Memorial Day weekend has often delivered a number of record-setting openings, yet this weekend followed suit with most of the year so far, with just one big new movie, and a number of smaller releases just trying to bring in scraps.
This Past Weekend
Disney’s big summer release that wasn’t from Marvel, Pixar or Lucasfilm was the live action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Mary Poppins Returns) and starring Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, and Javier Bardem with the voices of Awkwafina, Daveed Diggs, and Jacob Tremblay. Disney released it into 4,320 theaters on Friday after previews on Thursday that brought in $10.3 million (including a few fan events on Wednesday night).
Those previews led to a Friday opening of $38 million and an estimated three-day weekend of $95.4 million with an estimated $117.5 million including Monday. That’s the sixth-best three-day opening for the Memorial Day weekend and fifth-best four-day opening, just ahead of 2013’s Fast and Furious 6. The Little Mermaid also ended up ahead of Guy Ritchie‘s 2019 Aladdin remake in both respects, as that opened with $91.5 million over the three-day holiday and $116.8 million including Memorial Day Monday.
The Little Mermaid made another $68.3 million internationally, bringing its global total through Sunday to $163.8 million. Some of the top markets included Mexico with $8.5 million, the U.K. with $6.3 million, and Italy with $4.7 million.
Reviews were generally mixed with 67 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, although audiences liked it more than critics, giving it a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A” on CinemaScore. We’ll have to see if that helps with legs over the month of June, which has a new tentpole released almost every week.
The latest installment of Universal‘s steadfast franchise, Fast X, took a massive tumble in its second weekend, dropping to second place with a three-day total of $23 million (a massive 66 percent drop) and an estimated $28.7 million including Monday. That brings its domestic total to $113.6 million, but with so many strong releases coming up, it’s dubious whether it will even reach the $155 million domestic total of 2011’s Fast & Furious. Despite its poor hold in North America, Fast X passed the $500 million mark globally with another $87.3 million made overseas this weekend for an international total of $399.3 million and a global total of $507.3 million.
James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 made $20.4 million in the three-day portion of the weekend, down 37 percent from its previous weekend, and is projected to make $26.1 million including Monday, which would bring its domestic total to roughly $305.6 million. This weekend, it made another $25.1 million overseas to bring its international total to $431.6 million and global total to $731 million, but with a much more balanced ratio between North America and international than Fast X.
Universal’s animated The Super Mario Bros. Movie maintained its placement in the top five, taking fourth place with $6.3 million over the three-day weekend and $8.3 million including Monday, bringing its domestic total to $560.9 million. It added another $13.1 million overseas this weekend to bring its international total to $717.8 million for a global total of $1.277 billion, by far the biggest movie of 2023.
No other new movie made more than $6 million this weekend with Bert Kreischer‘s The Machine winning out over fellow comedian Sebastian Manescalco‘s About My Father, co-starring Robert De Niro and Leslie Bibb, duking it out for fifth place, neither of them doing very much for critics. The Machine ended up with $5 million for the three-day weekend and an estimated $6 million including Monday, with About My Father in sixth place with $4.3 million for the three days and $5.4 million four-day. The Machine did much better than Father on Friday, but things evened out over the weekend with Father receiving a B+ CinemaScore. (As has been the norm in recent months, Sony did not report the CinemaScore for one of its wide releases.) You can also read Robin Milling‘s interview with the movie’s director Laura Terruso right here.
Actor Gerard Butler reteamed with director Ric Roman Waugh for their third film together, Kandahar, a Middle East-set political thriller co-starring Navid Negahban, and Ali Fazal, which received only slightly better reviews than the comedies with 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It ended up just making $3 million over the four-day weekend in 2,105 theaters with $2.4 million in three days, also receiving a B+ CinemaScore. It’s another bad showing for Open Road Films, which seems to be hanging on by a mere thread.
Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said) returned to theaters with the Sundance fave, You Hurt My Feelings, reteaming her with 11-time Emmy winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, this one a dramedy about honesty in marriage. A24 released the movie into 912 theaters, where it took eighth place with $1.4 million over the three-day weekend and $1.8 million in four days. It averaged $1,936 per theater, and we’ll have to see if it expands any further than that.
Last Memorial Day was quite a memorable one as Tom Cruise returned as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell for Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to his 1986 blockbuster. Its success 36 years after its predecessor blew away any and all expectations and projections. Paramount opened the movie in 4,735 theaters, which already must have been some kind of record, but it ended up grossing $126.7 million over its three-day holiday and $160.5 million including Monday. That set a brand-new three and four-day record for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but it would go on to be the biggest movie of 2022 with $718.5 million.
20th Century released the animated, The Bob’s Burger Movie, based on the popular FOX series, hoping to have a mega-hit ala The Simpsons Movie in 2007. Instead, the movie opened with $12.4 million to take third place over the three-day weekend and $14.8 million including Monday. It ended up making $31.9 million during its theatrical run – not great.
Doctor Strange into the Multiverse of Madness took second place with $16.1 million (down 50%) over the three-day period, bringing its domestic total to $370.4 million.
The month of June kicks off with Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the sequel to the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, which won the Academy Award for animated feature in 2019. Into the Spider-Verse opened just before Christmas in 2018 with just $35.3 million, and though it had to face the original Aquaman and Bumblebee in its second weekend, it still managed to get a nice bump from the holidays to gross $190.2 million, domestically.
Despite the lower pre-Christmas opening, the anticipation for the return of Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), the Hailee Steinfeld-voiced Gwen Stacy, Jake Johnson‘s Peter Parker (not that one). They’re joined by Oscar Isaac voicing the popular Miguel O’Hara aka Spider-Man 2099 for the first time, as well as Issa Rae voicing Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman.
There’s a lot that separates this movie (as well as its 2024 threequel) from the live action Spider-Man movies besides being animated. The first thing is the fact that this one stars Miles Morales (co-created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli), which makes it much more appealing to Black and LatinX audiences, who have contributed greatly to some of the biggest blockbusters making money. Also, being animated means that it can attract some of the kids that love superheroes with parents being less worried about them learning bad words, as they might from a James Gunn movie.
There’s no reason why Across the Spider-Verse can’t open with $90 million or more, possibly even becoming the third movie of the summer to open over $100 million because there is so much demand and interest from younger audiences. It’s also likely to take away some of the premium screens from The Little Mermaid, which should fall to second place with roughly $50 million.
After the success of last year’s Barbarian, 20th Century Studios releases The Boogeyman, adapted from the Stephen King short story by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods from The Quiet Place with Mark Heyman (Black Swan). The movie is directed by Rob Savage (Host) and stars Chris Messina, Sophie Thatcher (Yellowjackets), and David Dastmalchian. It’s a fairly typical scare-em horror movie that has received mixed reviews, but is hoping to act as counter-programming for the ten people on the planet who don’t like Spider-Man.
Horror has been doing particularly well with M3gan opening with $30.4 million in January and Paramount‘s Smile, which opened with $22.8 million last September, but both of those were well-reviewed and had a ton of buzz going into their opening. 20th Century’s last horror movie was Zach Creggers‘ Barbarian, which opened with just $10.5 million, but had strong legs to the point where it grossed $40.8 million domestic. All three of those movies are far more innovative than The Boogeyman.
Disney played The Boogeyman for exhibitors at CinemaCon last month, and it was probably received well enough by those who make decisions about what movies to play, so expect it to come out in well over 3,000 theaters on Friday. It should be able to make somewhere between Barbarian and the other two horror films mentioned, taking third place with between $14 and $16 million over the weekend.
Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.net, The Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film Journal, The New York Daily News, Den of Geek, and more.