 million globally, including $9 million in China.
Paramount and Skydance decided to get a jump on the holiday weekend and launched Baywatch on Thursday. The movie’s five-day debut was $27.6 million, well behind expectations. Heading into the holiday, prerelease tracking had suggested the comedy would clear $42 million or more for the five days, although some services lowered their estimates to $37 million late last week after reviews came out.
“The reviews really hurt it the film, which scored great in test screenings. Maybe it is a brand that relied on a positive critical reaction more than we recognized. But we do feel bullish about the international marketplace, where Baywatch opened this weekend in Taiwan to great numbers and well ahead of 22 Jump Street and Central Intelligence,” said Paramount marketing and domestic distribution president Megan Colligan.
Baywatch opens in earnest overseas next week.
There is certainly precedent for programming Memorial Day weekend with R-rated comedies; The Hangover Part II debuted to $103.4 million over the holiday in 2011, followed by $50.3 million for The Hangover Part III in 2013 and $36 million for Sex and the City 2 in 2010.
Baywatch, which cost under than $70 million to produce before marketing, also stars Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera. It doesn’t debut overseas until June 2.
Last summer, PG-13 action comedy Central Intelligence, starring Johnson alongside Kevin Hart, opened to $35 million over the June 17-19 weekend. And in late May 2015, Johnson’s San Andreas posted a three-day debut of $54.6 million.
Elsewhere, Fox and Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant fell to No. 4 in its second outing with an estimated four-day gross of $13.1 million for a domestic total of $60 million. (The prequel tumbled 71 percent from its opening frame when comparing three-day numbers.) The sc-fi horror pic has earned $101 million internationally for a global cume of $161 million.
The weekend wasn’t a complete wash out for Johnson as The Fate of the Furious became only the sixth movie in history to cross $1 billion at the international box office, fueled by a record-breaking $387.4 million in China. Globally, the Universal release has earned $1.22 billion. And Fate of the Furious wasn’t the only milestone: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast crossed $500 million domestically, becoming only the eighth film to do so, not accounting for inflation.
Hollywood — and theater owners — are banking on Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman to raise the temperature at the box office when opening later this week. Patty Jenkins directed the tentpole, which stars Gal Gadot as the marquee female superhero. Other June tentpoles to follow include The Mummy, Cars 3 and Transformers: The Last Knight, all of which will try to avoid being infected by sequelitis in the U.S.
“A June slate that on paper looks amazing needs to deliver the goods to turn things around and get the summer back on track after a May, with only a couple of exceptions, everyone would rather forget,” said comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Box-office fortunes rise and fall very quickly and dramatically, so don’t count the summer out yet. We are just finishing the first quarter of the game and have a long way to go before Labor Day.”