How The First Weekend In May Went From “Porky’s” To “Iron Man 3”

UPDATED: Summer didn’t always begin with the first full weekend in May. It used to be a refuge for movies like Flashdance, With Honors, and The Craft. posted on

1. As far as Hollywood is concerned, the official start of summer is the first full weekend in May. But ‘twas not always so.


Until about 14 years ago, that weekend was seen as a kind of “warm-up” slot for movies that would have been pummeled if stacked against the bigger movies of the summer, or as a resting post for long-running sleeper blockbusters that had opened earlier in the spring and taken up residence atop the box office ever since.

Today, a “summer” movie can open as early as February (A Good Day to Die Hard) and March (Oz the Great and Powerful), but the summer movie creep began in earnest in 1999, when Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz chased a digital mummy through pre-WWII Egypt. What were early May movies like before that year? And how have they changed since? Let us count the dollar signs by going through every number one movie for the first full weekend in May since 1982.

All figures for domestic box office only, courtesy Box Office Mojo.

2. May 7-9, 1982: Porky’s

Weekend box office: $3.39 million
Total box office: $105.5 million
Adjusted for inflation: $9.2 million weekend, $284.9 million total

Opening weekend: March 19, 1982
Weeks at number one: 8 — that’s right: eight. This was the last weekend that Porky’s would sit in the number one slot.

Biggest movie of that summer: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (out June 11, 1982)

3. May 6-8, 1983: Flashdance

Weekend box office: $3.38 million
Total box office: $92.9 million
Adjusted for inflation: $8.5 million weekend, $234.2 million total

Opening weekend: April 15, 1983
Weeks at number one: 3 — this was also Flashdance’s last weekend in the top spot.

Biggest movie of that summer: Return of the Jedi (out May 25, 1983)

4. May 4-6, 1984: Breakin’

The first film in our list to open the first weekend of May, Breakin’ beat out another major release that weekend for the top slot: Sixteen Candles. I know!

Weekend box office: $6 million
Total box office: $38.7 million
Adjusted for inflation: $14.3 million weekend, $91.4 million total

Opening weekend: May 4, 1984
Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Ghostbusters (out June 8, 1984)

5. May 3-5, 1985: Code of Silence

This Chuck Norris thriller that looks like a South Park parody lasted three weeks at No. 1.

Weekend box office: $5.5 million
Total box office: $20.3 million
Adjusted for inflation: $12.3 million weekend, $45.5 million total

Opening weekend: May 3, 1985
Weeks at number one: 3

Biggest movie of that summer: Back to the Future (out July 3, 1985)

6. May 2-4, 1986: Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling

Weekend box office: $4.9 million
Total box office: $18 million total
Adjusted for inflation: $10.4 million weekend, $38.6 million total

Opening weekend: May 2, 1986
Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Top Gun (out May 16, 1986 — a rare instance of the summer’s top blockbuster opening before Memorial Day)

7. May 1-3, 1987: The Secret of My Success

Weekend box office: $4.6 million
Total box office: $67 million total
Adjusted for inflation: $9.4 million weekend, $136 million total

Opening weekend: April 10, 1987
Weeks at number one: 5

Biggest movie of that summer: Beverly Hills Cop II (out May 20, 1987)

8. May 6-8, 1988: Colors

Weekend box office: $4 million
Total box office: $46.6 million
Adjusted for inflation: $7.7 million weekend, $90 million total

Opening weekend (limited release): April 15, 1988
Opening weekend (wide release): April 29, 1988
Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (out June 24, 1988)

9. May 5-7, 1989: Pet Sematary

Weekend box office: $6.3 million
Total box office: $57.5 million
Adjusted for inflation: $12.7 million weekend, $114.9 million total

Opening weekend: April 21, 1989
Weeks at number one: 3

Biggest movie of that summer: Batman (out June 23, 1989)

10. May 4-6, 1990: Pretty Woman

Weekend box office: $6.8 million
Total box office: $178.4 million total
Adjusted for inflation: $12.8 million weekend, $334.9 million total

Opening weekend: March 23, 1990
Weeks at number one: 4 — but they weren’t all consecutive. After opening at the top of the box office, Pretty Woman spent four weeks chilling out in second place before rebounding again to first for three more weeks. That just never happens anymore.

