Before diving into this weekend, how about a little history?
With "Iron Man" having opened just three weekends earlier to a stunning $98 million dollar draw, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" jumped out of the gate Memorial Day weekend 2008 to a total just a hair over $100 million. That's two of the 12 largest openings in the span of one month.
But wait, Memorial Day 2007 there was "Pirates 3" for a total of $114 million. And that same month, "Spider-Man 3" at $151, and "Shrek the Third" at $121. All three, of course, are top 10 opening weekend totals.
And just for good measure, let's look at 2006. Only one film that year cracked the top 10, "X-Men 3," with a total $103 million. That was good enough for number nine all time. In fact, seven of the top 10 (and nine of the top 12) opening weekends have come in May.
With all that action, it's no surprise that we've seen so many big releases this month. The trouble is that release strategies are sort of like a multi-party game of chicken. If all the studios barrel ahead into one desirable weekend (say, the long Memorial Day weekend) then everyone's total draw is suppressed. At the same time, if there's too many films, and your studio flinches and decides to push your release back, you leave a competitor with a much stronger position. From a movie fan's perspective though, the former result is almost without doubt the superior one. With more options, and more time to take them in, it's hard to lose.
This past long weekend no one flinched, and instead we saw two highly anticipated (by some) releases. Despite massive budgets and publicity pushes, neither got anywhere near the previous success seen by past May blockbusters. Still "Night at the Museum 2" and "Terminator Salvation" -- aka "Terminator 4" -- performed admirably. "Night" took home the weekend title with $53 million, and $70 million for the extended holiday. "Terminator" managed $43 mil from Friday to Sunday, but is at $67 mil when we count it's early release and the extended weekend. Their 3-day openings were good for 6th and 8th largest of 2008. The weekend on the whole however, was the biggest thus far. And even managed to narrowly beat out "Indy 4's" massive opening last year, thanks in no small part to continued strong performances by "Star Trek" and "Angels & Demons."
The sad news (well, depending on who you ask), is that we're now through the first blockbuster push. Next week there's two highly anticipated original films: Pixar's "Up" and Raimi's return to horror, "Drag Me to Hell." After that, we're into a mini-doldrums of sorts. Sure there's plenty of new films, and perhaps even some quality, but we're a solid month away from the next summer movie. That being Michael Bay's "Transformers 2." Think of it as a brief respite from the sensory assault of popcorn films. And by the time you're recovered, July will be rolling around with more explosions than you can shake a stick at.