Rareified air. This weekend’s box office took cinematic moneymaking to a new high, with four movies registering eight-figure Fridays for the first time in history, leading to a bonanza that almost every studio enjoyed. Leading the way and outdoing all expectations was “Ted,” the teddy bear-Marky Mark bromantic comedy that brought in a spectacular $54.1 million. It marks the third highest R-rated opening of all time behind “The Hangover Part II” and “Sex And The City.”
While they come from very different schools of comedy, Seth MacFarlane‘s directorial debut is positively Apatovian, in that it heralds the arrival of a major mid-to-low budget creative force to studio filmmaking. While this is only the first film from the creator of “Family Guy” (and it shows), it ranks as one of the all-time top live-action opening weekends for a first-time filmmaker, behind only this year’s Rupert Sanders-helmed “Snow White and the Huntsman” and Michael Patrick King‘s aforementioned “Sex And The City.” But in many ways MacFarlane’s accomplishment is even more significant than those two, since not only does no one give a quarter of a shit who directed ‘Huntsman’ and ‘SATC’ but MacFarlane also provided his above-the-line talents as a voice actor and his very specific crude, rude sensibility to the picture as a whole. Fox, who employs MacFarlane for their television division, have to be upset about passing on this film.
This also doesn’t happen without Mark Wahlberg‘s star power. The A-Lister has kicked it up a notch in recent years, smartly opting for mid-budgeted efforts that yield large profits instead of large-scale blockbusters. Since 2010’s “Date Night,” where Wahlberg played a somewhat smaller supporting role, his last four films, all modestly budgeted, have grossed at least $100 million worldwide, with the exception of the $96 million tally of the $25 million “Contraband.” “Ted” is set to continue this trend, though Wahlberg isn’t resting on his laurels, testing his action cred again with “Broken City.” Somehow, the musclehead who opened “Planet of the Apes” to $68 million eleven years ago is now equally viable in comedies and actioners.
Speaking of stars, who is hotter right now than Channing Tatum? Keep it in your pants, this is a box office discussion. It’s been night and day for Tatum in regards to last year and this, with 2011 showing him failing to open a dull medieval drama (“The Eagle“), a star-filled character piece (“Son Of No One“) and a Ron Howard rom-com (“The Dilemma,” where he supported Vince Vaughn and Kevin James). This year, he’s already led “The Vow” and “21 Jump Street” to grosses of $125 million and $138 million, respectively, while also showing up in the excellent “Haywire,” which no one saw but was still awesome so screw you we’re mentioning it. However, “Magic Mike,” the male stripper film that seemed like something of a Hollywood punchline for a bit there, has exploded on to the scene, becoming Tatum’s biggest opener of the year thus far, made more impressive by the fact that he doesn’t share top billing with a noted co-star (Rachel McAdams in “The Vow”; Jonah Hill in ‘Street’).
It’s hard to give a frame of reference, since stripper movies are somewhat rare, even moreso if they feature predominantly male casts. If you really need some perspective, consider that the Best Picture-nominated “The Full Monty” made less money in its entire run ($45 million) than “Magic Mike” is expected to score in its first three days. Warner Bros. stands to be the biggest winner, as they only paid $7 million for the domestic rights to the film, with producers selling off foreign rights independently. Is the legendarily prolific Steven Soderbergh getting out of the game at the wrong time? With two films left in his career as he prepares for his “retirement,” this will be his biggest opening weekend, besting the $39 million take of “Ocean’s Twelve.”
Falling into third was “Brave,” which lost about half its audience, a suspiciously hard fall for animated fare. The industry theory is that adult women, some of whom were taking younger kids to the latest Pixar effort and some that were going with friends, had foregone the film in favor of “Magic Mike.” Leaving beside the pretty bizarre audience spillover, “Brave” is still making its way over the $130 million mark in only two weekends, and should soon pass “Cars 2” and “Toy Story” to avoid being one of the lower-grossing films with the Pixar brand name. Halving your audience is rare behavior for an animated film, though this should be able to hang on until the fourth “Ice Age,” which is currently breaking box office records overseas. Speaking of which, look out for the head start for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which has pocketed $50 million internationally in advance of its stateside debut.
