This week’s edition takes a look back at the biggest box office debuts on the 25th weekend of the year, one which has played home to several event sequels in recent years, including a steady string of Pixar films, Batman, and many more titles.
Pixar’s Good Luck Charm?
Out of 22 releases in a quarter of a century, Pixar has delivered nearly one-third of them on this exact weekend — all within the past decade.
The best performer among them was 2016’s Finding Dory when it bowed to $135.1 million, unseating the nine-year-reigning animated champ, Shrek the Third ($121.6 million). Dory was one of the most widely anticipated films in Pixar’s history so far thanks to the beloved classic status of 2003’s Finding Nemo and Ellen DeGeneres’ own soaring popularity in the intervening years.
The follow-up’s box office run showed it off: Dory ultimately finished as the second-highest grossing film of its year stateside with $486.3 million, part of an overall $1.03 billion global haul.
Just one year ago, audiences were welcoming the latest adventure with Woody, Buzz, and company as Toy Story 4 opened to $120.9 million. The sequel again drew rave reviews and ran the gamut of emotions the franchise and Pixar itself have become known for, totaling $434 million by the end of its domestic run and $1.07 billion globally.
That wasn’t the first of the franchise to open on this weekend, though, as Toy Story 3 originally bowed on this weekend back in 2010. The sequel was one of the most in-demand animated films of all-time thanks to the enormous goodwill of its two predecessors and Pixar’s own reputation, ultimately becoming the studio’s first to clear $100 million in a single weekend.
After that $110.3 million opening, the third film of the series legged out to a stellar $415 million in North America and $1.07 billion worldwide — tops among all films that year — on the back of incredible word of mouth (and teary eyes) across multiple generations.
Although ranking as the fourth highest among Pixar films on this particular weekend countdown, 2015’s Inside Out was a standard-bearer all its own upon release. With $90.4 million in its first weekend, it represented the highest grossing debut ever for an original film at the time (including live action films), topping Avatar‘s $77 million debut in December 2009. The widely lauded film topped out at $356.5 million domestically and $857.6 million globally.
Rounding out the Pixar domination of this weekend, it also saw the debuts of Monsters University ($82.4 million in 2013), Brave ($66.3 million in 2012), and Cars 2 ($66.1 million in 2011). All three films went on to finish among their respective years’ top ten box office earners.
Jurassic Hits Another One Out of the “Park”
Despite the aforementioned run of tentpole Pixar films, the opening weekend record for this exact frame actually belongs to 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Despite a generally expected decline from the performance of its 2015 predecessor, Kingdom still marked one of the year’s top event draws on opening weekend with $148 million domestically.
Fallen Kingdom finished fourth for the year domestically with $417.7 million and third globally with $1.31 billion, trailing only Avengers: Infinity War ($2.05 billion) and Black Panther ($1.35 billion). Without factoring in inflation, it represents the second highest earning film of the franchise behind 2015’s Jurassic World.
The Burton-Schumacher Batman Era
Not to be forgotten on this weekend is a trio of late 20th century superhero tentpoles. Tim Burton’s Batman, in fact, set the all-time opening weekend record with its $40.5 million launch in 1989 — setting a new template for comic book adaptations on the big screen. The picture ultimately won its box office year with $251.2 million domestically and placed second worldwide with $411.4 million (trailing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade‘s $474.2 million), going on to influence the sub-genre in numerous ways throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
Arguably the first influence was felt with its own follow-up, 1992’s Batman Returns. Again setting an opening weekend record with $45.7 million, the sequel ultimately didn’t prove quite as popular as its predecessor, but it still earned a big take of $162.8 million domestically — enough to top all other performers that year. Globally, its $266.8 million tally was good enough for a sixth place finish.
Although another sequel would land in between (1995’s Batman Forever), it opened on a different calendar weekend. Instead, the Caped Crusader trio for the 25th weekend of the year is rounded out by 1997’s Batman & Robin. The fourth installment of a then-modern Batman franchise opened to $42.9 million, a figure similar to its predecessors but far less impressive given the rise of ticket prices in the eight years since Burton’s film and the ensuing drop-off at the box office.
Burning out with $107.3 million domestically and $238.2 million globally, Batman & Robin became infamous for numerous reasons and represents the only Bruce Wayne story to finish outside its year’s domestic top ten earners (12th place). The film notably resulted in the franchise going dormant from cinemas for seven years until Christopher Nolan revived the character’s on-screen reputation in 2005’s Batman Begins.
The Fast and the Furious Begins
This weekend, we also celebrate the birth of what’s become one of the industry’s most important global franchises, The Fast and the Furious. Despite a cast of relative unknowns at the time, the film’s appeal to racing fans, the under-25 demographic, and multi-cultural audiences helped endear it to lovers of popcorn cinema. This first entry in the franchise bowed to $40.1 million on opening weekend and proved to be an instant hit, upsetting the same-weekend debut by Dr. Dolittle 2 ($25.04 million).
Fast proved to be more than a flavor of the weekend as it legged out to $144.5 million in North America and $207.3 million globally on a modest $38 million production budget. Making stars of its leads Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, summer 2001’s buzzy sleeper hit has led to seven sequels and a spin-off that have generated $5.9 billion in global box office sales… so far.
The ninth installment of the franchise, F9: The Fast Saga, is slated for an April 2, 2021 release following its delay from earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More Notable Debuts This Weekend
- Transformers: The Last Knight ($44.7 million in 2017)
- Central Intelligence ($35.5 million in 2016)
- World War Z (66.4 million in 2013)
- Bad Teacher ($31.6 million in 2011)
- The Proposal ($33.6 million in 2009)
- Get Smart ($38.7 million in 2008)
- Evan Almighty ($31.2 million in 2007)
- 1408 ($20.6 million in 2007)
- Click ($40 million in 2006)
- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story ($30.1 million in 2004)
- Hulk ($62.1 million in 2003)
- Minority Report ($35.7 million in 2002)
- Lilo & Stitch ($35.3 million in 2002)
- Tarzan ($34.2 million in 1999)
- The X-Files ($30.1 million in 1998)
- Mulan ($22.8 million in 1998)
- Eraser ($24.6 million in 1996)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame ($21.0 million in 1996)
- The Rocketeer ($9.6 million in 1991)
- RoboCop 2 ($14.2 million in 1990)
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids ($14.3 million in 1989)
- Bull Durham ($5.0 million in 1988)
- The Karate Kid Part II ($12.7 million in 1986)
- The Karate Kid ($5.0 million in 1984)
- Superman II ($14.1 million in 1981)
- The Blues Brothers ($4.9 million in 1980)
- Escape from Alcatraz ($5.3 million in 1979)
Suggestions for films or milestones to cover in future weekends? Let us know!
You can check out previous versions of this column in our archives.