This where the summer gets fun. We’ve had hit sequels, we’ve had flop sequels, we’ve had successful revivals and that brings us to the end of June when Universal Pictures is going to try to continue their hugely successful summer with another sequel to one of their biggest comedy hits and they’re not going to have much competition from a dog movie that hopes to grab families away from Pixar Animation’s latest. Either way, this weekend, it’s Ted taking on Max, and it’s not going to be nearly as exciting as the past few weekends just by the nature of it… how on Earth could it?
Since 1999, Seth MacFarlane has been able to make (most) people laugh with his Fox animated series “Family Guy” and its follow-up shows “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show,” so it was only a matter of time before he’d try his hand at a feature film. In 2012, MacFarlane made that feature debut, a high-concept, R-rated comedy which put him as the voice as a foul-mouthed teddy bear who still hangs out with his childhood “thunder buddy” played by Mark Wahlberg. When Paramount moved G.I. Joe: Retaliation out of the summer, Universal jumped on its date, getting the movie out earlier while buzz was at its highest to open with a whopping $54.4 million. That was the second-biggest opening for an R-rated comedy and word-of-mouth was strong enough to bring it to $219 million domestically and another $330.5 million internationally.
Three years later, MacFarlane is back as Ted, as is Mark Wahlberg with another adventure for Ted that brings back a few old characters but also introduces a few new ones, played by Amanda Seyfried and the ubiquitous Morgan Freeman. With the success of the first movie, both theatrically and on DVD, cable, etc, one would expect that many fans of MacFarlane’s raunchy comedy will be back and that should certainly be true with the summer’s latest sequel.
Universal has done a pretty good job with the commercials and trailers for this, focusing on some of the funnier bits, similarly to the first Ted. MacFarlane is generally good at doing quick sound byte-like comedy which makes it much easier to grab jokes and moments that might work for a TV commercial. But that won’t really matter because people who liked the first movie (and that was a lot of people) will already know exactly what to expect.
R-rated comedy sequels can be hit or miss, but the first sequel to The Hangover and last year’s 22 Jump Street did significantly better their opening weekends than their predecessors, mainly because so many more people knew what those movies would be going in and they were big enough fans to want to see more of those characters. It’s good to note that while 22 Jump Street did significantly better than its predecessor, The Hangover Part II fell just behind the original and then the next sequel did even worse, maybe because the “Hangover” sequels seemed like they were basically the same plot. (Which was also true with 22 Jump Street, but that was also much funnier.) Who knows where Ted 2 ends up in terms of quality—I haven’t seen it yet—but if it sucks, it probably won’t affect opening weekend, but it will hurt its legs.
MacFarlane’s last theatrical release 2014’s A Million Ways to Die in the West pretty much bombed last summer, opening with just $16.8 million and grossing $43 million total. That could partially be just that Westerns are hit or miss with mainstream audiences or that MacFarlane’s fanbase may be starting to lose patience with his brand of comedy. It certainly didn’t have the same broad appeal as the foul-mouthed teddy of Ted, but it also relied on MacFarlane as its main star.
Like far too many sequels, the plot for Ted 2 might not be the most inventive or creative one since once you introduce and establish characters in a first movie, finding a good plot for a sequel is one of the biggest challenges. If all the best jokes were used up in the first movie, then that doesn’t leave a lot except to try to repeat yourself.
We don’t expect reviews for Ted 2 to be that great, going by the little early buzz we could glean, because Universal hasn’t been screening the movie too much, maybe because they know that critics are probably going to be hard on it. Unfortunately, these days it’s so obvious to studios what movies critics are going in to see with their knives drawn. Sometimes there are surprises, but I don’t expect this to end up with quite the positive reviews of the first movie, maybe because film writers probably haven’t forgiven MacFarlane for his hosting of the Oscars a few years back.
Ted 2 also has to take on the powerhouse of Jurassic World and Inside Out, which have dominated over the past two weekends and they should continue to bring in business due to positive word-of-mouth.
Ted 2 should bring back many of the fans, probably enough to surpass the opening weekend of the original movie by a little bit, although it’s likely to do more business opening weekend and less after that as it takes on other competition over the 4th of July weekend. I think it’s good for a $60 million opening, but it might not hold off the competition if the movie isn’t as good as the first one and with next week’s movies likely splitting audiences over 4th of July weekend (and opening early on Wednesday, too), it’s going to take the wind out of Ted 2’s sails pretty quickly, so expect it to end up around $150 million.
Distributor: MGM/Warner Bros.
I haven’t seen this movie at the time of this writing so I really don’t know a lot about it, except that it’s been quite some time since we’ve had any sort of family-friendly dog movie. One of the bigger recent dog movie hits was the 2006 Disney movie Eight Below, based on a true story, which grossed $81.6 million after opening over Presidents’ Day weekend with $20.2 million. And who could forget Cuba Gooding Jr. in Snow Dogs, which opened in 2002 with $17.8 million and grossed around the same amount? But the real mother of all dog movies came in 2008 when Fox adapted the bestselling book Marley and Me, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, which grossed $143 million after a Christmas Day release. Earlier that year, Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua also did well but that was more in the Scooby-Doo/Marmaduke vein.
