Box Office: X-Men First Class Gets Passing Grade, But Doesn’t Excel

Despite arriving in theaters with a tidal wave of positive press and geek reviews, Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class” barely beat Bryan Singer’s 2000 “X-Men”, the very first in the franchise, in terms of weekend box office debut. Singer’s “X-Men” opened at $54 million, which in today’s dollars (adjusted for inflation) would give it around $79 million. By comparison, “First Class” opened with a studio estimated $56 million, which while meeting Fox’s publicly stated expectations, still makes it a mediocre opening for the franchise, especially considering that Wolverine’s solo adventure “X-Men: First Class” opened with $85 million two years ago, and Brett Ratner’s much derided “X-Men: The Last Stand” opened with $122 million, and still holds the highest opening for an “X-Men” movie.

Comparing “First Class'” opening with other Marvel movies, and it’s looking even more disappointing: “Thor”, which featured a mostly unknown character and property, opened with $65 million just a month earlier, and even “The Incredible Hulk” opened at $55 million three years earlier. Things were looking pretty good for “First Class” after a respectable $20 million dollar Friday date, but the film failed to improve on that number over Saturday (just under $20 million) and the estimated Sunday (just around $15 million).

Made on a $160 million dollar production budget (meaning the film probably cost well over $200 million, so it’ll need to clear at least that much just to make money, if not more depending on how much they spent on publicity and other costs associated with selling a Summer Event film), “X-Men: First Class” has a foggy future. Overseas box office should help, though the film’s lack of a signature hero may hamper it a bit. (Even though the other “X-Men” films were ensemble pieces, there was never really any doubt who the main hero was. That would be the feral Canuck with the claws, in case you’re wondering.) Another reason for Fox suits to be a tad concerned? The film opened this week without any major competition, with its only studio foes being “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “The Hangover 2”, both in their second weeks, with “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in its third week.

Next week’s box office should be a good indication whether the film will turn into another “Watchmen” (great reviews, mediocre returns), or if it’ll be another “Thor”, which finally topped off at $169 million domestically and $423 million worldwide. Not bad for a film about a superhero with a bit hammer who travels by way of a magic rainbow.