New Standard for Hollywood Blockbusters

The $50 million opening appears to be a new standard in measuring the competence of Hollywood blockbusters, and with the 2003 summer movie season just halfway through, six films have already made the grade. But many industryites agree that this new gold standard may be too high.

Last year, only eight films saw a $50 million weekend opening, and only three did in 2000, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Inc. According to Reuters, the rationale behind the new bar is pretty simple: Thanks to new phenomena of megaplex theaters, more seats and showtimes available for first-run movies than ever before.

“It is the threshold. It is the mark,” Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, told Reuters.

Indeed. X2: X-Men United, The Matrix Reloaded, Bruce Almighty, Finding Nemo, 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Hulk all surpassed the $50 million mark in their debut weekends, and more are sure to follow.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Bad Boys II, American Wedding and Gigli, for example, all have the potential to rake in $50 million or more at the box office in their opening weekends.

Still, there are disadvantages to such monster opening weekends. Small-budget films, such as the upcoming sci-fi thriller 28 Days Later, tend to get lost in the hype and eclipsed by the release of large-scale marketing goliaths like Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

Another negative aspect is that big debuts tend to drop off more dramatically in their second week, as was the case with 2 Fast 2 Furious. The car culture pic raked in $50.4 million in its opening weekend but plunged 50 percent the following week with a $19 million take.

Fortunately, an indie hit comes around once in a while to defy the odds. Bend It Like Beckham, for example, is still playing five of its six original screens in major markets after 16 weeks. With its cume of $21.7 million, Beckham isn’t likely to challenge the Finding Nemo‘s of Hollywood, it has been quietly upstaging several other big-budget hopefuls.