A lot is written about the box office for holidays like Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but people often forget one major holiday — Presidents’ Day. While January and February are mostly associated with dump months for movies, studios have taken advantage of the long weekend holiday to release some major movies to draw in audiences. Presidents’ Day weekend often aligns with Valentine’s Day weekend, so the studios are also looking to cash in on potential date night choices or movies for single people to enjoy. A movie released on Presidents’ Day tends to be seen as the first big movie of the year, leading into spring before the big summer movie season.
Unlike the Thanksgiving weekend box office, which is usually dominated by animated family films and YA novel adaptations or Christmas which from 2015 to 2017 was dominated by a Star Wars movie, President’s Day weekend is a little diverse in what movies break out and become the big hits. With that in mind here are the biggest opening weekends for the four-day President’s Day weekend.
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Riding hot of the success of X-Men and Spider-Man, Daredevil opened in theaters on February 14, 2003. This allowed Daredevil to act as both a Valentine’s Day movie for its opening weekend leading into the four-day President’s Day weekend holiday.
The movie grossed $45 million over the holiday, and while it was a decent hit at the box office the critical reaction was mixed to negative and a sequel never got greenlit with the rights reverting back to Marvel Studios in 2012. Daredevil is one of five different movies based on Marvel Comics that have dominated the President’s Day weekend.
9 50 First Dates
50 First Dates reunited The Wedding Singer stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in a high-concept romantic comedy. Like many of the films on this list, Presidents’ Day weekend happened to fall in line with Valentine’s Day and 50 First Dates took advantage of that and positioned itself as the date movie for the weekend. It opened in theaters on February 13, 2004, and grossed $45.1 million over the holiday weekend.
Uncharted had a lot to prove when it opened in theaters on February 18, 2022. It needed to break the cycle of poorly received video game adaptations and keep the momentum of audiences returning to theaters after star Tom Holland’s previous movie Spider-Man: No Way Home was the first major box office hit following the COVID-19 shutdown. Uncharted opened with an impressive $51 million over President’s Day weekend and proved Tom Holland was a movie star outside of Spider-Man.
7 Ghost Rider
The second Marvel superhero film to appear on this list (and also the second from Mark Steven Johnson, who also directed Daredevil) is Ghost Rider. The film was delayed multiple times and was originally a 2006 release that got pushed back to February 16, 2007. The delay paid off as Ghost Rider opened with $52 million and held the record for the biggest Presidents’ Day opening weekend for three years in a row until it was dethroned by the next film on the list.
6 Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day obviously opened on Valentine’s Day weekend in 2010, yet that year was special as Valentine’s Day not only landed during Presidents’ Day weekend but also on a Sunday giving the movie the entire weekend to draw out audiences who wanted to see a movie titled after the holiday it was meant to tie in.
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It was the perfect cash-in. Valentine’s Day opened on February 12, 2010, and grossed $63 million over the four-day Presidents’ Day weekend with $23 million of that opening weekend coming from the Sunday Valentine’s Day screening.
5 Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog was originally set to open in theaters in November 2019 but was delayed to February 14, 2020, due to the film’s creative team deciding to redo the character’s design following the backlash to the character’s original design. This release date change turned out to be the best thing for the movie, as it took advantage of Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day weekend and grossed $70 million over the four-day weekend.
Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the last big box offices hits before theaters would shut down one month later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was Sonic the Hedgehog a huge movie for the holiday weekend, but for many, might have been the last movie they saw in theaters for a long time.
4 Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey was the highly anticipated adaptation of the popular book of the same name. Released on February 13, 2015, the movie looked to capitalize on both the Valentine’s Day holiday and the four-day weekend from Presidents’ Day.
The movie had a massive $93 million four-day opening gross and at the time was the biggest opening weekend not only for Presidents’ Day but for the month of February. While it only held the record for a year and would be dethroned by the number two movie on this list, there was no denying that Fifty Shades of Grey was an event film when it first opened in 2015.
3 Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
The latest film added to the list, Ant-Man, and the Wasp: Quantumania opened on February 17, 2023, and grossed $118 million over the four-day Presidents’ Day weekend. This kick-off to Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a sizable increase from the opening weekend of both Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp. It also solidified the top three highest-grossing movies for Presidents’ Day weekend as Marvel superhero movies.
Related: How Quantumania Sets Up the Future of the MCU
This trend of Marvel movies opening over Presidents’ Day weekend appears to be continuing, as Sony Pictures has set Madame Web for Presidents’ Day weekend in 2024, and Marvel Studios’ Fantastic Four will open over the same holiday weekend in 2025.
Deadpool was a juggernaut when it opened in theaters on February 12, 2016. The mid-budget R-rated superhero movie that 20th Century Fox spent years worrying about greenlighting because they were afraid it would have no commercial appeal turned into the highest-grossing entry in the X-Men franchise at the time of its release. Deadpool opened to $152 million over the four-day Presidents’ Day weekend. Deadpool remains the highest-grossing R-rated opening weekend and went on to become the sixth highest-grossing movie of 2016.
1 Black Panther
When audiences look back at movies that defined a decade, there is no doubt Black Panther will be one of the defining movies of the 2010s. The movie opened in theaters on February 16, 2018, and was a cultural phenomenon. Black Panther made a record-breaking $218 million over the four-day holiday weekend. The movie would remain number one at the box office for five straight weeks and grossed $700 million at the domestic box office making it the highest-grossing movie of 2018.
It would be the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and while it did not win the top prize there is no denying Black Panther made a lasting impact and will likely remain the highest-grossing Presidents’ Day opening weekend for a long time.