Biggest movie of that summer: Ghost (out July 13, 1990)

11. May 3-5, 1991: Oscar

An unqualified flop, Sly Stallone’s first attempt at an outright comedy still managed to hang on to number one for two weeks.

Weekend box office: $4.2 million
Total box office: $23.6 million
Adjusted for inflation: $7.9 million weekend, $44.4 million total

Opening weekend: April 26, 1991
Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (out July 3, 1991)

12. May 1-3, 1992: Basic Instinct

Weekend box office: $4 million
Total box office: $117.7 million
Adjusted for inflation: $7.7 million weekend, $225.2 million total

Opening weekend: March 20, 1992
Weeks at number one: 5 — again, another movie that started at first, dropped to second, and then rose to first again amid very weak competition. Look at that first figure again: Basic Instinct won the weekend with just $4 million. Keep that in mind as we move forward.

Biggest movie of that summer: Batman Returns (out June 19, 1992)

13. May 7-9, 1993: Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

Weekend box office: $10 million
Total box office: $35.1 million
Adjusted for inflation: $19.2 million weekend, $67.3 million total

Opening weekend: May 7, 1993
Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Jurassic Park (out June 11, 1993)

14. May 6-8, 1994: With Honors

Weekend box office: $3.7 million
Total box office: $20 million
Adjusted for inflation: $7.1 million weekend, $38 million total

Opening weekend: April 29, 1994
Weeks at number one: 1

Unusually, With Honors rose to the top slot only in its second weekend of release. (It lost its opening weekend to the Ray Liotta prison break thriller No Escape.) This is also the last time a movie that opened before the first full weekend of May was in first place at the box office for that weekend. From here on, every movie on this list also opened on the weekend in question.

This is also the first time a certain amiably handsome actor would be king of this particular weekend — and it’s not McDreamy.

Biggest movie of that summer: Forrest Gump (out July 6, 1994)

15. May 5-7, 1995: French Kiss

Weekend box office: $9 million
Total box office: $38.9 million
Adjusted for inflation: $16.5 million weekend, $71 million total

Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Batman Forever (out June 16, 1995)

16. May 3-5, 1996

Weekend box office: $6.7 million
Total box office: $24.8 million
Adjusted for inflation: $12 million weekend, $44.6 million total

Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Independence Day (out July 3, 1996)

17. May 2-4, 1997: Breakdown

Fun fact! Breakdown opened ahead of the first Austin Powers movie. Fun fact, the sequel! It remains Kurt Russell’s last film to open at number one.

Weekend box office: $12.3 million
Total box office: $50.2 million
Adjusted for inflation: $21.3 million weekend, $86.8 million total

Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Men in Black (out July 2, 1997)

18. May 1-3, 1998: He Got Game

To date, this is Spike Lee’s only film to win its opening weekend.

Weekend box office: $7.6 million
Total box office: $21.6 million
Adjusted for inflation: $12.9 million weekend, $36.5 million total

Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Saving Private Ryan (out July 24, 1998)

19. May 7-9, 1999: The Mummy

This is where it all changed. After Universal found enormous success opening The Mummy the first full weekend of May, it began to dawn on studio execs that a “summer” movie need not necessarily open during what most consider to be the “summer.” More to the point, the start of “summer” officially became the beginning of May. From here on, the dollar figures jump several times over — as does the bar for box office success.

Weekend box office: $43.4 million
Total box office: $155.4 million
Adjusted for inflation: $67.8 million weekend, $242.9 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (out May 19, 1999)

20. May 5-7, 2000: Gladiator

Fun fact! This the first movie since Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet to open the first full weekend of May and go on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Weekend box office: $34.8 million
Total box office: $187.7 million
Adjusted for inflation: $51.3 million weekend, $276.4 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Mission: Impossible II (out May 24, 2000)

21. May 4-6, 2001: The Mummy Returns

Weekend box office: $68.1 million
Total box office: $202 million
Adjusted for inflation: $95.6 million weekend, $283.4 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Shrek (out May 16, 2001)

22. May 3-5, 2002: Spider-Man

Another game-changer: Spider-Man shattered the opening weekend box office record, and would go on to be the highest grossing film of the year. Over just four years, the first weekend of May went from an afterthought to a desirable frame for your summer movie to one of the top-tier weekends of the year. Dizzying.

