Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

May 19, 2015

Chill, I got this.

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Kim Hollis: Pitch Perfect 2 hit all the right notes (ha ha!), earning $69.2 million during its opening weekend. How did Universal pull off such an astounding debut?

Jason Barney: While this is not the type of film I am going to spend my money on, you have to be awed by an opening like this. We are at the start of the summer box office, two weeks from Avengers opening, and Pitch Perfect 2 has pulled off something incredibly rare. If the budget information is correct, Universal spent just $30 million bringing this to screens. Now, the marketing costs are going to be in play, but err…it is extremely likely that ALL OF THE COSTS of this film were just paid for in the opening frame. A nearly $70 million dollar opening frame for a film like this? It is crazy. How many studios would love to have everything paid for before the end of the opening weekend? Everything moving forward is gravy, and there are still tens of millions of dollars to be made. This is a HUGE win for Universal and is the definitive counter-programming effort.

Universal continues to be on a very hot streak as far as box office support for their products. The sting of January’s $70 million bomb, Blackhat has worn off, and everything is flowers and happiness right now. In recent months they can celebrate such significant money earners as The Boy Next Door, Fifty Shades of Gray, Furious 7, and Unfriended. Pitch Perfect 2 should play very well over the Memorial Day frame.


Edwin Davies: The success lies in their recognition of what a phenomenon the first film became once it left theaters. The original did well, grossing $65 million domestically against a $17 million budget, but that result didn't scream out for a sequel, especially since the international take was fairly modest. Once it hit home media, it became a monster. It spawned a hit single in "Cups", a huge-selling soundtrack album that has sold 1.2 million copies since 2012, and has been a staple of cable television programming ever since. That level of success made a sequel look like a much more compelling proposition than the performance of the original might have suggested. In that respect, it reminds me of the leap in box office between the first and second Austin Powers films, where a critically liked, modestly successful film became a sensation on DVD/VHS, which in turn led to a sequel that grossed more on its opening weekend than the original did in its entire run.

In terms of Pitch Perfect 2 itself, Universal kept as many key members of the creative team behind the first film together as they could. They kept the same cast, they kept the same writer (Kay Cannon), and they not only kept Elizabeth Banks (who shepherded the first film through production) as an actor and producer, they also gave her the opportunity to direct. Clearly a lot of care was taken to make sure that the sequel didn't come off as a mercenary cash grab, but as a natural continuation of the first film's story. They probably could have rushed out a sequel without some of the key players and it would have done well, but I think going to the effort of keeping almost everyone on board paid big dividends when it came to convincing the fans that this was worth their time.

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