ZAMM.COM: Fourth Fireworks

 
By Martin Grove, ZAMM.com

Fourth fireworks: If Hollywood could rewrite the calendar, July Fourth would never fall on a weekend.

Unfortunately, there still are some things Hollywood can't do and July Fourth falls on a Friday this year. Worse yet, next year it's on a Saturday. In 2016, because it's a leap year, Independence Day will be a Monday rather than a Sunday.

What makes having the Fourth on a weekend day bad news for Hollywood is that it wipes out the box office boost from having the holiday fall on a weekday when people get time off from work and a longer holiday period results. That typically creates an expansion of the moviegoing audience that translates into bigger grosses.

When a holiday like the Fourth falls on a weekend, there's no extra mid-week bump. Ticket sales may show some added strength, but weekend days are already the top grossing days. Nonetheless, this July Fourth weekend should see some box office fireworks. To begin with, Paramount and Hasbro's 3D Transformers: Age of Extinction opened last weekend to $100 million, the year's biggest domestic opening to date. It also took in another $201.3 million from launching in its first 37 international territories, including a record-setting $90 million opening in China.

Age of Extinction should enjoy a powerful second weekend in theatres, fueled by holiday moviegoing. Since the film runs nearly three hours, the holiday weekend will make it accessible to those moviegoers who are more pressed for time during the week.

At the same time, three new feature films are opening wide Wednesday (July 2). They'll be playing pre-Fourth to get a jump on the short holiday weekend. With the Fourth on Friday, some people will be off work Thursday or will only have to work a half-day. That should boost Thursday matinee business. Thursday evening ticket sales should benefit from the fact that many people won't have to get up to go to work Friday.

As usual, Hollywood will have something new for just about everybody in the hopes that moviegoing plays a part in everyone's holiday weekend. To what extent that happens typically depends on how good or bad the weather is across the U.S., especially on the Fourth, itself. If it rains heavily on Friday in key areas like the East Coast, the South or Mid-West, that will wash out picnics, barbecues, parades, beach visits, boating, swimming and fireworks displays geared to the Fourth. If that's the case, Hollywood will shed no tears since it will drive people to the shelter of nearby multiplexes.

One of the films they're likely to turn out for is Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema's R-rated comedy Tammy, from first time feature director Ben Falcone, starring Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon and Dan Aykroyd. Falcone and McCarthy, who are married, co-wrote the film's screenplay. Tammy, opening at about 3,350 theatres, is tracking in double digits with women both over and under 25, clearly benefiting from their affection for McCarthy in the sleeper hit Bridesmaids. After opening May 13, 2011 to $26.2 million, it went on to do $169.1 million in domestic theatres.



McCarthy's new film revolves around Tammy (McCarthy), who totals her car, gets fired from her fast food restaurant job and then discovers her husband's cheating. That sends her off on an adventurous road-trip with her alcoholic grandmother (Sarandon), who's got the wheels and the cash Tammy needs.

Also arriving pre-July Fourth is Screen Gems and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' R-rated supernatural thriller Deliver Us From Evil, from Scott Derrickson (Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) at about 3,000 theatres. Starring are Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez and Olivia Munn. The film's screenplay by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman is based on the book by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool.

Deliver's tracking best with men over 25 and women under and over 25.

In Deliver, New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Bana), struggling with personal issues while investigating a series of disturbing crimes, joins forces with an unconventional priest (Ramirez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat frightening and demonic possessions that are terrorizing the city.

Also on tap for the Fourth is Relativity Media's PG-rated sci-fi adventure Earth to Echo, from first time feature director Dave Green, starring Teo Halm, Astro and Reese Hartwig. It's going into about 2,800 theatres and is tracking best with under-25 men and women.

Earth's story centers on a group of kids who after encountering some bizarre encrypted messages find themselves in contact with an alien in need of their help.

All three titles follow in the footsteps of some legendary blockbusters that burst on the scene for July Fourth over the past three decades, during which moviegoing's become part of celebrating the holiday.

That relationship goes all the way back to Universal's July 3, 1985 launch of the time travel fantasy adventure Back to the Future, which opened to a then hefty $11.2 million with a then very wide release at 1,420 theatres. Future did $210.6 million domestically and was 1985's top grossing film.

Over the years, the July Fourth box office pie has grown considerably larger. Here's a quick look back at what's been setting off Fourth fireworks since the '90s.

• 1990: Paramount's opening of Days of Thunder starring Tom Cruise topped the chart with $15.5 million at 2,307 theatres and a five day cume of $21.5 million. The Fourth was on a Wednesday just as it is in 2012.

