“Pitch Perfect,” a moderately successful sleeper released in 2012, is now looking like a full-blown franchise. The sequel was expected to do well this weekend and still managed to blow away expectations with a projected (per Deadline) $62 – $65 million opening haul.
A sequel made sense. The original cost only $17 million to produce and went on to gross $115 million worldwide. That’s a tidy little profit for Universal that has the added benefit of not tying up big stars and directors who should be making hugely profitable tentpoles. With an A- CinemaScore, the sequel, which probably didn’t cost that much more to produce, could surpass $150 million in North America alone.
Actress Elizabeth Banks, who produced and co-stars in both films, made her directorial debut here. According to Deadline, that debut “will become the highest-grossing feature musical ever[.]” Not a bad way to begin a new career. Universal’s marketing of “Pitch Perfect 2” was pretty sensational. The “We’re Back Pitches” trailers and posters not only played on the goodwill of “Pitch Perfect” fans, but if you didn’t see the original, it made you feel as though you missed out on a cultural phenomenon.
Now the bad news…
With a total production and advertising budget that likely nudged $225 – $250 million, a $40 – $45 million debut for “Mad Max: Fury Road” is undoubtedly a disappointment for Warner Bros. A total worldwide gross of something close to $600 million will be required to break even, and a B+ Cinemascore suggests the fourquel will struggle to earn just $150 million domestic. The early numbers overseas are encouraging. Still, $600 million is a tough climb, especially for an R-rated movie.
“Fury Road” is one of the best reviewed commercial films to come along, maybe since “Toy Story 3.” Even the outstanding 98% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes is deceptive. Within that 98% you’ll find rave after rave after rave (and you can add me to the raves). With its spare story, though, “Fury Road” is more critic bait than commercial chum.
Nevertheless, with such spectacular reviews, Warners had to be hoping “Fury Road” would redline as a phenom, and break out well above projections. Part of the problem probably has to do with a lack of starpower. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are movie actors, not movie stars. Neither is part of that dying breed that puts butts in seats based only on their name.
Speaking of commercial chum, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” might be under-performing compared to its 2012 predecessor (by a whopping $88 million), but the Marvel marvel is still performing. With a third weekend haul of $37 million, “Ultron” will sit at $370 million by Monday. By that same time in 2012, however, the original “Avengers” sat at a much better $458 million.
Coming in 4th place is the dreadful Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara shrill-fest “Hot Pursuit.” A 2nd week -59% drop (after a disappointing opening) brings this disaster to just $23 million. The equally bad “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” came in 5th. After 5 weeks, this obnoxious dud will sit at $63 million.
So far, as a whole, the 2015 domestic box office is running only +4.8% ahead of a very disappointing 2014.
Last summer was a season of box office under-performers. The fact that “Ultron” is running so far behind the 2012 original might signal another disappointing (but still profitable) summer. And you can bet the people who should be worried are worried.
Other than Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” the next three weekends are pretty spare. The “Poltergeist” remake no one asked for hits this coming Friday. Along with director Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” Dwayne Johnson’s “San Andreas” arrives the Friday after. On June 5, the “Entourage” movie no one asked for and “Insidious Chapter 3” arrive.
Finally, on June 12 “Jurassic World” lands and summer begins.
Deadline has more.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC