20th Century Fox’s Logan presents a conundrum of sorts. The film is already a huge success, with what is now an estimated $85.3 million domestic opening weekend plus whatever it made overseas (to be updated later). Yet part of the appeal is based on the whole “Hugh Jack-man’s final film” gimmick, with Patrick Stewart announcing the same before walking it back days later. The film’s future, along with the current ensemble continuity being stuck in the past, setting leaves plenty of room to bring Wolverine back at some point in the timeline.
So does Fox drive a dump truck filled with money up to Jack-man’s driveway or do they recast the character (Dougray Scott is busy but potentially available) and hope for the best? There are worse problems to have for any given studio, and Fox can worry about all of this after they finish counting their money. James Man-gold’s Logan, which cost around $100 million (the cheapest X-Men since Bryan Singer’s $75m original 17 years ago), just bagged one of the biggest R-rated opening weekends of all time.
The film’s estimated $85.3 million debut weekend, a strong 2.58x weekend multiplier and a solid 11% Thursday-to-weekend ratio, is actually a record-breaker. Not only is it the biggest R-rated launch ever in March and the fourth-biggest March debut ever (behind Batman v Superman, The Hunger Games and Alice in Wonderland), Logan is the biggest such bow for an R-rated movie that didn’t debut on a long weekend.
The rest of the surrounding R-rated debuts, Dead-pool ($132 million Fri-Sun/$152m Fri-Mon), The Matrix Reloaded ($91m Fri-Sun/$134m Thurs-Sun), American Sniper ($89m Fri-Sun/$108m Fri-Mon), The Hangover part II ($85.9m Fri-Sun/$135m Thurs-Mon), Fifty Shades of Grey ($85.2 Fri-Sun/$94m Fri-Mon) and The Passion of the Christ ($83m Fri-Sun/$125m Wed-Sun) all did their thing as part of a long weekend or holiday weekend.
But Logan’s $85.3 million debut is the fifth-biggest R-rated opening ever and by far (ahead of 300’s $70m bow in 2007) the biggest such opening in a conventional Fri-Sun weekend. If you want to play the inflation game, it’s still the ninth-biggest such opening between 8 Mile and Hannibal (which, back in 2001, had the third-biggest opening weekend ever behind The Phantom Menace and The Lost World). Among X-Men movies, it’s fifth behind X2: X-Men United ($85.5m back in 2003), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($90m), X-Men: The Last Stand ($103m) and Dead-pool ($132m).
And, inflation notwithstanding, this is a bigger debut than The Wolverine ($85 million back in 2009) and The Wolverine ($53m in 2013). So yeah, Fox smartly realized that there was an added value in longtime fans finally getting a chance to see Hugh Jack-man’s Wolverine hack-n-slash in all his R-rated glory. This was a perfect storm of strong reviews, terrific trailers, a series finale bump and a film that was different enough to stand out from its comic superhero movie peers.
And there is also the matter of goodwill built up from Man-gold’s last better-than-expected The Wolverine, which had to shake off the stench of the much-derided X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Going forward, word-of-mouth is rock-solid and the film will have a week of positive press. But X-Men movies, even beloved ones, tend to be a bit front-loaded and all of March will be filled with biggies like Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc.’s Kong: Skull Island, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Paramount/Viacom Inc.’s Ghost in the Shell.
I’ve discussed this issue quite a bit, with a deluge of mega blockbuster undercutting the legs of the week’s previous offering even if said release was well-received. One of the negative effects of non-stop blockbuster season will be a situation where even buzz/well-received biggies won’t have the kind of legs to which they otherwise might have expected due to saturation-level demand being filled and another big release coming the very next weekend. So that will be something to watch for this month.
Worst case scenario, however unlikely, it plays like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and ends with around $180m. Best case scenario it ends up as leggy as the first X-Men, which had a front-loaded-for-its-time 2.88x multiplier ($157m/$54m) for what would be an over/under $250m domestic total for Logan. By the way, back in July of 2000, that $54m debut for X-Men was the fifth-biggest debut ever and the biggest non-sequel opening of all time.
I’m guessing the answer will be somewhere in between, such as a 2.5x and an over/under $215 million domestic total with plenty more overseas. Speaking of which, the film earned $152m overseas this weekend, including $49m in China alone, bringing its worldwide cum to $237.8m, or 2.37x its $100m budget and within spitting distance of the original X-Men’s $297m (in 2000) worldwide total. If it doesn’t drop dead over the next few weeks, we could (emphasis on “could”) see a $700m worldwide total. But even a $450m cums would be a huge win for this $100m R-rated, 2D action drama.
So yeah, this is a big win for a somewhat outside-the-box genre offering and a big win for Fox’s longterm “blockbusters for adults” strategy. Now the only question is just what to do with the X-Men franchise now that it’s the stand-alone spin-offs, not the ensemble films, that have the popular acclaim and pop culture momentum. But that’s for another day. In the meantime, if you saw and really enjoyed Logan, might I recommend Children of Men, Blood Father, Midnight Special and The Outlaw Josey Whales?