Check out this great article from TIME.com (written late Sunday afternoon) recapping the unprecedented events we just witnessed this past weekend in the Hollywood box office:
According to official industry estimates, the Pixar feature Up won the weekend with $44.2 million, with Warner Bros.' The Hangover a close second at $43.3 million, and the Ferrell time-travel jape, Universal's Land of the Lost, a remote and depleted third at $19.5 million. That would make Up the first movie of the summer season (which on Hollywood's calendar begins May 1) to finish No. 1 two weeks in a row.
But wait a minute — or, rather, a day. The numbers that shape box-office reports like this are announced each Sunday at noon, before anyone's so much as bought a ticket for today's shows, and are therefore based only on Friday and Saturday ticket sales. The prediction of final weekend grosses thus involve much entrail-reading, analysis of the success of earlier films in the same genre and the possible use of Ouija boards. The tense to be used in these stories really shouldn't be the past ("won") but the future perfect ("will have") or, more cautiously, the conditional ("may").
In fact, for the two days for which there's hard data, The Hangover led Up, $31.4 million to $30.7 million. Industry swamis are presumably banking on kids and their grandparents streaming to the Pixar movie on a summer Sunday, while the Warner puke-fest will have exhausted its core constituency. But that ignores The Hangover's very strong word of mouth; people who might not have gone now know this is the movie de jour. (Everybody who needs to know about Up already knows.) And as Dan Fellman, Warner's distribution chief, told the AP, "Sunday's always good for a hangover." By tomorrow, when the final figures come in, there could be a photo finish for first place.
**ED. NOTE - - "Hangover" did win the weekend (sorry Paulie, thought the Time article posted the final results). "Hangover" finished with $44,979,319 just barely beating out "Up" at $44,138,266 for the win - and it also became the third highest Rated-R comedy opening ever.**
As the road-movie comedy about the old man and a kid battles the road-movie comedy with three men and a baby for weekend supremacy, the road-movie comedy about a scientist dousing himself in dinosaur urine is news for what it didn't achieve. Ferrell, the one familiar star name among the leads in the week's big movies, promoted his film on nearly every media outlet. (Helms told his tooth story on the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me.) Yet Land of the Lost was creamed by movies whose top-billed actors are Ed Asner and Bradley Cooper.
Since establishing his star status in 2003 with the Christmas comedy Elf, Ferrell has had an up-and-down relationship with audiences: they go, then they don't go. Hits like Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory and Step Brothers, all of which earned more than $100 million at the North American box office, are sandwiched by underachievers like Kicking and Screaming, Stranger Than Fiction and Semi-Pro, all of which took in less than $60 million.
Aside from Ferrell fatigue and near-libelous reviews, there's another explanation for Land of the Lost's becoming the season's first pricey roadkill. After Night at the Museum 2 and Up, it was the third consecutive action comedy with at least one prehistoric beast. In two weeks, Jack Black and Michael Cera will play the dino-comedy card again with Year One. Sony, the film's distributor, might want to reposition Year One's marketing to emphasize its pedigree as a Judd Apatow comedy (from which The Hangover was clearly spawned), and to sell the primitive wilderness that Black and Cera wander through as Vegas without the neon. And maybe the CGI techies could quickly black out one of Jack's teeth.
A couple of quick thougths:
1. I'm sure it's happened before, but in the time that I've been paying attention to the box office, I've never seen a movie declared the winner for the weekend on Sunday afternoon only to have another movie make a late evening charge to claim the top spot.
I was one of the apparent millions that saw "The Hangover" on Sunday afternoon and I was worried walking into the theater. I have this thing about seeing a brand new comedy on opening night (typically Friday) because that's when you get the best, most involved audience and that just adds to the experience. I thought the theater was going to be dead on a late Sunday afternoon, but to my surprise, the place was packed and it felt like a Friday night.
2. I know I wrote on Friday that I would reluctantly watch "Land of the Lost" just because it's Ferrell but I'm taking that back now. The movie looks horrible, has gotten horrible reviews, and is poised to be the first bona-fide BOMB of the year. Which leads me to...
3. Is anyone surprised? This is the VERY FIRST TIME that I've seen box office experts predict a big summer weekend so wrong. Many were wondering if "Land of the Lost" would challenge "Up" for first place - it was a forgone conclusion that it would beat out "Hangover" - and it wound up getting waxed by both.
Maybe this was the weekend we needed to show the "A" list stars that we aren't going to throw our money away on crap just because they're in it. This might start a nice trend of moviegoers following the funny instead of a name.
We fell in love with Sandler, Carrell, and Ferrell because of "Billy Madison", "The 40-Year Old Virgin" and "Anchorman" but then they expect us to follow them to "Zohan", "Evan Almighty", and "Land of the Lost"?
I had never even heard Zach Galifianakis speak before this movie, but he totally stole the show. I'm sure he and Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms will go off and each do multiple big budget "blockbusters" that are horrible (Cooper is in offical talks to star in the upcoming "A-Team" remake) and they will get their big paychecks but they need to understand that we will move on to the next genuinely funny people or film.
"The Hangover" was directed by Todd Phillips who directed, "Old School". There's no reason that some combination of Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn, and Owen/Luke Wilson, and Ben Stiller couldn't have done "Hangover" and it would have been just as equally good - but they didn't. They're all off doing awful big budget films that no one cares about but maybe this was just the event needed to make Hollywood realize something we have known all along.