Aladdin flies to a whole new world at box office

Another month, another massive box office success for Disney, as Aladdin was able to overcome the uncertainty of the Memorial Day weekend with an extremely healthy debut of $86 million, Box Office Mojo is reporting. The take is more than $20 million ahead of where studio tracking had it, and doesn’t even include tomorrow’s sure-to-be-big numbers for the four-day holiday. Wish granted indeed!

Memorial Day, once considered the “official” start of the summer movie season, has become much more of a gamble for studios over the last decade. While it’s still a big weekend at the cinema, there are plenty of other things keeping people out of theater seats, including trips to the beach and family picnics. Disney, however, has remained pretty resilient in releasing a potential tentpole over the period almost every year, with decidedly mixed results. The marketplace gets crowded, and when there’s more than one blockbuster vying for the crown, it often doesn’t work out (2016’s Alice Through the Looking Glass was ultimately a victim of opening during an overly busy weekend). We should also note that the current record holder, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, has held onto the title for twelve years now with a three-day bounty of $114 mullion and four-day take of $139 million…and that’s not even its “full” take going by today’s rules, as At World’s End had Thursday night preview shows that were not counted into its weekend numbers as they are today (for those wondering, its “full” weekend today would be $153 million).

How did Aladdin succeed? By Disney playing to their strengths with a movie that would have broad appeal. People knew exactly what they were getting with Aladdin, providing something that families could go to together with everyone walking home happy. That’s essential for a holiday weekend in which you are counting on large groups of people going to your film, which kept Aladdin from being a “wild card” like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (another Memorial Day misfire from Disney). Marketing for the film emphasized the nostalgia factor, along with the fact that the remake was going to maintain the original’s hip charms with the casting of Will Smith as The Genie. Though critics were split on the film, audience reactions were glowing–as they were for 2017’s Beauty & the Beast–with a great “A” CinemaScore.

We should also learn from this what we’ve seen happen earlier this year with Captain Marvel: never put too much stock in so-called “negative internet buzz” when it comes to box office tracking, as it is not a consistent box office predictor by any stretch. Rival studios may have loved riding on it–it was probably no coincidence that Comcast-owned NBC News, a website not known for movie reviews, ran an entire piece complaining about the film–but at the end of the day it doesn’t represent the general movie-going population. The people who are going to Aladdin are Disney fans, many of who saw the original in theaters when they were kids, and in the end they are the ones who are making the film into a success story. And we should mention, again, that Disney is far from over in terms of big releases for this year, as they still have Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker coming our way before 2019 comes to a close, plus they have the Sony co-production Spider-Man: Far From Home and a Maleficent sequel on deck as well (though that film, with its curious mid-October release date, may be coming out when it is primarily to provide new content for Disney’s much hyped streaming service).

And speaking of Disney’s big releases, Avengers: Endgame was still a player over the holiday weekend despite opening a month ago, securing third place with $16 million for a full gross of $798 million. This means the Marvel extravaganza will cross the $800 million mark tomorrow, which will probably be the last landmark it reaches stateside, as beating The Force Awakens is looking highly unlikely now. Still, Endgame has been an enormous victory for all involved to say the least, and it has a slight chance of being able to take the worldwide crown away from Avatar, though it would have to make another $100 million in order to do so. Elsewhere, Detective Pikachu 
continued its solid run, bringing its tally to $116 million.

Full four-day estimates will be available tomorrow.

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