What those movies prove is that families, especially those with younger kids, love seeing dogs in movies, and that’s something Warner Bros. is definitely hoping that will help their lower key movie in a summer full of mega-blockbusters.
In recent years, Warner Bros. have had respectable fall hits with 2011’s A Dolphin Tale ($72.3 million gross after a $19.1 million opening) and its 2014 sequel Dolphin Tale 2 ($42 million gross after $15.8 million opening), which isn’t about dogs but is still a family-friendly drama involving animals. It probably benefitted from being about dolphins and there not having been a movie about those mammals since the 1996 Flipper movie.
Possibly the strangest thing going for Max is the military aspect of Max’s background that could be trying to appeal to the audience that flocked to see Warner Bros.’ mega-hit American Sniper earlier this year. It’s strange to think that this might be a movie geared towards the Red States, but let’s face it, our American military is awesome, even the dogs, so maybe some will think that seeing this movie or taking their kids to see it is the same as “supporting our troops.” I guess it’s a start.
This doesn’t seem like it will have as much mainstream appeal to family audiences, not like something like a Pixar movie or Universal’s upcoming Minions, which looks far funnier and more entertaining than what seems to be a fairly standard dog hero movie, a genre that’s quite dated.
In that sense, the story seems kind of “bleh,” at least on paper, as it doesn’t seem like something that really can get audiences excited enough to make an effort to pay movie theater prices to see it.
While the cast has a few great actors like Lauren Graham, Thomas Haden Church and even Robbie Amell, who has gotten popular due to “The Flash,” none of them really are a box office draw or might potentially be good to pimp the film on the talk show circuit, so the movie is almost entirely relying on its canine star and amount of dog lovers out there.
The last dog movie was actually the Hungarian thriller White God, which barely made any money despite raves from various festivals. Granted, that wasn’t a family/kids’ film.
Since I haven’t seen the movie, it’s hard to determine if there’s a chance that this can get a boost from positive reviews, but this is a fairly low-key movie that some critics won’t even bother seeing or reviewing. (It feels like awareness is so low on the movie that there’s a chance even a few movie writers may not realize it opens on Friday.)
This could be one of those movies that does way better than most people expect, although I thought that about Dope last week and we saw how that turned out. (It bombed.) Taking on the second weekend of Inside Out may be a fool’s errand, because even with how well it did last weekend, it should still be huge due to strong word-of-mouth. Being the summer and school being out should help the movie do okay, maybe between $10 to 12 million this weekend, although it doesn’t seem like something that will break out big compared to some of the other movies mentioned above. It should be fine in terms of legs though and a $35 million gross should be the low end of where it can end up especially with the 4th of July helping its doggie legs.
This Weekend Last Year
There was only one new movie release the weekend before July 4th and it was the return of Michael Bay to his blockbuster franchise with Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount), this one starring Mark Wahlberg instead of Shia Labeouf. While there was still a diehard fanbase, most moviegoers had enough and though it was the summer’s first movie to open with $100 million (just) in 4,233 theaters, it was showing definite signs of diminishing returns. It would go on to gross $245 million domestically, which wasn’t even enough to surpass Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The LEGO Movie from earlier in the year and was nowhere near the $300 million-plus grossed by the earlier movies, keeping it from being the #1 movie of the summer as some expected. The Top 10 grossed $171 million and we expect this weekend to clobber that amount with around $200 million for the Top 10.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
Ted 2 should be able to squeak out a win over the one-two punch of Jurassic World and Inside Out, as the two blockbusters battle for second place with a weekend take in the $50 million range. Max should end up right behind and then everything else makes less than $7 million. Probably that battle for second place will be more interesting than the rest of the box office this weekend.
(UPDATE: And being that Inside Out is adding a couple hundred more theaters and Jurassic World is already losing theaters, I think inside Out might even pull ahead in their second weekend together.)
1. Ted 2 (Universal) – $61.5 million N/A (up .3 million)
It’s the 4th of July weekend and the summer’s latest sequel takes on… I honestly have no idea what to call Terminator Genisys (Paramount) except the latest attempt to relaunch/remake the franchise, this time with the original star Arnold Schwarzenegger returning. It will be taking on the Channing Tatum sequel Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.). While both will probably have male nudity, they’ll be targeting very different audiences with it. Go figure.
This Week’s Must-Sees
Batkid Begins (New Line/WB)
It’s a truly wonderful and inspirational film, as it shows how necessity brings out the best in humanity and what happens when people come together to help a kid who could use a boost. Having had to fight leukemia myself and having had people pulling for me, I can really relate to what Miles faced and I can only imagine what an impact becoming “Batkid” had on him. This may be one of my favorite movies of the year and definitely one of my favorite docs so far this year.
Interview with Dana Nachman (Coming Soon!)
Big Game (EuropaCorp/Relativity)
Interview with Ray Stevenson (Later This Week!)
A Borrowed Identity (Strand Releasing)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
A Little Chaos (Focus World)
Glass Chin (Entertainment One)
The Little Death (Magnolia)
Escobar: Paradise Lost (RADiUS-TWC)
7 Minutes (Starz Digital)
Felt (Amplify Releasing)
The Midnight Swim (Candy Factory Films)
Fresh Dressed (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Into the Grizzly Maze (Vertical Entertainment)
Elimination Game (Entertainment One)
A Murder in the Park (IFC Films)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas