The theory that audiences would wait for the tentpole movies of July before opening their wallets went down in flames this weekend as two all-original movies (R-rated ones at that) delivered stellar openings. Ted and Magic Mike bested Brave by taking first and second place: nearly doubling their pre-weekend projections and giving box office watchers a lot more to consider than the imminent arrival of The Amazing Spider-Man.
|4||Madea’s Witness Protection||$26,350,000||$26.3|
|6||A Lincoln: Vampire Hunter||$6,000,000||$29|
|9||Snow White & the Huntsman||$4,405,000||$145.6|
|10||People Like Us||$4,300,000||$4.3|
I’ll be honest. I was planning to phone it in this weekend. Looking at the slate of ‘specialty’ pics the studios had lined up for this last frame of June it was hard to believe that there would be much to get excited about. Like many other box-office scribes, I was expecting Brave to retain the top spot for a second week, with Ted securing second place with no more than $30 million. And let me be clear: had that happened I would have been sincerely impressed with Ted’s performance. We’re talking about an original, R-rated movie starring a CGI teddy bear. Few could imagine a scenario where that combination of elements justified the film’s costs, let alone guaranteed a hit.
Among the doubters were the suits at 20th Century Fox, home of writer/director Seth MacFarlane’s mega-hit TV show Family Guy. Despite their history (and MacFarlane’s legendary appeal with the coveted ‘young male’ demographic) Fox passed on Ted. The project wound up at Universal, with a reported pricetag of $70 million. And how is Universal being rewarded for that investment? Ted has now easily surpassed the $44.9 million of The Hangover to become the highest-opening (non-sequel) R-rated comedy in history. Meanwhile, Fox is still nursing the disappointment of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is down 63% from its debut last weekend. Funny how these things work out.
About a week ago, when I was planning my lazy approach to this weekend’s box office, I was not overly burdened with thoughts that Magic Mike would be a hit. The Chippendales-inspired tale would be a footnote, I thought; a middling box office performer to the tune of $20 million at best. Shows what I know. If Ted was a surprise, Magic Mike was a shock – falling short of first place on Friday by less than $1 million! Magic Mike could not maintain that momentum on the more family-friendly Saturday market (down a big 41% day-to-day) and ended up falling short of the $40 million it had targeted, but still! It’s hard to overstate how big a win this is for everyone involved.
We can start with star Channing Tatum, the actor who is having one of the best years in recent memory in terms of the box office. Back in February he saw The Vow debut to $41.2 million (a career high) followed one month later by 21 Jump Street with $36.2 million. Both films ended up topping $125 million domestically, which puts Tatum on a very short list of consistent theatre draws. Then there is director Steven Soderbergh, who just tied his career-high opening of $39.1 million (not adjusted) from Ocean’s Twelve. Naturally, Warner Brothers (who picked up rights to Magic Mike for less than $10 million) is also pretty pleased; especially considering that the female-driven response to Magic Mike has drawn comparisons to Sex and the City, which the studio opened to a surprising $57 million in 2008.
After all that R-rated action, Disney/Pixar’s Brave got a bit lost in the shuffle. Now in third place, the film fell by 49% in its sophomore frame. That’s an improvement over the 60% drop of last year’s Cars 2 but not quite as good as the 35% dip of Up: the studio’s last original, 3D offering. Also destined to be lost in the shuffle was Disney’s People Like Us. The dramedy opened this weekend in 2,055 locations; but, with a disappointing $4.3 million, it has the distinction of being the weekend’s only certified miss.
That leaves Madea’s Witness Protection somewhere in the middle. The fourth film in writer/director Tyler Perry’s Madea franchise launched with $26.3 million from 2,161 locations. Though Lionsgate said it was expecting to open in the high teens, that seemed absurdly low considering Madea’s history. In 2006 Madea’s Family Reunion seemed to come out of nowhere with its $30 million debut, topped three years later by the $40 million of Madea Goes to Jail. As the first of the franchise to see a summer release, it did not seem unreasonable to expect Witness Protection to challenge for the Madea record. Instead, the film came out just ahead of 2011’s April release: Madea’s Big Happy Family ($25 million). Not exactly ‘hot,’ like Ted or Magic Mike, but not as cold as People Like Us either.
A few weeks ago I failed to point out that director Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, had earned enough in limited release to make it onto the weekend’s top ten list. And although I am already running long here, it is worth noting that Moonrise Kingdom has now returned after expanding into 854 locations. And, anyone notice what movie is missing from the top ten? That would be The Avengers, which slipped to number eleven in week nine. Considering that, last Tuesday, The Avengers became only the third movie in history to break $600 million, however, I’m sure they aren’t too busted up about it.
In terms of the overall box office, 2012 ended up slightly ahead of last year’s total with over $200 million. And that in spite of the fact that, at this time in 2011, Transformers: Dark of the Moon raked in $97.8 million all by itself. That year-to-year win is due in large part to the fact that this weekend’s top four movies each earned over $25 million. I can’t say that that is completely unprecedented in box office history, but I can say that I don’t remember it happening recently. But enough looking back! From now on I am all about The Amazing Spider-Man. Initial estimates from its few overseas markets show the film doing very well – better than tracking indicated, at any rate. What that means in terms of the film’s July 3rd domestic launch is anyone’s guess so, feel free to hazard your best guesses below!