Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
May 13, 2014

That's a clown(ey) shirt, bro.

Kim Hollis: Neighbors, the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron comedy, earned a mighty $49 million this weekend. What do you think of this result?

Edwin Davies: This is a real surprise. I thought going in that Neighbors would have a chance of beating Spider-Man, based on the likely drop for a superhero movie and the heat the film had generated, but I thought that any victory would be a close one of maybe $1-2 million, not a complete shellacking of more than $10 million. I think this speaks to the strength of the concept, which is easy to grasp and plays nicely on the personas of its two stars, and a marketing campaign that has been brilliantly handled, not only in terms of the very funny trailers, but the confidence the studio showed in showing the film at South by Southwest and holding plenty of previews prior to release. They knew they had a solid film on their hands and that approach really helped get the word out there that the film was pretty funny and pretty good, an idea that was backed up by the decent reviews. Everything came together for Neighbors, turning it into one of the biggest films of Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Nicholas Stoller's careers after just one weekend. Not shabby.

Jay Barney: I don’t think beating Amazing Spider-Man is the major story here, I think the amount of money Neighbors made is the shocker. Spider-Man was bound to be big. Last weekend was huge. We should not get stuck thinking the Amazing Spider-Man movies really compare with the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man of about a decade ago, though. Despite the decline in the web slinger’s totals, the international receipts will especially be fine.

The real story is Neighbors’ strong entry into the early summer box office. This is an R-Rated comedy, one of the first summer films, and it just had the fifth best opening for the year. Admittedly there are only a couple of films that have come out of the gate this strong, but almost half the calendar year is gone and Divergent, The Lego Movie, Captain America, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are the only films to achieve more than what Neighbors did this weekend.

It had a great spot in the schedule, a pretty decent marketing campaign, and positive buzz. Rotten Tomatoes currently has it at 75% fresh, and there were enough laughs for viewers to recommend it to others. That apparently happened quite a bit this weekend. The ads were noticeable, particularly playing up the theme that almost everyone has experienced; the uncomfortable relationship with those next door.

Lastly, Neighbors benefited from how things panned out with the schedule. Competition is everything, and the stars aligned. The other two openers this week were never really on anyone’s radar screen. Spider-Man opened huge, but action flicks commonly fall 50% or more in weekend two. The movies that opened in the last weekend of April are pretty much old news now, the strongest being The Other Woman which was under $10 million. The stars just aligned.

Matthew Huntley: Prior to reading everyone's comments, I was moderately shocked by Neighbors' performance. I mean, I suspected it would open well, perhaps in the $34 million range, but not this well. In hindsight, though, I can see how it makes sense, especially given the context of its release: a) opening on the second weekend of another studio's major tentpole (thereby offering a fresh alternative to a movie that was automatically front-loaded); b) it's the end of the school year for colleges and universities and the premise is about a fraternity, so the two factors are somewhat related; c) it's Mother's Day weekend and the audience, to my surprise, was mostly female. I'm still scratching my head over the last point, but any way you look at it, David is right to call this a bona fide blockbuster and it's a big win for Universal. I have a feeling it will hold up well over the coming weeks, too (even with the behemoth that is Godzilla), because now a lot of people are going to have to see what all the fuss is about (myself included).

Bruce Hall: Consider me officially surprised. I was prepared for Neighbors to do Wedding Crashers kind of business, but not Ted kind of business. The bottom line is, this looks to be the same unexpected hit both of those movies were in their respective contexts. And it's the kind of success that could take Seth Rogen's career to another level. It might even make Zac Efron relevant again, and that's an achievement in and of itself.

Max Braden: High School Musical hit in the beginning of 2006 and Seth Rogen had got both Knocked Up and Superbad in the summer of 2007, so you could say they've had the same career length, but I think Neighbors effectively split them into two generations. That could conceivably have helped secure both the college crowd and...older...crowd, and appealed to guys (Rogen) and gals (Efron). Still, $50 million is above and beyond the $33 million opening of a party movie like Superbad. Efron did have a $42 million opening with High School Musical 3, but given that this is the best live-action opening weekend for either actor, I'm reluctant to name either of them as the main draw. I think it was largely the genre, with the potential of the pranks that pulled in audiences.

Kim Hollis: I expected this film to exceed $40 million and beat The Amazing Spider-Man 2, honestly. I did not expect it to be at nearly $50 million after three days. I’d disagree that its opening had anything to do with competition, though. There was a market for this film, they were hungry, and they were served. Concept comedies such as these are really finding a hold in the market, and it helps when there’s a perception that they’re good, too.

