By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood May 11, 2014 at 1:15PM
Original Seth Rogen comedy "Neighbors" (Universal) easily won the weekend. The race for first place wasn't even close against the second weekend of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (Sony). When comic-book movies open strong they usually fall off dramatically.
This weekend doesn't measure up to last year, when "The Avengers" soared to much bigger numbers, so the overall Top 10 dropped ($126 million against $151 million). In just two short weeks, the year to date total comparison has fallen from over 9% ahead (for the first four months) to just over 6% as we get into the summer. "Neighbors" did better than last year's "The Great Gatsby," which lagged $20 million behind "The Avengers." This weekend saw some solid holdovers, far above average, in the Top 10. But two new releases, "Moms' Night Out" (Sony) and "Legends of Oz" (Clarius) were duds, delivering less than $5 million.
1. "Neighbors" (Universal) NEW Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 68
$51,100,000 in 3,279 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $15,575; Cumulative: $51,100,000
Universal's fourth #1 opener of the year--none of them sequels, defying industry norms-- "Neighbors" is this year's "Ted," an unheralded R-rated comedy original that scores an initial strong gross, with a chance to build and become one of the most profitable films of the year. The budget of only $18 million (before marketing) already positions it for success. Add its international start (an impressive $34 million the first weekend in 29 territories, with many yet to open) and this is set for an impressive run, assuming the word of mouth is better than its mediocre B Cinemascore (comedies can be divisive, but this is below "Ted" and "Bridesmaids" scores).
Impressively, in a non-holiday weekend, this original's three-day total is just short of the $53.4 million "Hangover 3" managed with a Thursday start over Memorial Day weekend last year (four days through Sunday). And "Ted," with a prime summer release date, took in $54 million its first three days.
This looks to be a career-booster for its three lead actors, all of whom have had past success. Seth Rogen has been strong in ensemble comedies going back to "40 Year Old Virgin" through his directing debut with partner Evan Goldberg, "This Is the End," with detours through "The Green Hornet," "Guilt Trip" and the very fine non-comedy "Take This Waltz." But never this big with him as the lead. Chameleon Rose Byrne, whose quiet eclectic success has crossed many genres ("Bridesmaids," the two "Insidious" films, "X-Men: First Class," "Troy," and "The Place Beyond the Pines") --has any current actress scored in so many?- - will now be in even more demand. And Zak Efron, whose career floundered with indie efforts earning more festival than audience attention ("The Paperboy" and "At Any Price" among them), turns out to be a real comedy threat (earlier rom-com "That Awkward Moment" helped to restore his cred).
This "Neighbors" opening is almost three times better than any from director Nick Stoller ("Get Him to the Greek" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" both made it to $17 million). Universal has nurtured him to reach this level of success. Producers Evan Goldberg and James Weaver scored for Sony last year with "This Is the End," while this is the first produced film script for writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, whose dance cards should be filled for the foreseeable future.
What comes next: Saturday's gross was only slightly up from Friday's (with the early Thursday shows excluded), which is less of a jump than normal for a long-term success. Next weekend will give a better sense of how big this will be.
2. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$37,200,000 (-59%) in 4,324 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $8,603; Cumulative: $147,900,000
The 59% second weekend drop is in normal range for a Marvel-character film ("Iron Man 3" dropped 58% last year, though from a much higher level). And with worldwide totals already over $400 million, it appears that Sony will squeak into the black this second reboot effort. Comparisons to its 2012 predecessor remain tricky -- that film had taken in $200 million through its second Sunday, but that included $75 million already banked before its first weekend (it opened during the week to play on July 4th). The big concern going forward is "Godzilla" and its impact this weekend.
What comes next: The big question is where do they go from here, with further sequels already planned. It could be that, like Warners and D.C. Comics last year with "Man of Steel," they'll need to come up with some fresh elements to enhance the franchise.