In the future, sequels to all our popular films will not require writers, directors, or even new talent. Sure, they might re-hire some of the people responsible for the first film, but by and large, the leading users of Xerox technology will be Hollywood executives. At least, that’s if the mammoth opening for “The Hangover Part II” is any indication, as the film took advantage of the holiday weekend to score an expected $137 million over this five day period. Critics seemed to do everything short of design spreadsheets to illustrate just how Todd Phillips and company were replicating the exact story of the first film (arguably, the marketing campaign did the same), but audiences, who loved the earlier installment enough to make it a massive word-of-mouth hit, were apparently happy enough to indulge the funnymen (not women, though — sorry, ladies!) behind the picture one more time.
Cinemascore reveals that the crowds for this film graded the picture as an “A-” so clearly there are some indiscriminate viewers out there. Regardless, everyone comes out of this a winner, as the picture wasn’t costly and could even outgross the first film. The massive $10 million plus Wednesday midnight numbers (you guys really had to rush out and see this?) suggests that the film will be massively frontloaded, and it could collapse next weekend. But the ideal Hollywood blockbuster makes its bread in its first few days, with future earnings representing a victory lap, so everything beyond this opening is gravy. On the bright side, this series in in a perfect position to take the next sequel into space.
Todd Phillips has been here before, though not to this extent. The prickly comedic director, who has carved out a solid niche on the directing A-List, followed up “Road Trip” and “Old School” with the almost spitefully low-fi “Starsky And Hutch.” With a certain amount of talent in working with onscreen comedians and a skill with pacing his peers do not possess, Phillips failed upwards with that television adaptation, and he wasted industry goodwill with his next offering, “School For Scoundrels.” With the runaway success of “The Hangover,” his decision, along with Warner Bros. marketing, to make the same film again seems like more of a middle finger to the audience, more of a sign of clear contempt. As performance art, it’s admirable. As a box office hit, it’s pretty telling considering who goes to see these movies. Curious to see where Phillips goes from here.
On the other end of the spectrum was another sequel, “Kung Fu Panda 2.” While DreamWorks was crowing about multiple sequels for the $631 million grossing original, this much less impressive bow suggests Saturday morning cartoons might be the place for this character. Some are built-in brands, and some are just random corporate mascots, and while ‘Panda’ has the critic love that escaped the same company‘s “Shrek” films (only in retrospect — at the time, some smart people were weirdly in the tank for the green ogre), it looks more like the latter. Even with the 3D prices, ‘Panda’ looks like it will need the full five day weekend only to top the first picture’s three-day bow. Disappointing news for the sequel, which is sort of a big deal by virtue of having an Asian-American female director. Pixar, for the record, has yet to release a film with a female helmer.
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Falling out of first was the new “Pirates Of The Caribbean,” which opened softer than the previous two films and should have a proportionally-similar second weekend. The holiday and 3D prices offer a slight buffer, but it’s clear that the film is registering on a lower level compared to the other in the series. That is, domestically, of course — the difference has been accounted for by overseas markets, who are supporting the picture with numbers either equaled to or exceeding the last film. ‘Pirates 4’ has already vaulted over $500 million worldwide with ease. To our international brothers and sisters, America asks: why?
Performing like a powerhouse in weekend number three was “Bridesmaids,” which avoided a sizable hit from the ‘Hangover’ crowds, 51% of which were (self-loathing?) women. The film looks like an early candidate for one of the season’s most profitable films, and should cross $100 million by next week. In retrospect, the film’s opening wasn’t blockbuster-sized, but a supernatural second weekend hold and a third frame landing on a holiday has done wonders for the film, giving Universal the two biggest success stories of the summer in the Paul Feig comedy and “Fast Five.”
“Thor” has actually held quite respectably for an effects blockbuster, especially considering Paramount’s dangerous gamble. The franchise-starter received the biggest 3D opening in history, but with “Priest,” ‘Pirates’ and ‘Panda’ arriving shortly after, those 3D engagements were some of the first theaters that Paramount was forced to drop. $180 million domestic is the next target, with more to come depending on how much of that demographic remains after “X-Men” arrives next weekend. The blockbuster glut likely means that “Fast Five” crosses $200 million domestic by next weekend and folds up shop shortly afterwards.
Showing some significant might, “Midnight In Paris” thundered into the top ten despite a limited release. Though there isn’t much going on after that top six, ‘Paris’ still averaged $33k per-screen at only 58 locations. That’s very impressive, even in a weak specialty market, and it bodes well for future expansion. The picture leapfrogged “Jumping The Broom” and “Something Borrowed” (each again essentially deadlocked) while “Rio” took a “Kung Fu Panda” karate chop to its 3D screens on its way out of the top ten.
Aside from “Midnight In Paris,” business was strong for another art house theater release. “Tree Of Life” debuted to stellar numbers at four locations, averaging a titanic $88k per-screen, for a $352k total. The film will expand slowly, with a nationwide release planned for July, but if you are in New York or Los Angeles, what other menial entertainments are you bothering to sponsor with your cash? What are you, a philistine? Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Excusing Bad Behavior Part II (Warner Bros.) – $86.5 million ($118 mil.)
2. Kung-Fu Panda 2 (Paramount/Dreamworks) – $48 million ($54 mil.)
3. Johnny Depp’s New Yacht (Disney) – $39.3 million ($153 mil.)
4. Bridesmaids (Universal) – $16.4 million ($85 mil.)
5. Thor (Paramount) – $9.4 million ($160 mil.)
6. Fastest, Fivest, My Head Is Like A Shark’s Fin (Universal) – $6.6 million ($196 mil.)
7. Midnight In Paris (Sony) – $1.9 million ($2.8 mil.)
8. The Wedding Movie For Black People (Sony) – $1.9 million ($34 mil.)
9. The Wedding Movie For White People (Warner Bros.) – $1.8 million ($35 mil.)
10. Rio (Fox) – $1.8 million ($135 mil.)