Cars 2 may not have been loved by critics (34% on RT as of 06/26), but critics don’t pay Pixar’s bills. Its $68 million opening may seem like small potatoes when standing next to Toy Story 3‘s monster opening of $110 million, but it is enough to make it Pixar’s fourth consecutive film to opening north of $60 million. The success of Cars 2 won’t be decided by box office numbers only, though it shouldn’t finish worse than $200 million – the audience just love the characters too much – as it is the studio’s biggest cash cow in terms of moving merchandise. We’re talking billions. With ties to Target and Statewide Insurance among others, Pixar just isn’t targeting kids, they’re targeting those parents that get into fender benders and love to frequent that store that’s like Wal-Mart but doesn’t raise as many eyebrows (or rolls) or have nearly the amount of lawsuit troubles. Consider Cars 2 as Pixar’s excuse to afford to pay the electricity bills and IT department to keep their editing systems up to date. Reviews be damned, the franchise is likely to burn rubber for years to come.
Still, you have to wonder. With all the toys that have been sold, Cars 2 should have seen a bump in attendance. But the first Cars arrived five years ago. Kids are five years older than they were then, and they may have grown disinterested with anthropomorphic cars. Comparing the $68 million to Cars‘ $60 million, it means that the audience is leaner this time around, even when factoring in 3-D screenings, as only 40% of its weekend numbers can be attributed to 3D theaters. That number is lower than summer tentpoles’ Pirates of the Caribbean and Green Lantern. Understandable, especially when you consider parents on a budget were willing to bypass the 3-D surcharge and stick with traditional 2-D. Plus they got more bang for the buck, able to experience all the vivid colors without having those colors muted by 3-D specs.
It’s become apparent as the years go by the amount a film makes in the U.S. is becoming less and less relevant. Foreign grosses account for nearly 55 to 65 percent of total box office gross for a film property – one of the few exceptions is that of The Dark Knight, in which its domestic gross is $65 million greater than foreign totals. I make this correlation only to point out that a major portion of Cars 2 is set overseas in countries like England, Italy and Japan. That could help overseas receipts immensely, getting the same treatment that both Rio and Fast Five did with its international locales.
Coming in second this weekend was the counter-programming release of Bad Teacher. As the third R-rated comedy of the summer (with several more to come), it actually rated higher with critics than Cars 2. Not that anyone would want to pair them up and have a double feature (although…). Apparently production costs were low, so Sony Pictures will come up a big winner if word-of-mouth is good. I don’t think it will be, but no one listened to my opinions on The Hangover Part II, so you never know. Of all the R-rated comedies of the summer, both Bad Teacher and Bridesmaids looked bad from the get-go, and only one of those turned out better than expected. Bad Teacher better make its money fast, because in just a few weeks we have Horrible Bosses, followed by Friends with Benefits, 30 Minutes or Less and The Change-Up.
But the success of Bad Teacher means we have two female-centric comedies in the top ten currently. (Bridesmaids finishes the weekend just a few million shy of $150 million domestic.) One could also say, “Welcome back, Cameron,” as this is her biggest opening in a star presence role since 2000′s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. She may be the female driving this comedy, but the additions of Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel have to make you wonder if Bad Teacher is strictly driven by a female or is it in fact a star-driven comedy, as Timberlake and Segel have their own fans as well. Mothers just “love” Timberlake – and he loves them too.
Dropping like a stone this weekend was Green Lantern. Is it considered failure if a very expensive ad campaign can’t translate to the earnings of Thor? Maybe, but the likely culprit of Lantern bombing was people just couldn’t rally behind a hero that would disappear if placed in front of a green screen. But even with a 72 percent drop this weekend, it looks like Warner Bros. is likely to pursue a sequel. One of the primary reasons is they want to tie Ryan Reynolds up so he can’t be in a Deadpool movie for Marvel Studios. If that’s the case, then they need to try harder on getting a better cast, because Green Lantern didn’t register very high with people who weren’t familiar with the character. Ryan Reynolds has charisma, Blake Lively was better in The Town – and not quite ready for a comic-book romance (as opposed to a paperback romance) with some green guy – and Peter Sarsgaard was met with a “who?” from those that never saw him in Boys Don’t Cry, Shattered Glass and An Education.
