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.
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.