Box Office Recap: Ted on Top, Numbers Surge Across the Board

Things are looking bright in Hollywood, and not just because of pre-holiday fireworks displays. Seth McFarlane’s “Ted” is sitting pretty on the top of the charts after grossing $54.1 million, which makes it the biggest weekend ever for an R-rated original comedy (it beat out “The Hangover’s” $44.98 million debut) as well as the eighth best R-rated debut ever. The film, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and McFarlane himself, is the “Family Guy” creator’s first foray into feature films (how ’bout that for for alliteration?), and its success has many wondering why it took studios so long to give McFarlane a chance at the helm of a Hollywood project.

But “Ted” wasn’t the only triumph at the box office, as numbers surged across the board. The weekend’s top 12 films raked in a combined total of approximately $197 million, the highest weekend total ever in the month of June.

So how do we account for all this success? Well, two other new releases, Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper dramedy “Magic Mike” and Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Witness Protection” had some relatively massive openings of their own, exceeding expectations and coming in second and fourth place with $39 million and $25 million, respectively.

It shouldn’t be discounted that a good portion of the summer’s blockbusters have targeted younger audiences. Just look this weekend’s third and fifth place finishers, “Brave” and “Madagascar 3,” each debuted at number one. But after animated films have ruled the box office for three straight weeks, the simultaneously successful releases of the R-rated “Ted” and “Magic Mike” serve as a good reminder that adults go to the movies too, and not just to sit in the AC and keep the damn kids quiet for 90 minutes.

I’m pleased to say “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” endured a larger than usual 63 percent slide this weekend, falling to sixth place and grossing just $6 million. The film’s now grossed a cumulative total of $29 million, and likely won’t make it past the $40 million mark, well below its budget of $69 million. Hopefully, studios will learn to leave our great historical figures alone from now on, unless Daniel Day-Lewis is playing them (“Lincoln” is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2012), or at the very least to leave vampires out of the picture.

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom” came back into view after falling out of the top ten last weekend. The film finally saw a nationwide release, adding another 459 theaters, giving it a total of 854, and came in seventh place with just under $5 million.

The weekend’s soft release was “People Like Us,” a drama starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks. Early estimates had the film in tenth place, but more recent reports show it falling into eleventh. “The Avengers” took its place, moving up to round out the top ten. It’s likely to be the last time we’ll see those particular superheros there, but comic book fans need not fear. Peter Parker’s being rebooted, “The Amazing Spider-Man” comes out on July 3.

Here are the results for this weekend’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume

1. Ted, 1/3,239, Universal, $54.1 million.
2. Magic Mike, 1/2,930, Warner Bros., $39.155 million.
3. Brave, 2/4,164, Buena Vista, $34.011 million, $131.685 million.
4. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, 1/2,161, $26.35 million.
5. Madagascar 3, 4/3,715, Paramount/Dreamworks, $11.815 million, $180.012 million.
6. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 2/3,109, $6 million, $29.034 million.
7. Moonrise Kingdom, 6/854, Focus, $4.926 million, $18.406 million.
8. Prometheus, 4/1,951, Fox, $4.921 million, $118.262 million.
9. Snow White and the Huntsman, 5/2,337, Universal, $4.498 million, $145.591 million.
10. The Avengers, 9/1,757, Disney/Marvel Studios, $4.421 million, $606.505 million.

  

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Box Office Preview: Breaking Up with a Teddy Bear Roommate, Male Strippers, and Tyler Perry

Ted

This one isn’t going to win any most original premise of all time awards, but those who claim originality equals greatness are kidding themselves. After all, there have only been seven basic plots in storytelling over the history of all mankind. “Ted” falls fairly clearly into number five on that list, the comedy: “Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.”

When you think about it like that, it almost seems like you’ve seen this movie before. The dark force is a roommate who needs to grow up and move out, so the straight-faced main character, in this case Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, and his lady love (played by Mila Kunis) can live happily ever after. Along the way the relationship with the roommate matures as well, and he grows to be mature and “straight-faced” in his own right. This is where “Ted” plays with the trope, as the roommate character is not in fact a person, but a stuffed teddy bear (I wonder how they thought of the title) magically brought to life.

But these days, when everything’s been done a thousand times over, originality is useless, especially when the chosen genre is comedy. People aren’t there for story, but to laugh, any dramatic twists and turns are an added bonus. When you think about it that way “Ted” actually offers more than your standard comedy fare.

