Disney has staked a claim on Memorial Day weekend, but it hasn’t always worked in their favor, as a significant number of those releases have underperformed or outright flopped, including last year’s ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, as well as ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’, and ‘Prince of Persia’. But the live-action take on ‘Aladdin’ has broken that spell, with a stellar opening of $88.5M for Fri-Sun, and a projected $110.9M over four days. This is the best Disney Memorial Day weekend opening since 2007 when ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’ made $139.8M, and the fifth best Memorial Day opening weekend ever. It’s also Will Smith’s second-best opening weekend behind ‘Suicide Squad’s $133.6M.
Not only does that break the curse of Disney Memorial Day openings, but director Guy Ritchie’s string of flops including ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’. In fact, this marks Ritchie’s best opening ever, beating ‘Sherlock Holmes’ which bowed with $62.3M.
Disney’s live-action adaptations of its animated classics have their naysayers, and yes there was a lot of online sniping about ‘Aladdin’. But according to social media monitoring site RelishMix, most of that stems from those that are not interested in Disney’s live-action remakes in the first place.
According to RelishMix:
“Fans are absolutely loving the materials they’re seeing for Aladdin, from Will Smith’s performance to the authentic look and feel of the movie, to the soundtrack and its many songs. Like other Disney movies of recent note, there is that element of older ticket buyers sharing their excitement, to be able to share one of their childhood memories on the big screen with their kids and this younger generation.”
‘Aladdin’ is predictably faring better than recent disappointment ‘Dumbo’, because this animated film came out in 1992 and remains a beloved favorite among Gen Xers and Yers, who are now reliving that enjoyment with their kids. (Also, remember this was the first Disney animated classic with a non-white cast, at least not onscreen. That helped widen its appeal.)
Speaking of the film’s appeal, critics aren’t impressed, with ‘Aladdin’ only ranking at 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences love this Whole New World, granting it an A CinemaScore, and 4½ stars out of 5 on PostTrak.
Similarly to– but not exactly like– the opening of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, nearly everyone that went to the cinema was there to see this one movie. Last week’s #1, ‘John Wick 3’ will make $30.5M by the end of business on Monday, ‘Endgame’ will have taken in another $21.9M, and ‘Detective Pikachu’ will have generated another $17.2M. ‘Endgame’s domestic haul will cross $803.2M at the same time, while ‘Detective Pikachu’ will notch $120M.
Fifth place belongs to superhero horror movie ‘Brightburn’, which will make $9M by the end of Monday. Its production budget is $12M, so it needs to do a bit better if it’s going to break even. Audiences don’t like it. CinemaScore didn’t publish its findings, and viewers gave PostTrak a kryptonite-zapped 2½ stars. Its RT score is the same as ‘Aladdin’s– 58%. Even though producer James Gunn is actively shilling for this picture, he didn’t write or direct it, so his name isn’t enough to sell it, in the same way that attaching producer Guillermo del Toro’s name to last year’s ‘Mortal Engines’ didn’t help.
‘Brightburn’ narrowly beat out this week’s other newcomer, R-rated comedy ‘Booksmart’, which earned $8M over four days, with the mostly-female audiences giving it a strong B+.
- Aladdin (Disney) – 3-day $88.5M, 4-day, $110.5M
- John Wick 3 (Lionsgate) – 3-day $24.3M, 4-day $30.5M
- Avengers: Endgame (Disney) – 3-day $16.8M, 4-day $21.9M
- Detective Pikachu (WB/Legendary) – 3-day $13.3M, 4-day $17.2M
- Brightburn (Sony) – 3-day $9M, 4-day $10M
The real question is, can ‘Aladdin’ continue flying high next week, when yet another major release arrives– Warner Brothers/Legendary’s ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’? In this competitive market, it’s hard to say!
Also opening is the glitzy Elton John biopic ‘Rocketman’. That won’t hit #1 (or maybe even #2), but should do well in the long run. Musicals like this, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘A Star Is Born’, ‘The Greatest Showman’, etc. appeal to older viewers, who don’t rush out on opening weekend, but trickle in slowly over time.
‘Brightburn’s lackluster performance doesn’t bode well for the release of another low-budget horror movie, ‘Ma’ starring Octavia Spencer. But we’ll see.
Check back to see how things work out.