What Do The Reports of X-Men: Days Of Future Past’s Huge Opening Really Mean?

I have to admit I was initially taken somewhat aback by the reports such as this one, that the most recent X-Men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past was having such a huge opening weekend and was posting record-breaking box-office numbers for Fox, since it seemed to be bucking not only what I was seeing in my own local theater, but also a trend that I was working on an article about, incorporating reports that Amazing Spider-Man 2’s “disappointing” take of “only” 630 or so million dollars (at the time I started writing the article) was leading Sony to rethink their approach to future films in the Spidey franchise.

x1The premise of that article – which I still intend to appear later this week – is that rather than there being that one huge blockbuster this year that really sets itself apart from the pack and gets not only Avengers-type box but also the follow-through with audiences coming to watch and re-watch the film, the studios might have to settle for across-the-board “mediocre” sell-through and adjust their expectations accordingly.

So what happens to that premise when suddenly it appears that X-Men: DOFP may actually buck that trend? Do I treat it as an aberration? Or do I rethink the entire premise? Or is there something else going on?

Well, in looking at the actual numbers, it appears that the answer actually is that there isn’t a real bucking of the trend after all., because most of the huge box office numbers that are being reported are from overseas sales, since the movie opened in theaters everywhere on the same day, as opposed to most of the other franchise films this year, which have had opening dates in other countries either before or after their US debuts.

As a matter of fact, if you look just at the domestic numbers, X-Men only took in about $90 million, which is in line with, or even below, it’s summer competitors such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million), Godzilla ($93 million), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($92 million). It’s only when you add in the estimated 171 million from the rest of the world that the film is reported to have taken in that Fox gets to brag about it’s huge debut.

So what is going on this year, really? Why do the box-office numbers seem so flat across the board? Well, like I said above, I’ll touch on that in the next day or two.

 

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2 comments on “What Do The Reports of X-Men: Days Of Future Past’s Huge Opening Really Mean?

  1. Kelly Konda says:

    Off the top of my head, one initial reaction is just how much we at the domestic box office have cooled on 3D and IMAX while international audiences are still as enamored with it as we were a couple of years ago. That is a not insignificant contributor to why the domestic/international splits are becoming so severe. Plus, the world economy plays a huge factor (e.g., all major Asian markets were up last year while almost every European one was down other than Russia), and there’s a sense that the domestic market has pleatuead while international markets are still adding new high-tech theaters everyday and reaching new audiences.

    As for Days of Future Past, I’d say that in a market which is now ruled by the first weekend Fox knew exactly what they were doing putting this movie out in pretty much every single major market except Japan at the same time. This gave them seemingly ginormous numbers that they can tout and distract from the good but not even franchise-best or 2014 summer-best or even recent Memorial Day-best domestic numbers. Because it’s not nearly as easy for us to convert foreign box office figures for ticket price inflation we can’t really bring them down with a concrete contextual comparison because in actual dollars it sure looks like they just beat the crap out of what The Last Stand did in 2006, at least worldwide. Beyond that, by not doing the Marvel thing and showcasing the film overseas prior to at home they eliminated any potential for negative word of mouth to spread, although, luckily, unlike ASM 2 word of mouth seems universally positive for this movie.

    Fox knows their X-Men box office history well, and are fully aware that this is a franchise which, regardless of the quality of the movie, historically opens huge before fading faster than any other film franchise. So, if that happens again with Days of Future Past at least they got their big opening weekend they could brag about, something they likely coveted considering the scrutiny of this film’s ginormous budget.

    As for what this means for the summer’s movies thus far, I honestly don’t know. Not until next weekend when we see how far it drops, and can then look at it in comparison to ASM 2, Godzilla, and even Winter Soldier. I’d say my main initial takeaway is that what Days of Future Past shows us the ever-increasing important of foreign markets to the box office bottom line since this is the same summer that ASM 2 has turned into such a huge hit overseas while Winter Soldier was a solid hit and Godzilla’s doing respectable numbers in the same markets. We knew going into this summer that we didn’t have a The Avengers (2012) or Iron Man 3 (2013)-sized $1 billion+ hit on our hands unless Transformers proves to have more life left in it than I give it credit for. We also knew ASM 2 had been dogged by poor word of mouth for quite a while, Captain America was Marvel’s least bankable character, and X-Men has been in box office decline domestically for years while The Wolverine marked a real upswing at the foreign box office last year. So far, ASM 2 has done perfectly fine if you just ignored the box office for all prior Spider-Man films, Captain American has usurped Thor on Marvel’s bankability list, and Days of Future Past has done amazing but still not good enough to really match the franchise highs of The Last Stand, at least not domestically.

    Look forward to seeing your take on everything in the article you mentioned to have on the way later in the week.

    • Michael Laws says:

      Hey Kelly –

      Thanks for the insightful and well thought-out comment. It’s exactly that dependence on opening weekend numbers that I think is a large part of the problem right now, and why I think that considering how many supposed “blockbusters” are really being given one or at most two weeks to remake their money before the decision is made by the studio as to whether they are a hit or a flop (and looking at next year’s schedule which is already even more crowded) there may need to be almost as big a paradigm shift in studio thining and expectations in the next few years as there was in the years that followed the huge takeoff of “tentpole”: films such as Star Wars, Jaws, and The Exorcist in the late 70s and early 80s. After all, none of those films were judged on what they did on their opening weekends (as a matter of fact, they didn’t even open on the same weekend even nationally, much less globally) as they were on what they were able to do as word of mouth spread about them and they were given a chance to actually become the hits that they eventually did.

      That’s the short version of my take at least. Like I said, I’ll have more to say on the while thing soon.

      -M

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