It’s ‘X-Men’ vs. ‘Alice’ for the Memorial Day Box-Office
Americans could spend a few hundred million dollars this upcoming holiday weekend to watch mutant superheroes do battle and a young woman return to a magical world of tea parties.
This year, Hollywood is celebrating Memorial Day by pitting two potential summer blockbusters up against one another with 20th Century Fox’s (FOX) superhero sequel X-Men: Apocalypse taking on Walt Disney’s (DIS) CGI-heavy adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass when the two films debut in movie theaters across the country on Friday.
Those movies could help Hollywood rebound from 2015’s weak Memorial Day showing, when an opening flop for Disney’s Tomorrowland led to the industry’s lowest-grossing Memorial Day weekend since 2001. It helps that both new releases are updates to high-grossing film franchises—Disney’s Alice in Wonderland made more than $1 billion globally in 2010, while X-Men: Days of Future Past‘s $90 million opening helped turn 2014’s Memorial Day holiday into that year’s best-grossing weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.
Of course, a poor Memorial Day last year didn’t stop Hollywood from posting one of its biggest summers ever, with $4.5 billion in domestic ticket sales last summer accounting for more than 40% of the year’s overall domestic gross.
While movie studios have been gradually releasing their summer blockbusters earlier and earlier in recent years, expanding the industry’s summer season from early-May through Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day can still be seen as a taste of what’s to come in terms of predicting whether or not the summer will see robust ticket sales. “It’s not the lynchpin of the whole summer,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore, told Fortune about Memorial Day weekend. “But, it certainly is a very important part of the summer in terms of the perception of the health of the industry [being] gauged by the performance of this very high-profile weekend.”
One thing taking pressure off the holiday weekend this year is the early-May success of Disney’s (and Marvel Studios’) Captain America: Civil War, which helped propel the summer to a stellar start by hauling in more than $1 billion worldwide in its first few weeks in theaters. (Between Civil War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and next month’s highly-anticipated Pixar follow-up Finding Dory, Disney is expected to be the studio to beat in this summer’s box-office race.)
Meanwhile, even though ComScore’s Dergarabedian doesn’t foresee a record-breaking Memorial Day box-office haul for the industry, he does expect X-Men and Alice Through the Looking Glass to power a “very solid” weekend. Both films have received fairly mediocre reviews so far (X-Men has a 52% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, versus just a 45% positive rating for Alice), but the past strength of each respective franchise and audiences’ familiarity with both films’ characters is expected spur a decent turnout at theaters. Analysts are predicting that X-Men: Apocalypse (which already pulled in a $103 million debut last weekend for its international debut) could open anywhere from $85 million to almost $100 million domestically, while Alice is more like to open in the low-$60 million range.