Super 8 and Mr. Popper’s Penguins have solid returns this weekend. Kids love penguins that’s a given and there are those adults that still love it when Jim Carrey does his straight-laced comedy thing, even though it worked better with the comedies Bruce Almighty and Liar Liar. In the case with Super 8 it isn’t nearly the massive box office hit that some were speculating, but $95 million after three weeks has to count for something, am I right? You know Paramount Pictures is probably thinking do we have any other Lost boys that can deliver us a $50 million film that can be a $100 million hit?
Warner Bros. continues to print money thanks to The Hangover‘s success. It’s the biggest domestic hit of the year, as well as the biggest R-rated comedy in history in large part thanks to his massive overseas appeal. I’m told that some of the Warner suits went to Bangkok and with an extraction team raided the strip clubs and had the patrons buy a ticket to see The Hangover: Part II. Meanwhile, X-Men: First Class probably will only have a few more weeks before it leaves the top ten. Currently at $132 million, it will be lucky to finish with $160 million before all is said and done. That’s a shame, because it’s a good film with two strong leads. But in terms of earnings, it’s the lowest-grossing in the series by far. You know Fox will want to hold on to the film rights to the X-Men franchise as long as they can and not have them revert back to Walt Disney Studios, who owns Marvel Comics, but the studio will need to do some market research to see if another class should be in session.
After seven weekends, Bridesmaids is the oldest film in the top ten. At nearly $150 million it’s a massive hit for Universal as it only cost a shade under $33 million to make. Now when talking mega-massive hit look no further than Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Having gone on to become one of the ten highest grossing films in history, it seems that the experiment to take another literary work (Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides) and apply it to the franchise worked like gangbusters. Now we can expect the sequels to follow a similar pattern: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Pirate with the Dragon Tattoo, Pirates of the Caribbean vs. the World, Pirates of the Caribbean: Water for Pirates.
Expanding to 215 locations and just outside the top ten this weekend was Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. With a $1.4 million weekend gross and $5.9 million total, Malick’s experimental film continues to find viewers while jading audiences and critics alike. Beginners also expanded and found success on 72 screens, netting $460k. Two docs worth your time, Buck took in $297k and Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams continues to have strong per-screen returns. Other independent notes: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop played on 24 screens as did the turtle doc, Turtle: The Incredible Journey. They both made $150k and $72k respectively.
That’s it for this weekend, ladies and gents. Be back next time with my thoughts on what is likely to be an impressive haul for those robots in disguise thingies.
1. Cars Dos – $68 million
2. Bad Teacher (Because Viewers Wouldn’t Understand If It Was Titled “Mary Kay Letourneau”) – $31 million
3. Verde Lantern – $18.3 million ($89 million overall)
4. Mini DV 8 – $12.1 million ($95 million overall)
5. Mr. Popper and the Chilly Willies – $10.3 million ($39 million overall)
6. X-Men: First Class Goes to Summer School – $6.6 million ($133 million overall)
7. The Hangover Part II: One Step Closer to Alcoholics Anonymous – $5.9 million ($527 million worldwide)
8. Bridesmaids – $5.4 million ($147 million overall)
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: We’re Still on a Boat – $4.7 million ($985 million worldwide)
10. Midnight In Paris – $4.5 million ($29 million overall)
Tags: Bad Teacher, Beginners, box office, Bridesmaids, Buck, Cars 2, Green Lantern (DC Comics), Midnight in Paris, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Super 8, The Hangover: Part II, The Tree of Life, Turtle: An Incredible Journey, X-Men First Class