Puss in Boots Climbs Tower for Repeat Win
By John Hamann
November 6, 2011
Finishing second this weekend is Tower Heist, the "wow, are we mad at Bernie Madoff?" comedy. Universal tested the star power argument, and unfortunately lost, as the Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy comedy earned only an okay $25.1 million. Released to a very wide 3,367 venues, the big budget heist flick had a venue average of $7,450. This one feels more like Tropic Thunder than Night at the Museum, as the difference between opening weekends is only $5 million. However, the domestic totals are five football fields apart. Night at the Museum was perfect for kids and families over the Christmas season, while Tropic Thunder was full of recognizable faces, but targeted at adults. Despite the similar opening frames, Night at the Museum went on to earn $250 million, as it had that PERFECT release date, opening three days prior to Christmas, and then completely dominating the next 15 days (it earned $127 million between opening day and January 1st, even though it opened to only $30 million). Tropic Thunder you may remember, was the number one film for three consecutive weekends, but that was through the dog days of August, when nothing else was showing up to compete. Tropic Thunder went on to earn $110 million domestically, after a $25.8 million opening frame.
The good news for Universal is that it sounds like Stiller and Murphy actually made a pretty good film. A decent comedy with two very likable stars can be very leggy indeed (see: Wedding Crashers). At RottenTomatoes, Tower Heist earned a surprisingly strong 93 positive reviews out of a possible 135, giving it a 69% fresh rating at this point. It's a Brett Ratner flick, so everyone knows you won't have to think (and would probably just hurt yourself doing that at a Ratner film). Prior to Thanksgiving, Tower Heist only has to play off against a very bad looking Adam Sandler film (Jack and Jill = Little Nicky, or worse), so it could see some decent play leading up to the holiday weekend. This is not a good start for the Universal film, but considering it only cost $75 million to make (after tax incentives), the risk to Universal should be low following opening weekend.
Third this weekend goes to A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (from here on known as Harold & Kumar 3D). The third film in the strangest trilogy in movie history got off to a strong start this weekend, as our favorite brainy potheads continue to see higher grosses with each film released. Harold & Kumar 3D got off to an okay start this weekend, earning an expected $13.1 million from 2,875 venues. It had a venue average of $4,544. Still making good movies about getting the munchies, Harold & Kumar have once again turned the traditional white-only frat boy comedy into a multicultural experience.
Considering that this is a franchise that was going nowhere after the first film opened to $5.5 million and earned only $18.2 million, the fact that a third film even exists is a success story. After the original was released, the demand on DVD was huge, and given the 74% fresh rating and the $9 million price tag of the first film, why not make another? Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay made $15 million in its first weekend (against a budget of $12 million), $40 million over its run and another $25 million from DVD sales. Thus, Harold & Kumar 3D was born. This one cost $15 million, still has Neil Patrick Harris and pot, and is again the best reviewed new film of the weekend, as it earned a 72% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. Seriously – how refreshing is this? Here is a team that knows how to make a good film for not very much money, is never excessive, and makes people even outside of its core audience laugh (53 positive reviews from FILM CRITICS). I love the Harold & Kumar story, and wish more studios would work within the spirit that the Harold & Kumar franchise has.