Though "X-Men: Days of Future Past" hit theaters over 3 months ago and was largely overshadowed by films like "Guardians of the Galaxy", the most ambitious film in the history of the X-men movie franchise is still in cineplexes - and looks, incredibly, to be regaining momentum as it nears the franchise record for domestic box-office take.
Which is a bit surprising, since "X-Men: Days of Future Past" opened to a very healthy, yet disappointing $90.8 million opening weekend. Not only was that a bit lower than the opening weekends for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" ($95 million) and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" ($91.6 million), it fell far short of the expectations some had for it.
Those expectations were due in part to the film bringing back members of the original cast and the newer, "First Class" cast and the star power of 7 Academy Award winners or nominees in it's cast, including Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry, the increased profile of Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender and the return of X-megastars like Patrick Stewart, who some though might never grace the franchise again.
With all that going for it, many expected "X-Men: Days of Future Past" to surpass the previous X-opening-weekend record of "X-Men: The Last Stand", which set franchise highs over Memorial Day weekend in 2006 for both 3-day weekend ($102.8 million) and 4-day weekend ($122 million.
Instead, "Days of Future Past" fell far short, for both the 3-day weekend ($90.8 million) and 4-day weekend ($110.6 million).
Taking ticket-price inflation and 3-D pricing into account, that "Days of Future past" fell $12 million short of the Memorial Day haul of "The Last Stand" was disappointing.
It also sold fewer tickets than 2D-only entries "X2: X-Men United" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" their opening weekends.
Yet here we are, with "Days of Future Past" within spitting distance of supplanting "The Last Stand" as the highest grossing X-movie domestically.
The reason is simple. The movie was extremely well received by both critics and fans. While that was not apparent at first, it has done just enough business to keep it in enough theaters to keep making more money.
By the end of June, [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942) was still clinging to the Top 10 - it was #9 on the charts on June 30 - and had grossed $223.9 million domestically, leaving it $11 million away from a new franchise record. It was still doing high six-figure daily weekday business and 7-figure business on the weekends despite dropping down from a high of 4,001 theaters to 2,014.
As July came to a close, "Days of Future Past" was at #25 on the domestic chart, but was still pulling in mid-to-high 5-figures on weekdays and 6-figure daily totals on the weekends, despite playing in only 289 theaters.
As "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" lay on the horizon, "Days of Future Past" was only $3 million short of a new domestic franchise record, standing at $231.5 million.
In August, there was still enough interest in "Days of Future Past" to register 5-figure grosses every day, with occasional 6-figure days on the weekend, in August. It started with 190 theaters, was bumped to 227 for a week, then 223 the week after that and was dropped to 188 theaters the week of August 22-28.
With only $16,162 domestically, it looked like Fox might have to deal with "Days of Future Past" falling JUST short of a new franchise record. It's total was achingly close: $232.8 million.
But FOX was not about to let "Days of Future past" fall less than $2 million from a new franchise record. The difference between "second-highest domestic grossing X-film of all-time" and "highest-grossing film in the history of the franchise" in terms of P.R.; momentum, being able to say "Apocalypse" is following the franchises apex, etc.....is quite significant..especially when you're talking about such a relatively small amount.
So FOX, apparently determined not to let "Days of Future Past" fall a yard short of the goal line, raised it's theater number to 794 for Labor Day weekend. It dropped "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" from 626 screens to 468 to help them do that.
Incredibly, "Days of Future Past" - with the additional strength of the additional screens - 6-figures every day of Labor Day weekend.
Toss in strong 5-figure grosses for this past Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and "Days of Future Past" stood at $233.5 million entering this weekend.
Will it gross the final $800,000 to set a new franchise record? It won't be either, but it seems likely.