''The Hangover Part II'' vs. ''Fast & Furious 6''

By Grady Smith
March 29, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

What are you doing this Memorial Day? If two studios have their way, you’ll be spending a big chunk of it in a movie theater where a pair of highly anticipated sequels will be facing off. On May 24, the Warner Bros. comedy The Hangover Part III and the Universal action-adventure Fast & Furious 6 will premiere with hopes of drawing on their similarly young, male core demographic — while not stomping on each other’s toes in the process. ”It’s as close to a coin-flip weekend as you’ll ever see in the summer season,” says Phil Contrino, VP/chief analyst of BoxOffice.com. ”Eighteen-to 34-year-old males — that’s the bread and butter for both [franchises]. Those people will have to make a decision that weekend.” Past performances show the franchises to be extremely well matched: Fast Five opened with $86.2 million in April 2011, while The Hangover Part II opened with $85.9 million on Memorial Day weekend that same year.

Despite the direct competition, each studio professes confidence that its film is poised for holiday box office supremacy. Universal, emboldened by the success of Fast Five (which nabbed $209 million domestically), announced Fast & Furious 6’s May 24 release before Warner Bros. declared Hangover III would hit the same day. But Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution, rejects the idea that his studio moved onto someone else’s turf. ”Who owns a date? It was my date,” the exec tells EW. ”Everybody knew we were making Hangover III, and Hangover II opened on Memorial Day.”

The challenge now for both films’ distributors is getting young men and their dates in the door during those first three days. Universal kicked off Fast & Furious 6‘s advertising campaign with a crash-‘n’-explosions-filled Super Bowl trailer, which generated massive social-media response. ”We’re using the social footprints of our cast as a really important outlet for how we connect,” says Josh Goldstine, Universal’s president of marketing, who allowed stars like Vin Diesel (40 million Facebook fans and counting) to post on-set photos during production.

Warner Bros. is also ramping up Hangover III‘s marketing campaign, selling it as a must-see conclusion to a hard-partying trilogy starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms. (The film’s new ”It All Ends” posters are a tongue-in-cheek reference to Harry Potter‘s similarly conclusive campaign.) In all likelihood, both movies will do well, so Hangover III director Todd Phillips isn’t losing sleep over his speedy competition. ”That’s how it is every summer,” he says. ”Every weekend is crazy.”