X-Men 3 on May 5, 2006?

Superhero Hype is quoting this article that hints that the stellar opening weekend of X2 practically guarantees X3 "It exceeded our expectations," Fox distribution chief Bruce Snyder told Box Office Mojo. "On Thursday, I was thinking maybe we'd get $75 m
'X2' Evolves 58% Past Predecessor in Stellar Summer Kick-Off

HOLLYWOOD (Box Office Mojo) - X2: X-Men United took the nation by storm over the weekend, delivering a stunning opening salvo for the summer movie season.

The Marvel-ous mutants drew an estimated $85.85 million from a record 3,741 theaters, according to distributor 20th Century Fox. That stands as the fourth biggest opening ever behind Spider-Man's $114,844,116 and the two Harry Potter movies, Sorcerer's Stone's $90,294,621 and Chamber of Secrets' $88,357,488 -- all of which had comparable super-saturation release patterns.

"It exceeded our expectations," Fox distribution chief Bruce Snyder told Box Office Mojo. "On Thursday, I was thinking maybe we'd get $75 million. So $85 million was a pleasant surprise, though not shocking."

However, the weekend does have a twist. Fox's estimates have been overly optimistic for tent poles before, such as last May's overshooting of Attack of the Clones's opening by $6 million and the first X-Men's by nearly $3 million. This time, though, the opposite may be true as competing studios have X2 pegged $5 million higher than Fox does.

"It's so tricky to make estimates with a release this wide, factoring in all those missing theaters," Snyder explained. "Everyone else has us at $90 million to $95 million. I hope they're right."

The $110 million sequel's $75 million predecessor X-Men surprised the industry nearly three years ago with its $54,471,475 start at 3,025 theaters -- the then record weekend for a non-sequel -- en route to $157,299,717.

Among sequels to uber-openers ($40 million plus), X2's 57.6% opening weekend improvement represents the highest ever, nudging past The Mummy Returns's 57.1% -- another early May release that unwrapped $68,139,035 from 3,410 sites in 2001. And if X2 should follow the same pattern as X-Men, it would end up with nearly $250 million, though there's evidence to suggest it could have even greater appeal.

Breaking the weekend down, X2 took in an estimated $31.2 million on Friday, the third biggest opening day ever behind Spider-Man's $39,406,872 (on the same frame last year) and Sorcerer's Stone's $32,333,203. X-Men grabbed $21 million on its first day, July 14, 2000.

"Because the first movie was so fan based, it dropped 8% on its first Saturday," Snyder pointed out. "The audience has broadened since, getting older and more female, thanks to the success of the first movie through all its releases -- DVD, cable, etc. -- building up the fan base."

Demographically, X2's audience was nearly as broad as Spider-Man's. Those over the age of 25 comprised 52% of moviegoers and 44% were female, according to Snyder, compared to Spidey's near even split between ages and genders.

X2 rose 3% on Saturday to an estimated $32.15 million. That's lower than Spider-Man's 10.7% Saturday bump-up, but on par with Harry Potter's 3.6%. Snyder is projecting a 30% drop on Sunday to $22.5 million, or slightly steeper than Spider-Man's 27.1% Sunday dip.

According to Fox's exit polling, over 90% of moviegoers rated X2 either "excellent" or "very good," again quite similar to Spider-Man's reception. "The reaction was outrageously good across the board," Snyder said. "It's not like only young girls didn't liked it. All demos liked it."

Though X2 topped Chamber of Secrets's 3,682 theaters as the widest bow in history, it didn't best the boy wizard's record 8,515 screen count. Snyder estimated X2 is playing at over 7,200 screens, or approximately the same as Spider-Man's 7,500 on this weekend last year.

"I don't know how many interlocks we had," Snyder noted. Interlocking is the practice of theaters using one print for multiple screens. "That's difficult to gauge, so we never know exactly how many screens a movie's on."

Given that Spider-Man leapt to 3,876 theaters later in its run, believe it or not there could be room for X2 to expand upon its super-saturation release. "If you can find a barn I can drop a sheet on, I'm there," Snyder quipped.

In its unprecedented day-and-date debut on around 8,000 screens in 93 overseas markets, X2 yielded an additional $69.3 million, according to studio estimates. That's about the same amount Attack of the Clones made last May in its then record 74-country day-and-date launch. The first X-Men generated nearly $140 million overseas in its entire run.

Though a third X-Men movie has not been officially greenlighted yet (a matter of time after a weekend like this), Snyder said ideally he'd like to see X3 released on this same weekend in 2006.

X2 had the headline-making debut, but there was enough room in the marketplace for another strong bow. Exhibiting a sizable fan base for Disney teen queen Hilary Duff, The Lizzie McGuire Movie pulled in an estimated $17.0 million at 2,825 theaters on Friday, yet cost a modest $15 million to make. By comparison, the similarly appealing What a Girl Wants starring Nickelodeon teen queen Amanda Bynes grabbed $11,434,964 at 2,964 sites on its first weekend and carried a price-tag of around $25 million.

NEXT UPDATE: Monday afternoon - Actual numbers. Find out then if X2 beat the estimates or not. Studio estimates are based on estimates for Friday and Saturday plus an extrapolation for Sunday.
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