It really doesn’t matter that we’ve heard this story before, that Ted sounds exactly like Peter Griffin, or that Seth McFarlane is voicing another talking animal (of sorts). What does matter is that in his debut in both film and live-action, Seth McFarlane has been able to make a funny movie that doesn’t rely (too much) on his trademark cutaway gags and pop culture riffs. Furthermore, he deftly handles the few dramatic sequences the film does employ, and manages to justify Mila Kunis’ character’s demands rather than making her seem like an uppity bitch doing a Yoko Ono impression.

“Ted” currently sits at a 69 percent on the Tomatometer. Although it may seem like a live-action version of “Family Guy” at times, it’s well worth the price of admission for fans of McFarlane’s or anyone looking to have a laugh.

Magic Mike

The official synopsis reads: “Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money.”

But director Steven Soderbergh’s newest production just might be better than you’d expect, even if you do have XY chromosomes. “Magic Mike” has been certified fresh and currently sits at a 79 percent on the Tomatometer. Film.com’s Eric D. Snider says it “does a better job of mixing Chippendales-style guilty pleasures with reality-based cautionary tales than you might expect.” But Bullz-eye’s David Medsker wrote, “There are lots of things to like about ‘Magic Mike,’ but a few key ingredients, mostly story-related, prevent the film from hitting its mark. You can almost see director Steven Soderbergh at odds with himself, torn between making a mainstream film or a gritty indie, and ultimately doing neither.”

A film starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and a bunch of other are tanned and ripped young fellas loosely based on the former’s real life beginnings as a Chippendale’s “employee” who made it big. It’s hard to say whether or not this film’s for you. But what with all the dancing and the Tatum, I’d say this one’s probably going to skew female in all the ways “Boogie Nights” didn’t. And that’s more or less what “Magic Mike” is, “Boogie Nights” with male strippers.

Madea’s Witness Protection

I can’t even talk about this one. I really can’t. Tyler Perry, Madea, and something about a ponzi scheme. This movie isn’t for anyone. Even if you’re a huge (and I mean huge) fan of Tyler Perry, and I can’t imagine why you would be, “Madea’s Witness Protection” is currently sitting at a 29 percent on the Tomatometer. As Peter Howell of the Toronto Star put it: this is “less a movie than it is an exercise in product branding.”

  

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Entourage 7.7 – Tequila and Coke

Anyone who thought that Vince’s thrill-seeking would eventually catch up to him was right, although not in the way most people probably expected. It seems that the back injury he sustained on the Nick Cassavetes movie has resulted in a pretty serious addiction to Vicodin, which has in turn resulted in Vince doing cocaine at one of his infamous look-at-all-the-naked-women parties. Of course, when Vince gets up for his meeting with Randall Wallace the next morning, he’s a complete wreck, and whether it’s from the coke the night before, the coffee he chugged before he left, or just plain nerves, he’s jittery all throughout the meeting. That sets off warning bells in Wallace’s head, and now the studio isn’t sure if they want to work with him on the upcoming “Airwalker” movie. Vince tells Eric that he didn’t do any coke, but of course he’s lying, and Billy Walsh knows it.

I’m not sure how long Billy is going to wait to speak up, but if he truly is Vince’s friend, he would have said something by now. Maybe he was scared because Scotty Lavin (who also partook in the snorting festivities) was in the same room, but that’s no reason to wuss out like that. Still, just like last week’s subplot involving Turtle and Alex’s shaved bush, I simply don’t buy Vincent Chase as a cokehead. Maybe the writers think they need to drag his character through a drug addiction (and eventual drug rehab program) before he can finally win an Oscar in the much rumored “Entourage” movie (honestly, where else can it go?), but despite Vince’s shortcomings as a responsible adult, he just never struck me as the kind of guy who would experiment with drugs. Blame the porn star girlfriend or just lazy writing.

Speaking of Billy, it looks like he’s going to be hanging around for these last few episodes, and for once, I don’t mind. Though he was obviously more entertaining as a self-destructive prima donna, it’s nice to see him acting like a regular dude for once. Unfortunately, that also means that we have to endure this stupid storyline about him creating an animated series for Drama. Now, I’m no Hollywood agent, but how in the world could anyone think that “Johnny’s Bananas” – a cartoon about a “high-strung simian trying to make it in the human world” – is a good premise for a TV show? I always thought Eric had good taste, but if he’s truly intrigued by the idea of Drama voicing a cartoon gorilla, then well, I clearly didn’t know him as well as I thought. Then again, this was the second time in the same episode where one of the leads did something completely out of character, so maybe it can just be chalked up to lazy writing.

