Once Again “Thor” Scores at Box Office

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: There was an undue amount of pressure for Bridesmaids (review) this weekend, as the Judd Apatow-produced film had to shoulder the burden of being a test case for the bankability of female-ensemble comedies. Not merely able to get solid reviews and open with enough to be profitable, the film basically had to send a message to Hollywood that audiences would pay to see female-driven comedies that weren’t squarely in the romantic comedy genre. Whether or not Hollywood will actually take any heed is subject to debate (doubtful, any success that doesn’t fit in the ‘boy-centric fantasy/comedy’ box is usually written off as a fluke), the film performed quite well in its debut weekend, grossing $24.4 million in its first three days. Just as importantly, the film scored a big 3.12x weekend multiplier, meaning that its word of mouth matched its reviews and that it worked as a date-night choice for Friday and Saturday night (the film rose 36% on Saturday). The film scored a solid B+ from Cinemascore and it played 67% female and 63% over-30. That gives the film solid room to grow as the younger folks check it out over the next couple weekends, although the coming tsunami that is The Hangover II (opening May 26th) won’t help matters. Still, the film cost just $32 million, so it’s another win for Universal, a studio that has done best in the comedy arena over the last few years. Point being, you can write up Bridesmaids as a triumph for female-driven comedies or just the triumph of a terrific movie opening well (in a just world, Kristen Wiig would be getting Oscar talk). You pick. Win/win. And it will be Win/Win/WIN! is Nikki Finke makes good on her promise to retire from box office punditry (she swore to leave the field if Bridesmaids opened to under $20 million).

The only other wide release opener was Priest, the Screen Gems adaptation of a cult comic book. The film got terrible reviews, was apparently cut down to a PG-13, and ran just 87 minutes long: all signs of a surefire winner. But the film opened with $15.5 million anyway. Attribute it to the usual Screen Gems marketing machine, which can seemingly open anything in the $14-20 million range (that the film screened in 3D with higher ticket prices didn’t hurt either). But I do think there is a small niche (I can’t say how big) that comes out for religious-themed horror or science fiction that would otherwise stay at home. It’s merely a way to explain how almost every even remotely religious-themed horror film that would otherwise be a dump ends up opened around $15-23 million (Priest, Legion, Stigmata, The Last Exorcism, The Rite, The Haunting In Connecticut, etc). It’s just a theory (and The Last Exorcism and The Haunting In Connecticut are actually quite good), but it’s why I never expected Priest to outright tank. Of course, unlike those generally lower-budgeted genre films, Priest cost $60 million, so um… yeah, good luck with overseas business. Amongst the various limited releases, we had the Will Ferrell drama Everything Must Go, which inexplicably went limited on just 218 screens. Why Roadshow Attractions/Lionsgate didn’t go semi-wide, I do not know. Arthouse patrons don’t generally flock to Will Ferrell films and Farrell fans don’t generally go to arthouses. But the film earned just over $800,000 for a mediocre $3,600 per screen average. It’s actually a pretty good film, and Ferrell again proves (after the superior Stranger Than Fiction) that he is as good as low-key drama as he is at boisterous comedy.

The number one film of the weekend was again Thor (review), which held up a little better than expected thanks to strong matinée/kiddie business on Saturday and Sunday. Since the film is quite kid-friendly (as it arguably should be), that makes sense. I have to wonder if the Friday numbers were hurt by the various genre fans who stayed home to watch the Smallville finale (review)… Anyway, the film dropped 49% in weekend two, grossing $34.5 million and ending day ten with a solid $119 million in domestic grosses. Worldwide, the film is well over $300 million and has already outgrossed both Hulk films, the second Fantastic Four, and the first X-Men). By next weekend, it will be the biggest-grossing Marvel comic film that isn’t part of the X-Men, Iron Man, or Spider-Man series, and soon it will have outgrossed all of the X-Men films and every DC Comics film except The Dark Knight. Point being, the film is playing as solid kid-friendly meat-and-potatoes entertainment, although we’ll see how it weathers the storm of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides next weekend.

Fast Five (review) held up better in weekend three, dropping just 37% for a $19.5 million third weekend. The dynamite action picture has racked up $168.8 million domestic thus far, easily outgrossing the previous entries and racking up $439 million worldwide thus far. Rio sits at $124 million, having surpassed Rango (review) as the year’s second-biggest domestic grosser (for the moment…). Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom both sit at just-above $25 million (the latter cost a lot less than the former) and both Madea’s Big Happy Family and Water For Elephants both sit just-under $50 million.

That’s it for this weekend. Join us next time for the theoretically mammoth opening of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (why I am waiting until opening day to review the film) and the wider expansion of The Beaver (review), which has grossed just $308,000 thus far. Until then, take care, keep reading, and keep commenting.

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