For those who follow that sort of thing, this weekend was one of the more interesting in a while at the domestic box office. There were four films that broke the $25 million barrier in the same weekend, a first in history, for instance. There was the unusually precipitious drop for "Brave," a worrying sign for the once-untouchable animation factory Pixar. There was the continually impressive expansion for "Moonrise Kingdom."
But the most interesting tidbit came in the very upper reaches of the chart, with two fairly inexpensive, R-rated films: Seth MacFarlane's "Ted," made for around $50 million, about the same amount as it took across three days in the U.S, and Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike," picked up Warner Bros for a mere $7 million in what's looking like the bargain of the year, took just shy of $40 million. Together, they serve as further demonstrations of what we said over a year ago -- that despite studios shying away from mid-budget movies for grown-ups, they're often smarter investments than tentpoles (something born up by films like "Safe House," "Think Like A Man," and "Contraband" all exceeding box office expectations earlier in the year).
But it's "Magic Mike" we particularly want to talk about, because it's another example of something that's become increasingly clear of late. Ever since "Star Wars," really, studios have been banking that young men between the ages of 13-25 (roughly) is where the money is, and the evidence has more than backed that up over the last 35 years, with superheroes and effects driven tentpoles being consistently the biggest moneymakers. This year, however, "The Avengers" aside (and more on that below), that hasn't really been borne out, with many of the films targeted specifically at that demographic underperforming. Indeed, of the year's top fifteen grossers so far only three -- "The Avengers," "Men In Black 3" and "Wrath Of The Titans" were targeted directly to that demographic (one could arguably include "21 Jump Street," "Ted" and "Prometheus," except that all three carried R-ratings).
What's more, even the ones that did bring in grosses have underperformed. Despite a decade of inflation and a 3D subsidy, "MIB3" is the lowest-grossing film of the franchise by $20 million; although it'll close the gap before its run ends. 'Titans' took half of what its 2010 predecessor made. "Battleship" and "John Carter" are already famous disasters. Even a highly profitable film like "Chronicle" was a sleeper hit, but barely passed $60 million -- a few years ago, it might have made much more.
It's not hard to come up with reasons why teen boys may not be coming to the movies in the droves they once did -- video games, piracy, rising prices, the shittiness of the product. We covered some of this last time. But what's perhaps more interesting is that the audience that seems to be stepping in. The way-above-expectations opening of "Magic Mike" is only the latest in a series of examples of female audiences -- and in particular, older female audiences -- being arguably more reliable than young men in terms of actually turning out at the box office .