• 1991: Tri-Star's opening of Terminator 2: Judgment Day starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was number one with $31.8 million at 2,274 theatres and a six day cume of $52.3 million. The Fourth was on a Thursday.

• 1992: Warner Bros.' Batman Returns starring Michael Keaton was first with $13.8 million at 2,644 theatres and a cume of $123.1 million after 18 days of release. The Fourth was on a Saturday.

• 1993: Paramount's opening of The Firm starring Tom Cruise was the chart-topper with $32.5 million at 2,393 theatres and a six day cume of $45.6 million. The Fourth was on a Sunday.

• 1994: Disney's animated feature The Lion King was number one with $34.2 million at 2,560 theatres and a 20 day cume of $104.5 million. The Fourth was on a Monday.

• 1995: Universal's opening of Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks finished first with $25.4 million for three days. The Fourth was on a Tuesday.

• 1996: Fox's opening of Independence Day starring Will Smith topped the box office with $50.2 million at 2,882 theatres and a six day cume of $96.1 million. The Fourth was on a Thursday (not a Wednesday because '96 was a leap year).

• 1997: Columbia's opening of Men in Black starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones took first place with $51.1 million at 3,020 theatres and a six day cume of $84.1 million. The Fourth was on a Friday.

• 1998: Disney's opening of Armageddon starring Bruce Willis came in first with $36.1 million at 3,127 theatres and a five day cume of $54.2 million. The Fourth was on a Saturday.

• 1999: Warner Bros.' opening of Wild Wild West starring Will Smith topped the chart with $36.4 million at 3,342 theatres and a six day cume of $49.7 million. The Fourth was on a Sunday.

• 2000: Warner Bros.' opening of The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg finished first with $41.3 million at 3,407 theatres for the three day weekend. The Fourth was on a Tuesday.

• 2001: Warner Bros.' opening of Cats & Dogs starring Jeff Goldblum was number one with $21.7 million at 3,040 theatres and a six day cume of $35.8 million. The Fourth was on a Wednesday.

• 2002: Columbia's opening of Men in Black II starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones took top honors with $52.1 million at 3,557 theatres and a five day cume of $87.2 million. The Fourth was on a Thursday.

• 2003: Warner Bros.' opening of T3: Rise of the Machines starring Arnold Schwarzenegger came in first with $44.0 million at 3,504 theatres and a five day cume of $72.4 million. The Fourth was on a Friday.

• 2004: Columbia's opening of Spider-Man 2 starring Tobey Maguire was the chart topper with $115.8 million at 4,152 theatres and a six day cume of $180.1 million. The Fourth was on a Sunday (with 2004 being a leap year).

• 2005: Paramount's opening of War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise led the box office with $77.1 million at 3,906 theatres and a six day cume of $112.7 million. The Fourth was on a Monday.

• 2006: Warner Bros.' opening of Superman Returns starring Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey took first place with $52.5 million at 4,065 theatres and a five day cume of $84.6 million. The Fourth was on a Tuesday.

• 2007: Paramount's opening of Transformers starring Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox came in first with $70.5 million at 4,011 theatres and a seven day cume of $155.4 million. The Fourth was on a Wednesday.

• 2008: Columbia's opening of Hancock starring Will Smith placed first with $62.6 million at 3,965 theatres and a five day cume of $103.9 million. The Fourth was on a Friday.

• 2009: Paramount's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen starring Shia LaBeouf was number one in its second weekend with $42.3 million at 4,234 theatres and a 10 day cume of $293.4 million. The Fourth was on a Saturday.

• 2010: Summit Entertainment's opening of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, took first place with $83.6 million at 4,468 theatres and a six day cume of $176.4 million. The Fourth was on a Sunday.

• 2011: Paramount's opening of Transformers: Dark of the Moon starring Shia LaBeouf finished first with $115.9 million at 4,088 theatres and a four day cume of $180.7 million. The Fourth was on a Monday.

• 2012: Columbia and Marvel's Spider-Man franchise reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, opened in first place to $62 million at 4,318 theatres and a six day gross of $137 million. The Fourth was on a Wednesday.

• 2013: Universal and Illumination Entertainment's 3D animated comedy Despicable Me 2 opened in first place to $83.5 million and a five day gross of $143.1 million. The Fourth was on a Thursday.

• 2014: Paramount and Hasbro's opening of the 3D Transformers: Age of Extinction finished first with an estimated $100 million for three days. The Fourth was on a Friday.

Bottom line: Having the Fourth on a Friday may not be ideal, but moviegoing is still part of the celebration!

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