Hollywood front-loaded the summer with big-budget actioners to get ahead of the month-long World Cup, which provides massive international competition. But this weekend two sequels, Sony comedy "22 Jump Street" and Dreamworks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2" scored well stateside. And both improved on their previous efforts' March openings, delivering more than $50 million, which is rare for the same weekend. Last summer, for example, only "Monsters University" and "World War Z" both opened at over $60 million. Nonetheless the weekend Top 10 total is down $12 million from last year, when the mighty "Man of Steel" managed $116 for its initial three-day weekend (on top of Thursday), with long-legged hit "This Is the End" supplementing the returns.
The year-to-date is about 2.5% above last year, with June performing comparatively better than May (despite boasting more tentpole releases). Both of this week's openers disappointed on Saturday. Was it the World Cup? It's not usually a big draw in the U.S. (although it does appeal to the Latino population, which is a prime driver for box office). This could still prove to be a bumpy summer, with more surprises ahead.
Yes it's true: Twentieth Century Fox has three films in the top six this week, all with over 3,000 screens.
1. "22 Jump Street" (Sony) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 71
$60,000,000 in 3,306 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $18,149; Cumulative: $60,000,000
Coming in two-third higher than "21 Jump Street" and ahead (among R-rated comedies) of "Ted"'s opening two years ago, this a clearly a happy result, especially with a modest $45-50 million budget that is far lower than the season's previous #1 openers. The audience played equally male/female, and the raucous comedy drew a young crowd (an increasingly tough draw) despite the rating.
Most impressive, "22 Jump Street" is playing in nearly 1,000 fewer theaters than "How to Train a Dragon 2" and most #1 films of late. It also lacks the 3D surcharge boost that benefit many top films (including "Dragon"). However, the drop from Friday (even excluding the Thursday night shows) to Saturday was a bit more than "Ted,"; "21 Jump Street" had a slightly better second day result. But it's still close to the same range, and the end result is a higher overall gross.
"Jump Street" marks the year's second hit for directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who also made the earlier "Jump"), they also helmed "The Lego Movie." For Jonah Hill (who also had voice roles in "Lego" and the current "Dragon"), this follows both "This Is the End" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." And Channing Tatum is also on the rise, with his performance in the forthcoming "Foxcatcher" already acclaimed at Cannes.
What comes next: With the gross this high, a steep second weekend drop is likely. The first "Jump" did only about half as well foreign as domestic, but Hill and Tatum are bigger draws now. Whatever the ultimate results, this already seems like a clear success.
2. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" (20th Century Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 77
$50,000,000 in 4,253 theaters; PSA: $11,756; Cumulative: $50,000,000
DreamWorks Animation took a write down for both of its most recent releases (though 20th Century Fox), with "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" and "Turbo" joining their earlier "Rise of the Guardians," their final Paramount film) as losses. So much rides on this success. "HTTYD2" is a much better opening gross than any of those ("Peabody" opened best of the group at $32 million but failed overseas), and is $7 million ahead of the first "Dragon." So things are looking good.
Comparisons fall short, though, to last summer's two animated sequels. "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University" both opened to over $80 million. With an A Cinemascore, strong reviews and the popularity of the earlier film, this gross, though good, seems somewhat below what might have been expected. And with both "Frozen" and "The Lego Movie" in recent months also showing the strong appeal of animated films, even at an initial cost of $145 million, this appeared to be primed to be a major summer hit.
So far, particularly with the way well-received family features hold and the absence of top competition over the next few weeks, this should get into profitable territory. But it still feels a tad disappointing at this early stage.
What comes next: Unlike the norm recently, this did not have a parallel worldwide release in most territories. With animated films soaring overseas in most cases, that likely will guarantee success for this. And of course the second weekend hold will be a much clearer indication of reaction.