Last year on Memorial Day, the only major player was Men in Black 3. This year, three wide releases are competing for audiences. That could mean more people show up to the movies, but it also means there will be some cannibalization between films.
The Hangover Part III and Fast & Furious 6 have a somewhat overlapping audience: young males. The Hangover Part III (3,555 theatres) opened yesterday to try to get a jump-start on the weekend, and also because it's the weaker film. Tracking only 22% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, this "unstylish action flick with comic asides" (as described by our Michael Sauter) is not faring well with critics. More importantly, many viewers were disappointed by The Hangover Part II. If people already feel as if they've been burned by the franchise, it's unlikely they'll turn out again. In a way, though, it seems this comedy can't win. The sequel was criticized for being too similar to the first film, yet Sauter faults the three-quel because it "changes up the franchise formula—and not in a good way." It seems like these sequels just can't win, so Warner Bros. is making a good decision to make this the (alleged) end to the franchise.
Fast & Furious 6 (3,658 theatres) is the franchise that keeps on giving. It seems like viewers have had more faith in the franchise than the studio, because screenwriters have to keep resurrecting characters they prematurely gave the boot. In this movie, it means placing a character in Japan to fill in a plot hole from a previous sequel, according to critic Daniel Eagan. Like 74% of Rotten Tomatoes critics, he enjoyed the "long, loud and expensive" movie, which "delivers what series fans want, although not quite as quickly or cleverly as before." Fast & Furious 6 will be the fastest out of the gate this weekend, and its four-day total could easily top $100 million.
The first animated film in over two months, Epic (3,882 theatres) should be seeing kids and their parents lining up for an outing. Yet there's a feeling among forecasters that this animated feature will have a tepid reception, especially if parents are savvy enough to realize there are plenty of other animated features in the pipeline for this summer, including Monsters University, Despicable Me 2, Turbo, Planes, and The Smurfs 2. Our critic, Frank Lovece, had the opposite reaction, calling Epic "one of the best features so far from Blue Sky Studios," and the movie itself full of "thematic richness."
It's rare for an indie romance to turn into a trilogy. But that's the case with Before Midnight (5 theatres), which picks up on the romance between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, this time while the duo is in Greece . Also in the mix this weekend is the latest from documentarian and workhorse Alex Gibney, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (4 theatres), which Eagan dubbed "brilliant but maddening."
After the four-day weekend, we'll be back on Tuesday to assess the impact of this jam-packed weekend.