This weekend, ‘original films’ (i.e. non-sequels, not based on an adaptation, etc.) made a lot of money at the box office. Two familiar brands brought audiences to the multiplex, which Hollywood hasn’t even begun to capitalize yet: Seth MacFarlene and Channing Tatum. We will see more movies from these two more often. Who would’ve thought? June has been an embarrassing month for Hollywood as A-list stars such as Adam Sandler, Steve Carrell, and Tom Cruise were out grossed by “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” which still bombed! Audiences prefer fresh ideas which gauge their interest over unnecessary reboots, lame sequels, and stale 3-D.
“Ted” looks to be the clear, solid winner of the weekend. With a $54 million opening weekend and a very solid A- rating from CinemaScore, this is a promising start to a R-rated comedy. Universal was very smart to move Ted from mid-July to late June after “G.I Joe” relocated from this date to March. Anticipation for “The Dark Knight Rises” could’ve affected the financial stability of the film. For its sophomoric antics “Ted” hits the immature funny bone under 40 man-child crowd. Seth MacFarlene injects a fresh energy and big laughs in a tired, clichéd formula. Featuring humorous celebrity cameos, witty pop culture references, crude jokes, and 1980’s nostalgia galore, “Ted” has potential to be a strong summer contender and possibly the unexpected sleeper hit of the season. This connected with an audience and the men showed up while women more then put up with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if a sequel is spawned. Universal has a potential for a reliable brand.
“Magic Mike” had an ‘all style and no substance’ campaign which pulled a bait and switch with its audience. Sure plenty of P&A (Pecs and Abs) was on display for the ladies and ‘Mike’ grossed $39 million for the weekend. Yet audiences have a mixed reaction. A CinemaScore rating of a B is decent, however the comments from women are underwhelming if not disappointing. The negative comments at my advanced screening described the film as ‘odd’ and ‘slow.’ Breaking down the stats for ‘Magic’ paints a more in depth picture to the reaction. A higher percentage of men rated ‘Magic’ an A rating then women. A bulk of enthusiastic high ratings came from women under 24. (One noticeable trend: The older the woman, the lower the score.) A higher rating was given by viewers who attended for director Steven Sodenberg over of ‘subject matter’ (i.e. stripping). ‘Magic’ was mis-marketed as a “lady’s night” movie, but it deals with serious themes of the sex industry.
“Magic Mike” is the hustle of the dehumanizing and objectification of sexuality in a morally bankrupt industry. Portraying gritty realism in a form of an art house independent feature, ‘Magic’ captures the desperation to make money in this economy while struggling to keep entrepreneurial ambitions alive. “Magic Mike” is more along of the lines of the Steven Sodenberg who directed “The Girlfriend Experience” rather then “the Oceans 11” of male stripper movies.
Many fans who were expecting ‘balls-to-the-wall’ stripping would be let down for those expecting “Showgirls” with men. It should’ve been box office poison for the shallow “Sex in the City” crowd, but some don’t seem to mind the scantly clad men. This is an audience, which aren’t keen on drawn out dialogue with non-traditional camera angles. Of the several women on Facebook who was excited about the movie, not one has commented any positive reactions. ‘Magic’ had excessive awareness and was brilliantly mis-marketing on par with selling “Drive” as “Fast and Furious.” For a $7 million movie, Warner Brothers and Channing Tatum sold what’s essentially an art house film critiquing the sex industry as a girls night out movie. And they are laughing all the way to the bank!
Aside from Pixar’s “Brave” and “Prometheus,” Hollywood has been mass-producing garbage for the last few weeks. It is refreshing that some films which aren’t remakes, sequels, or comic book adaptations are performing so strong during the summer box office. This is an indication that targeting brands to an audience will succeed if done correctly. Even Tyler Perry had his fourth highest debut this weekend with his “Madea’s Witness Protection” raking in $25.4 million. The Entertainment Industry is working in an era when targeting a specific audience usually will make more money then casting an A list star. This was proven last summer when “Larry Crown” bombed as “Bridesmaid” and “Horrible Bosses” wildly succeeded. Hollywood survives its cutthroat season when they make crowd pleasing products with a strong awareness campaign and a striking connection is made with the audience.