Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Whoops... The Hangover is actually number 01 this weekend (good thing I didn't write anything yesterday).

And people wonder why I sometimes wait until Monday to write about the box office...

Thanks to Warner Bros' severe underestimate of The Hangover's Sunday box office take, the opening weekend total has been bumped up from $42 million to $44.9 million. That was just enough to place it over Pixar's Up for the number 01 box office draw this weekend. Whether or not this is any kind of game changer remains to be seen, but this is truly a shocking result no matter how you slice it. You have an R-rated comedy starring a cast of unknowns and moderately recognizable faces that just opened bigger than all but one Adam Sandler comedy (The Longest Yard pulled in $47 million in 2005), and all but one Will Ferrell vehicle (Talledega Nights also opened with $47 million in 2006... which is also the only Judd Apatow-related film with a higher opening weekend). Hell, throw Jim Carrey into the mix, and you still only have four bigger opening weekends and three of them weren't comedy vehicles (they are, Bruce Almighty at $67 million, The Grinch at $55 million, Batman Forever at $53 million, and the animated Horton Hears a Who! at $45 million). This Todd Phillips-directed comedy has the third-biggest R-rated comedy launch in history, behind Sex & The City: The Movie ($57 million) and American Pie 2 ($45 million). It's also netted the thirteenth-biggest R-rated opening in history. Oh, and it's actually pretty darn funny, so it has that going for it too.

The weekend multiplier was a so-so 2.68x, so we'll have to wait till next weekend to find out if the (most-likely positive) word of mouth will make this a long-term hit or a quick-kill blockbuster. I'm actually curious how the film plays with stereotypical female audiences and/or kids, as the film isn't nearly as vulgar (or sexist) as you might think. Heck, end credit-cookie and a splash of comedic male nudity aside, the film could probably air on TBS unmolested save for some choice dubbing. This might be one of those popular R-rated comedies (think There's Something About Mary) where the actual onscreen content is light enough that parents let their otherwise forbidden teens see the film in the weeks to come. Come what may, whether it craps out and barely crosses $100 million or whether it goes the $150 million+ distance, this is a major and important win for everyone involved. Bradley Cooper now has his pick of tent pole projects (paging Lantern Corps...), the out-of-nowhere Zach Galianakis is now assured several supporting gigs for the next couple years, and Ed Helms is now a triple threat (sketch comedy pro, television star, and movie star).

For Todd Phillips, this is a major comeback after the brutally disappointing School For Scoundrels in 2006. For Warner Bros, this was a badly needed jolt after the disappointments of Watchmen and Terminator Salvation and the outright tanking of Observe & Report. And, while this is pure speculation, the film has a solid chance of being the second-highest grossing June release, as well as one of Warner Bros' highest grossers for 2009. Looking at the WB 2009 release charts, only Where the Wild Things Are, Ninja Assassin, Invictus, and Sherlock Holmes have any legitimate shot at passing $100 million+. So, depending on the breaks, this $30 million break out may end up number two or three for the Warner Bros' year after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and possibly Gran Torino.

Not to be outdone, the Pixar toon was equally impressive, dropping a mere 35% to $44.1 million. Up now has a ten-day total of $137 million. In the realm of Pixar releases, the film trails only Finding Nemo at this point, and only by $7 million. It's effectively leaving everything else in the dust, making it quite possible that Up will end up the second-highest domestic grosser in Pixar history. After all, terrific word-of-mouth aside, the film has absolutely no family competition until Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Land of the Lost is irrelevant (more on that below) and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is already under $15 million by the third weekend (it's at $127 million today, so it will struggle to get past $165 million). It's more than reasonable at this point that it will surpass Star Trek by the end of the summer, making it likely that Pixar will once again claim one of the summer's very top spots. How far up it will rank will depend on its own legs in the next two weeks and the impact of the two mega-titans waiting in the wings (will Transformers 2 outperform its predecessor and will Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince break the $290 million sequel ceiling?).

Next on the list is Universal's expensive flub, Land of the Lost. Opening at just $18 million (the lower end of Will Ferrell comedy openings), this $100 million+ adaptation of the 1970s kids series finds itself in a remarkably similar position as Speed Racer. The problems are a little different this time around. Last year, Warner Bros. knew what it had but just couldn't figure out how to market it. This time, Universal didn't really know what they were dealing with and seemingly just threw darts at a wall. Too PG-13 vulgar for kids and too juvenile for adults, this was basically fit for no one (ironically, there was far more overt vulgarity in this would-be family comedy that in the R-rated Hangover). They basically had no choice but to advertise Will Ferrell being chased by a dinosaur and hope/pray that everyone who ever liked Will Ferrell in any movie would show up. They didn't. Of course, the film cost FAR more than any prior Ferrell vehicles, meaning it pretty much had to perform at Elf-like numbers to make a profit. The bigger problem is that Will Ferrell movies make very little overseas. The highest overseas grossers are Bewitched at $56 million and Elf at $47 million. Everything else is below $30 million. As always, when you budget a film so high that the actor pretty much has to break his own box office records to turn a profit, you're going to get fried every time.

Universal's other (relative) disappointment is Drag Me to Hell, which collapsed 55% for a ten-day total of $28 million. When a horror film with reviews like this one got still all but flops, there is absolutely no reason for studios to even try to make good horror pictures. This one won't even equal the opening weekend of Friday the 13th, a film that everyone on Earth loathed. I've given up trying to figure out why this didn't at least do as well as a mid-range Screen Gems horror picture, so I'll just throw my hands up in despair. When studios continue remaking Asian horror films and rebooting 70s and 80s slasher franchises, you have only yourselves to blame, horror fans.

The other news in brief... Star Trek became the second-highest grossing Star Trek movie when adjusted for inflation (current total $222 million). Terminator Salvation crossed the $100 million mark and probably won't get to $125 million total (but it's overseas numbers have also already crossed $100 million). Despite middling domestic returns ($116 million so far), Angels & Demons has already crossed $400 million globally. And X-Men Origins: Wolverine continues to chug toward the $180 million domestic marker, and its global total has just crossed $350 million.

And that's all the news that's fit to print. Next weekend is a relatively low-key one, as The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 will probably do the usual Denzel Washington $20 million start, Eddie Murphy's Imagine That will attempt to capture the box office glow of Dr. Dolittle and/or Daddy Day Care, and Sandra Bullock's The Proposal will get a rare Saturday-night paid sneak-preview.

Scott Mendelson

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