21 Jump Street topped the box office this weekend with a whopping estimated $35 million

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: There isn’t anything too surprising about a well-marketed and well-reviewed mainstream comedy opening well on its debut weekend, especially when there are no new releases to compete against. Still, 21 Jump Street topped the box office this weekend with a whopping estimated $35 million. If that number holds up, it will be the seventh-biggest debut for an R-rated comedy ever, as well as the fifth-biggest R-rated comedy debut for a non-sequel and the largest such debut outside of summer. Sony knew they had a winner on their hands, as the $42 million-budgeted film was as much a commentary on the current trend of recycling brand names as an example of such. They’ve been screening it out the wazoo, building solid buzz and strong word-of-mouth, for months on end. Oddly enough, the film earned just a ‘B’ from Cinemascore, and I’m frankly puzzled by that. Yes, audiences under 25 gave it an A, but it’s such a winning film that I’m shocked it’s not playing well across the board (my 61-year old father-in-law laughed his butt off at the press screening). It’s a terrifically funny and uncommonly warm and sweet (for an R-rated action comedy) picture, so one would presume that it will have legs in the coming weeks. Hopefully Sony will focus its second round of advertising on getting females into the theater (although it played 47% female and 50% over/under 25 years old) by emphasizing how *not* sexist and/or homophobic the picture is. It faces no direct competition (aside from the all-consuming hurricane that is The Hunger Games next weekend) until April 6th, when Universal debuts American Reunion. This is another big win for Channing Tatum. This is his third-biggest debut behind The Vow ($40 million) and GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra ($54 million). He also has a second GI Joe movie as well as a Steven Soderbergh reunion in Magic Mike both opening on June 29th. This is Jonah Hill’s second biggest live-action debut behind the $54 million opening of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Following last week’s semi-wide release of Friends With Kids (which expanded to 640 screens this weekend and grossed another $1.5 million, dropping 25%), we have three more theoretically mainstream films that have been relegated to the arthouse circuit. Will Ferrell’s telanoleva satire Casa de Mi Padre debuted with $2.2 million on just 382 screens, the Jason Segel/Ed Helms comedy Jeff Who Lives At Home debuted with on a mere 254 screens grossing $840,000, and the 90s-action throwback Seeking Justice (with Nicolas Cage) debuted on 231 screens grossing $260,000. The highest grossing of the trio was Lionsgate’s Will Ferrell romp (which is entirely in Spanish with English subtitles), as it earned a solid $5,700 per-screen average. Yes, the film cost just $6 million, but you’d think that a decent marketing campaign centered around one of the more popular comic actors around could generate an opening of at least $10 million, with a final gross of around $25-30 million (Weinstein Company pulled that same trick for the $5 million Paul Rudd vehicle Our Idiot Brother last August). I’ve long complained about the ever-increasing trend of treating seemingly mainstream genre fare, even ones with big stars, and tossing them off to die in limited release so that The Lorax can have a 2D screen, a 3D screen, and an IMAX screen all to itself. Long story short, arthouse audiences aren’t the sort to flock to a bawdy Will Ferrell comedy while Ferrell fans are either unable to find it at a nearby cinema or don’t realize that it’s being released. Memo to studios – if you want your films to make money, you might want to position them to actually be seen by paying audiences.

The rest of the news is holdover related. The Lorax held strong in weekend three, grossing another $22 million (-41%) and ending day 17 with $158 million domestic. Despite stronger weekend totals, the Illumination film has slightly fallen behind the respective $161 million 17-day total of Despicable Me, although it’s still a lock for $200 million, something that no other non-Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks cartoon has done in America save Despicable Me. John Carter fell a mediocre 55%, grossing $13.5 million and ending weekend two with $53 million domestic and $179 million worldwide. It’s now falling behind Prince of Persia and will finish below $90 million domestic. With that pesky $250 million budget and The Hunger Games set to kill everything in its path next week, it’s a grim future for the John Carter of Mars. That’s all I have for that one as I’m writing a piece on the film’s financial failure later in the week (I wanted to wait at least two weekends before calling it). The two other new releases from last week, Silent House and A Thousand Words did nominal business in relation to their small opening weekends last week. The real-time/one-take horror film grossed another $2 million for a $10.5 million total. Normally a drop of 69% would be troubling, but the film is so cheap that it’s already on its way to token profitability. The Eddie Murphy comedy had a halfway-decent drop of 41% for a second weekend of $3.75 million, but the expensive Paramount leftover has still grossed just $12.1 million.

In uber-limited release news, Kid With the Bike grossed $51,000 on three screens while Detachment (the best film of 2012 thus far) grossed $11,100 on two screens. In news regarding films older than two weeks, Safe House continues to hold steady and has crossed $120 million. Project X grossed another $4 million and now sits with $48 million. It will be interesting to see how the couple would-be copycat parties over the last week (once of which killed someone) will affect the in-development sequel. Act of Valor crossed $60 million this weekend, and The Vow sits with $121 million, meaning it will surpass The Bodyguard ($121.9 million) on the list of romantic dramas in the next few days, with the $129 million gross of An Officer and a Gentleman next in its sights. This Means War crossed $50 million while Journey 2:The Mysterious Island now sits with $95 million, as its worldwide total speeds past $300 million.

That’s it for this weekend. Join us next weekend for the sure-to-be monstrous debut of The Hunger Games. Until then, keep reading and commenting.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memo

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