And don’t you ever count out Tyler Perry. Most were calling for Time Of Death after the failure of his dramatic effort, “Good Deeds,” which couldn’t even reach $40 million domestic. But if Perry’s presence in recent trailers clarifies anything, it’s that you Don’t. Cross. Alex. Cross. “Madea’s Witness Protection” opened slightly bigger than the last Madea outing, “Madea’s Big Happy Family.” What can you say, it’s a proven box office formula — get Perry in a dress, and you’re guaranteed $50 million plus. ‘Witness’ didn’t register the crossover potential the ad campaign promised (though pinning that on Eugene Levy was a longshot to begin with), though this was probably the wrong weekend to hope for Perry playing to more mainstream audiences.
Rounding out the top five was “Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted,” on the verge of outgrossing the last film, and soon to eclipse part one. The most successful “Madagascar” yet, from a domestic perspective, is also about to cross $400 million worldwide. The first two netted $532 and $603 million, respectively, and this one has a shot of matching those, but, essentially, this was pretty much what DreamWorks expected from the third installment in a franchise no one ever remembers anything about.
A generous R.I.P. for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” which fell well over 60% to bring a two-weekend total to less than $30 million. It ended up neck and neck with the expansion for “Moonrise Kingdom,” which moved into 854 locations, collecting the best per-screen average in the top ten. The Wes Anderson offering took its total to close to $20 million, with much more an absolute certainty as it continues to expand. The dual presence of “Prometheus” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” lingers at the bottom half of the top ten, leaving severe doubts as to whether they’ll produce follow-up installments — “Huntsman” is ahead of the pack considering $335 million in worldwide receipts, but “Prometheus,” the more expensive affair, hasn’t yet surpassed $300 million.
Disney continues to celebrate “The Avengers,” which recently crossed the $600 million mark, the third film in history to do so. It’s all rose petals and free drinks for the superhero actioner, a billion dollar success that continues to register the lowest percentage drop amongst all movies in the top ten. It certainly helped Disney to ignore their release of “People Like Us,” which couldn’t even average $2k per-screen at a whopping 2000 plus locations, scraping the bottom of the top ten with a resounding thud. We might sound like a broken record on this measure, but it’s true — titles matter. And NO ONE is going to see a movie with a dreadful, huggy, granola title like “People Like Us,” even if it starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Lawrence, Ice Cube, Ice T, Vanilla Ice and Snow.
Expanding from five to 29 locations, “To Rome With Love” pocketed a robust $750k, with a sturdy $26k per-screen average. That couldn’t match this week’s big indie debut, “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” which only opened in four theaters but scored $169k with a spectacular $42k per-screen. In between both these films is another strong hold for “The Intouchables,” in week six collecting $316k on 68 screens, despite inexplicably losing theaters on its way to a $2.6 million total.
After a VOD presence, “Take This Waltz” opened in America with $26k on two screens, though the film fared better internationally — counting Canada, the film has totalled $150k thus far, not counting the VOD numbers. A smaller opening was in the cards for “Neil Young Journeys” as that picture registered $13.3k on three screens. Meanwhile, French film “Unforgivable” popped up on five screens, tallying a little under $30k. Support your local indie theater, boys and girls.
1. Ted (Universal) – $51.4 million
2. Cocks, Cocks, Lots Of Cocks (WB) – $39.1 million
3. Brave (Disney) – $34 million ($131.6 mil.)
4. Madea’s Fine, We’ll Put A White Person In This One, How’s Eugene Levy? (Lionsgate) – $26.3 million
5. Madgascar 3: Euro Trip (DreamWorks) – $11.8 million ($180 mil.)
6. Abraham Lincoln: One Joke Premise (Fox) – $6 million ($29 mil.)
7. Prometheus (Fox) – $4.9 ($118.2 mil.)
8. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) – $4.8 million ($18.4 mil.)
9. Snore White And The Huntsman (Universal) – $4.4 million ($145.6 mil.)
10. People Like Us (Question Mark?) – $4.3 million