David Mumpower: Speaking to Kim's point, concept comedy is where the money is these days. We have had breakout hits starting with The Hangover and Bridesmaids then continuing with Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief. Neighbors becomes the latest breakout comedy that can be summarized quickly and effectively. And the hook this time is especially good for the reason Max noted above. It is multi-generational. Some fans of the film relate to the "kids these days" side of the story while the power demographic of box office, the under-25 crew, loves the idea of older people being pranked and possibly tortured. It's win/win for everybody. While I am just as surprised by the overall total as everyone else, I absolutely expected Neighbors to be a solid hit. This battle was won at the pitch meeting.

Kim Hollis: What percentage of the credit for the success of this film do you give to Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and the concept?

Jay Barney: I think Rogen and the concept deserve some credit....not sure how much of a draw Zac Efron is.

Edwin Davies: I don't think you can separate Efron and Rogen, since I think a large part of the appeal for the film lies in seeing two such different performers with such diametrically opposed careers/personas/appearances being pitted directly against each other. I also think that if you were to sub either of them out for a different actor (imagine, say, a version of Neighbors that is Zac Efron vs. Jason Segel or Seth Rogen vs. Liam Hemsworth) the film wouldn't have opened nearly as well, because both actors come with certain expectations attached to them and seeing them subtly subvert them (as Rogen does by playing a young father, which is a different role for him) is part of the fun. I also think that having them together adds legitimacy to Efron playing a real prick in an R-rated comedy, something That Awkward Moment, which made half of Neighbors' opening weekend in its entire run, lacked. Even though Rogen is the bigger draw and is coming off one of his biggest successes in This Is the End, the sheer size of this opening weekend owes something to who he was paired up with/against. Basically, I don't think you can say either actor was more directly responsible for this result; the success is dependent on these specific actors and their separate appeals to different audiences.

That plays into the importance of the concept as well. It's easy to imagine plenty of combinations of actors being slotted into the Rogen/Efron roles and the film still doing well, but hard to imagine any that would work exactly as well as this one did.

Matthew Huntley: It's hard to say for me personally, because Seth Rogen has grown increasingly obnoxious/redundant over the years, so he wouldn't be the reason I would go and see Neighbors (in fact, he kind of deters me from it), while Zac Efron I could either take or leave (he hasn't really proven himself a strong performer; but on the flip side, he hasn't proven himself a weak one, either). Their names, faces and reputations definitely played a role, but I think Edwin said it best that there are plenty of combinations of young actors that would have yielded the same result. Percentage-wise, I'd give Rogen 30% of the credit (since he thrives in raunchy comedies) and Efron 20% (who will no doubt now be cast in future raunchy comedies).

Bruce Hall: I'm going with another Wedding Crashers comparison, since Wedding Crashers is awesome and I relish any chance to refer to said awesomeness.

I think the simple premise and the dynamic between the leads is what makes this work. Of course in the case of Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn stayed pretty much within their respective comfort zones. Here, Rogen and Efron mix things up a bit and play off each other very nicely. The trailers were hilarious and as a child of the ‘80s, it absolutely delights me that the antagonists are jerky frat boys.

Most R-rated comedies that do this well do so because for whatever combination of reasons, they're just what America needed at the time. I believe that to be the case now, and I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say that if I still bought movies in physical form, Neighbors would eventually take its rightful place on the Shelf of Glory in my Man Cave.

Max Braden: I'd give a large majority of the weight to the premise. The movie was originally called Townies. Local residents have always clashed with frats and loud college aged neighbors, all over the country. And I think what the trailer offered was the potential for escalating pranks played on the stuck up married couple. I suspect most of the audience was college aged guys living vicariously through Efron to see how they could get back at people trying to ruin their fun. Of course, *I* say that as someone 20 years out of college...

Kim Hollis: While I think that the concept is a big part of the reason this film succeeded, I also think that a different combination of stars would have brought about an entirely different result. People keep saying they’re tired of Seth Rogen, but This Is the End and now Neighbors seem to belie those statements. I think people *are* tired of seeing him play an annoying burnout. But when he subverts those expectations and plays against type, he suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. And Efron was a perfect foil. The fact that the audience was 53% female is probably at least a decent indicator that he was a draw here. I really admire that both actors totally played against type. This wasn’t a “safe” film for either of them, really.