Back in January, when a little sleeper hit called “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” dominated the box office, I was left scratching my head. What the hell was going on here? A little comedy, with a dearth of major stars, is topping $140 million? Something seemed amiss. Five months later, however, I have no problem championing the similar ascendancy of another little comedy that could – “The Hangover”. Todd Phillips’ follow-up to “Old School” briefly challenged Pixar’s “Up” for the top spot on Friday thanks to its $16.5 million debut. As expected, Saturday’s figures helped “Up” rise to the top for a second week – but “The Hangover” was not left far behind. Both films surpassed early estimates, which just leaves “Land of the Lost” to make fun of.
|3||Land of the Lost||$19,524,000||$19,524,000|
|4||Night at the Museum 2||$14,650,000||$127,341,000|
|7||Drag Me to Hell||$7,342,000||$28,534,000|
|8||Angels & Demons||$6,500,000||$116,125,000|
|9||My Life in Ruins||$3,225,000||$3,225,000|
I don’t want to get too deep into the “Up” worship here – we’re all tired of that by now, aren’t we? Well, turns out that, no we’re not. Pixar is perhaps the only studio that remains beloved despite its unprecedented success. People usually like to see successful studios and people get taken down a notch – but I’ll get to Will Ferrell and Universal in a moment. Back to Pixar – “Up” continues to defy the skeptics who said that the film’s old-guy protagonist was not relatable and that the themes were too adult to appeal to the typical Pixar audience. But here’s the problem – Pixar has no “typical audience”. Great movies appeal to everyone. “Up” fell off by only 38% in week two and is now about $10 million off the ten day “Wall-E” total from last June.
And now on to what could have been our number one film – Warner Brothers “The Hangover”. The comedy opened in 3,269 theatres and, R-rating and all, had a real shot at dethroning “Up” as of Friday. In the end it was only $1 million short of the top spot. The film owes its surprise success mainly to a great trailer, great word of mouth and – oh yeah – the fact that the movie is actually great!
Not so great, was the big-budget “Land of the Lost” launch. While Todd Phillips’ “The Hangover” was packing them in this weekend, the director’s “Old School” muse was driving them away with his adaptation of the classic TV series from Sid and Marty Kroft. I am actually not old enough (shocker!) to have watched the original show, but if it was anything like the film that opened this weekend then it makes me question the future of that proposed “HR Pufnstuf” film. “Land of the Lost” needed an opening in the $30 million range to call itself viable and with a weekend total of only $19.5 million and a per screen average of $5,545 from 3,521 theatres, they are not even close.
Will Ferrell has been a bit off his game of late – of his last four pictures, only 2008’s $100 million take for “Step Brothers” avoided embarrassment. As for the studio behind “Land of the Lost”, it seems that Universal is to the summer of 2009 what Fox was to the summer of 2008. The studio’s Sam Raimi-helmed “Drag Me to Hell” fell off by 53% in week two and appears to be on the fast-track out of the top ten. Add to that the performance of Russell Crowe’s “State of Play” a few months back and it looks like Universal is one sad place to call home these days.
Finally, if you are not a Nia Vardalos fan (they still have those, right?) then you may not have known that there was a third new comedy out in theatres this weekend. Nia Vardalos had a big, fat hit once upon a time called “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. That made money. Vardalos’ new film, “My Life in Ruins”, was not so lucky. Fox Searchlight put the romantic comedy out in just over 1,100 theatres this weekend and was lucky to scrape up a total above $3 million. It seems that the woman has exhausted her supply of single, lovelorn Greek-Orthodox moviegoers for now.