By Gabe Toro | The Playlist March 18, 2012 at 11:56AM
It really doesn’t matter how popular a show was back in the day. As long as it’s a vaguely recognizable title with a good cast, you’re guaranteed a certain level of results. “SWAT” lasted only one year, memorable mostly for its theme song, and yet the movie version grabbed $37 million back in the summer of 2003. Nine years later, a similar opening has greeted “21 Jump Street,” the television show of which ran for four forgettable years in the late '80s and is more famous for spawning megastar Johnny Depp than for having any great storylines or standout moments.
“21 Jump Street” existed in that difficult nexus of action comedy, an enormously difficult genre to sell. If you push the action too hard, it makes your protagonists look too capable, and not very funny. Push the comedy, and audiences immediately know that when bullets start flying you won’t have to take anything seriously. Despite the inherent disposability of a movie adaptation of “21 Jump Street,” the film connected hard with opening weekend audiences, and we suspect the 'B' Cinemascore is likely due to those not necessarily expecting the deadly serious show to morph into a balls-and-drugs gagfest.
Sony helped continue the trend of this year, handily outperforming 2011 by emphasizing its stars. Jonah Hill, fresh off his Oscar nomination, probably can’t sell a movie on his own quite yet (“The Sitter” for example, though it coulda just been the film itself), but an inspired pairing helps, likely with a female-friendly lead as in Brad Pitt in “Moneyball” or Michael Cera in “Superbad.” He couldn’t have found a more apt counterpoint than Channing Tatum, coming off the year’s biggest domestic release, the strongly female-skewing “The Vow.” Tatum’s had three movies this year, and the last two have opened big, just in time for Warner Bros. to finalize their marketing strategy for Tatum’s summer-slated male stripper opus “Magic Mike.” And of course, great reviews of the genuinely funny and entertaining "21 Jump Street" (including our own) don't hurt either. Lest we forget -- this likely puts “21 Jump Street 2” on the fast track once that new script is done.
“The Lorax” has weathered two major $30 million plus debuts in the last two weeks, shrugging them off like tweren’t no thang. It passes “Horton Hears A Who” this weekend to become the second highest grossing Dr. Seuss adaptation, though it likely won’t reach the absolutely unreal domestic tally of Ron Howard’s creatively bankrupt “The Grinch.” Worldwide is a different story, though, and it’s expected to pull in some serious foreign dollars as it expands worldwide.
“John Carter” took a customary blockbuster fall in its second weekend, losing a little over half its audience. The cavalry of word-of-mouth didn’t show for the displaced spaceman, and Disney likely stopped worrying about the film’s domestic take, casting its eye overseas where the film is expected to do more than double its final American gross. Expect its hopes to crack six figures in America dashed by the coming arrival of “The Hunger Games.”
In its third weekend, “Project X” seems poised to wrap it up. The teen-aimed flick likely lost a huge chunk of its audience to “21 Jump Street,” though with a healthy gross approaching $60 million, it’s a tremendous win. There’s some tight numbers for the fifth spot in the top five, though the top three films at the box office swallowed quite a bit of business. “A Thousand Words” might actually jump over a couple of titles to land at the five spot, though that’s a wimpy consolation prize considering the film’s tepid response thus far. “Act Of Valor” is making its way to $70 million domestic, a number that’s either strong or satisfactory depending on rumors of the ambitious p&a campaign.
“Safe House” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” are still hanging around, two of the year’s biggest hits hard to separate at the bottom of the top ten. "Journey" is making a play towards $300 million worldwide, while “Safe House” is likely to hit $200 million, both proving that the movie star system still lives with the likes of Dwayne Johnson and Denzel Washington.
Surprising everyone in limited release was “Casa de mi Padre.” The Will Ferrell-en-Español comedy, distributed by Lionsgate, pulled in over $2.2 million at only 382 locations dispite middling reviews from critics generally warm to his films and antics (including us). There are literally no comparable titles to this, a low-budget Spanish-language oddity from a major comedic star, though its likely an attempt to increase Ferrell’s global profile, since the popular comedian flatlines overseas. Not so successful was the somewhat questionably-titled "Jeff Who Lives At Home," which grabbed $840k at 254 theaters.
There were a couple of new kids on the indie block, with Nicolas Cage's "Seeking Justice" also receiving a middle-ranged release. The thriller, which has already been dumped overseas, generated a weak $260k at 231 theaters, averaging about $1.1k per-screen. A much healthier, though much smaller limited release was had by "Kid With A Bike," which opened at three theaters, collecting $51k. "Detachment" also opened to considerably weaker numbers, with $11k on two screens.
Amongst holdovers was the arthouse hit "A Separation," which seems to be winding down, though it collected another $510k this weekend to bring its total to $5.6 million."Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" expanded, meanwhile, moving from 18 to 62 engagements for a not bad $455k tally in week two. And Oscar nominee "Footnote" is still garnering strong interest in its limited release, expanding from two to six theaters and averaging $12k per-screen for a $72k weekend take. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.
1. 21 Jump Street (Sony) - $35 million
2. Dr. Seuss’ What Are You Doing To My Corpse, Please Stop (Universal) - $22.8 million ($158 mil.)
3. John Carter, But Not Of Mars, No Matter What Anyone Tells You, Especially That One Guy (Disney) - $13.5 million ($53 mil.)
4. Project X (WB) - $4 million ($48 mil.)
5. At Least It’s Not “Meet Dave” (Paramount) - $3.8 million ($12 mil.)
6. Act Of Valor (Relativity) - $3.8 million ($63 mil.)
7. Safe House Party (Universal) - $2.9 million ($120 mil.)
8. Journey 2: Journeypalooza (WB/New Line) - $2.7 million ($93 mil.)
9. Casa De Mi Padre (Lionsgate) - $2.2 million
10. This Means War Horse (Fox) - $2.3 million ($51 mil.)