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Weekend box office preview: “Inception” to meet its match in “The Other Guys”

Christopher Nolan’s science fiction thriller continues to hold audiences to the tune of over $200 million as it enters its fourth week.  It still will likely be no match for the projected $30-$35 million or maybe a bit more being bandied about by box office prognosticators like Ben Fritz and, more optimistically, jolly Carl DiOrio for the new buddy-cop cop parody/homage from Sony starring Will Ferrell, “The Other Guys.” Of course, having Ferrell in a movie is not an instant ticket to box office glory as the experience of “Land of the Lost” taught us not so long ago. “Inception” will nevertheless go to the #2 spot, it appears.

The Other Guys and friend

This time, Ferrell’s got what looks to be very strong support from the increasingly funny Mark Wahlberg not to mention supporting performances by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson as the supercops who would ordinarily be the leads in a buddy-cop flick. It’s even got very decent reviews, which are not a requirement for Ferrell to have a hit but they indicate the movie might be okay. That always helps, though there’s general agreement that the film from Sony is creatively not in anywhere near the ballpark of something like the similarly themed “Hot Fuzz.”

Aimed at a very different audience of young girls, the prospects are less promising for Disney’s “Step Up: 3D.” As the third film in a series that was actually declining, the conventional wisdom is that the only reason it was even made was to cash in on the three-dimensional craze. I’m thinking that craze has already peaked, at least for the present. Nevertheless, DiOrio says that its tracking indicates it might actually beat the $18.9 million opening of the prior entry. I’ll believe that when I see it, though admittedly there really isn’t a strong film for female tweens right now, so counterprogramming could be the film’s salvation. Though with “3D” actually in the title, I’d be worried if I was the executive who greenlit this one.

Luke Wilson and Friends in This week also sees two films opening in over two hundred theaters, making them larger than usual limited releases. As per Box Office Mojo, “Middle Men” from Paramount will be opening in 252 theaters, including the multiscreen drive-in theater about thirty miles east of L.A. where I’ll likely be attending an informal gathering at this weekend.  The movie is getting mixed reviews, which is about right in my view. It’s an attempt to make a Scorsese-style quality film about a major turning point both in the history of porn and e-commerce that fails simply because it tries to tell a miniseries story in the length of an ordinary 100 minute release. Still, it’s an interesting movie with a lot of good moments and some very good acting, including from star Luke Wilson. We’ve been covering it a lot at Bullz-Eye with interviews by me with co-stars Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht and there’s more to come here at Premium Hollywood.

Being released in 231 theaters is Joel Schumacher’s latest attempt at artistic respectability, “12.” Named after a fictitious designer drug, it’s getting predictably uniform bad reviews and is evoking mentions of Larry Clark’s infamous “Kids.”  On 45 screens is kind of the flip side of that, a sentimental comedy-drama of puppy love that sounds a little bit like a very wholesome “Let the Right One,” minus (obviously) the vampires, called “Flipped.” What’s weird here is not that its reviews so far aren’t so good, but that there are only four of them. Even at his best, Reiner was never a huge favorite of mine, though he sometimes chose great material. (No, “When Harry Met Sally” is not really great material in my view.). Still, only getting four reviews is just sad.

  

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It’s time for midweek movie news

I used to be disgusted, now I try to stay bemused…

* Yes, they weren’t kidding. Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are teaming up to make a Les Grossman movie, declares Nikki Finke. I try never to prejudge films, and I really did think Cruise was hilarious in “Tropic Thunder.” However, I think writer Michael Bacall, Ben Stiller, and whoever winds up directing really have their work cut out for them in terms of this not turning into some kind of inverted ego-fest (“look at me — I’m willing to act all crazy!”) like what we saw on MTV a few nights back.

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* A new James L. Brooks romantic comedy by any name will probably be worth a look, and maybe better than that.

* It’s always seemed to me that the best part of the guilty pleasure appeal of “Entourage” — aside from Ari, Lloyd, and Johnny Drama, anyway — is the lightning fast pacing that nearly always leaves fans wanting more. Now, producer Mark Wahlberg is determined to give us more in the form of a movie to follow up from the conclusion of the television show. I’m concerned about whether he gets the concept of why you want to always leave an audience wanting more. If not, “Entourage”  could become the male equivalent of “Sex and the City” in theaters as well as the small screen.

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