Weekend box office: $114.9 million
Total box office: $403 million
Adjusted for inflation: $157 million weekend, $551.7 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Spider-Man

23. May 2-4, 2003: X2: X-Men United

Weekend box office: $85.6 million
Total box office: $214.9 million
Adjusted for inflation: $112.7 million weekend, $283 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Finding Nemo (out May 30, 2003)

24. May 7-9, 2004: Van Helsing

Weekend box office: $51.7 million
Total box office: $120.1 million
Adjusted for inflation: $66.2 million weekend, $153.7 million total

Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Shrek 2 (out May 19, 2004)

25. May 6-8, 2005: Kingdom of Heaven

Pre-Mummy, the figures below would have been the highest gross ever for the first weekend in May. Post-Mummy, they spell F-L-O-P.

Weekend box office: $19.6 million
Total box office: $47.4 million
Adjusted for inflation: $24.3 million weekend, $58.7 million total

Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (out May 19, 2005)

26. May 5-7, 2006: Mission: Impossible III

This is the last movie that isn’t an adaptation of a Marvel comic book to top the box office for this weekend.

Weekend box office: $47.7 million
Total box office: $134 million
Adjusted for inflation: $57.9 million weekend, $162.5 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (out July 7, 2006)

27. May 4-6, 2007: Spider-Man 3

These numbers are ridiculous. Just 10 years earlier, the top grosser for the weekend, Breakdown, grossed three times less than Spider-Man 3’s opening figure for its entire box office run.

Weekend box office: $151.1 million
Total box office: $336 million
Adjusted for inflation: $174.4 million weekend, $388.4 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Spider-Man 3

28. May 2-4, 2008: Iron Man

Weekend box office: $98.6 million
Total box office: $318.4 million
Adjusted for inflation: $109 million weekend, $352.1 million total

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: The Dark Knight (out July 18, 2008)

29. May 1-3, 2009: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Weekend box office: $85.1 million
Total box office: $179.9 million
Adjusted for inflation: $90.5 million weekend, $191.5 million total*

Weeks at number one: 1

Biggest movie of that summer: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (out June 24, 2009)

*This is the last weekend I will adjust for inflation. After 2009, ticket prices have more-or-less stabilized.

30. May 7-9, 2010: Iron Man 2

Weekend box office: $128.1 million
Total box office: $312 million

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Toy Story 3 (out June 18, 2010)

31. May 6-8, 2011: Thor

Weekend box office: $65.7 million
Total box office: $181 million

Weeks at number one: 2

Biggest movie of that summer: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (out July 15, 2011)

32. May 4-6, 2012: Marvel’s The Avengers

The new gold standard. Iron Man 3 bested The Avengers overseas in the last weekend of April, but would Tony Stark be able to do the same stateside…?

Weekend box office: $207.4 million
Total box office: $623.3 million

Weeks at number one: 3

Biggest movie of that summer: Marvel’s The Avengers

33. May 3-5, 2013: Iron Man 3

…no, Tony Stark couldn’t. Though Iron Man 3 did set some records, it couldn’t quite beat The Avengers in the U.S. But that does not diminish the astounding transformation the first weekend in May has gone through in the last 15 years. What was once a fallow field filled with limp also-rans is now lushly fertile ground with which to launch a blockbuster. There is arguably no better three-day weekend at the box office, period.

Weekend box office: $175.3 million
Total box office: Still in theaters

Weeks at number one: 1, so far

Biggest movie of that summer: To be determined

34. Here’s a chart version, including both actual and inflation-adjusted figures, to get a sense of just how much this weekend has changed in the last 15 years:

Adam B. Vary

Now updated with Iron Man 3’s opening weekend.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Facebook Conversations
          
    Now Buzzing