American Pie 2
August 10, 2001
Those frenetic teens are back, and this time, they have glue! American Pie 2 is the fourth comedy-sequel release of the summer; Rush Hour 2, Doctor Doolittle 2 and Scary Movie 2 have already hit. Coming hot on the heels of Rush Hour 2 is a brave move, as the demographics for the two films are very similar. This may work to its advantage. I'd bet dollars to donuts theatre owners will want the American Pie 2 trailer in front of Rush Hour 2, and Scary Movie 2 for that matter. We're talking about 30 million eyeballs seeing the AP2 trailer within a month of its release. Remember, those eyeballs are exactly the audience for which the Universal marketing team is looking. Universal had an extremely hot marketing campaign for the original, which opened to $18.71 million over the July 9th weekend in 1999.
The plot is not groundbreaking. It's basically a year later, the gang is back in town for vacation after a year at college. The boys rent a beach house and proceed to work on having the best summer ever. The entire cast is back for the second go at this, plus an interesting new player: Chris Penn as Stifler's dad. One word in the plot summary caused my eyes to light up: Lesbians. Sounds like the filmmakers will be pushing the Ratings Board toward the dreaded R rating yet again. Yes, Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) is back, and yes, there is a trip to band camp to see Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). Personally, the first film comparison that comes to mind is Porky's and its set of sequels. The original Porky's opened to a surprising $7.62 million on 1,148 screens in March of 1982. It went on to do $105.5 million in the US over its run. Adjusted for inflation that works out to a $13.4 million open and a total of close to $200 million. Unfortunately, numbers on Porky's 2 are tough to find. It's hard to imagine it not having a huge opening weekend, based only on the original's open-to-total multiplier, and the fact that a Porky's 3 actually exists.
The Austin Powers franchise is another example. The first film did well enough to spawn a sequel, and because of its built-in audience, the sequel was much easier to market, as there was no need to introduce a character to the audience or sell a concept. The same goes for American Pie 2, just not to the level that Austin Powers 2 achieved. The intended audience knows that Jason Biggs is going to get himself into some sexually-oriented trouble, and we know that's going to be funny. On the other hand, the sequel does not always guarantee bigger business than the original, especially in the comedy genre. Looking at the two City Slickers movies; the first opened to $13 million, and the second opened to $11.5 million three years after the original was released. A film more closely related to the American Pie crowd is Wayne's World and its sequel. WW is another example of a film whose sequel did not live up to the box office of the original. The first opened to $18 million, and the sequel did $13.5 million two years later. WW2 had an extremely bad trailer, and the character had been pretty much used up on Saturday Night Live. It seems that audiences are very picky when it comes to sequels; if it doesn't look like the second chapter will live up to the first film, it is avoided. On the other hand, if the opposite is true, the built-in audience comes out en masse. (John Hamann/BOP)
Box Office Autopsy
Although there's always been a Hollywood rule of thumb that sequels will earn about 2/3 of the business of the original film, that axiom has become less and less relevant, with initially low-earning films bringing out sequels with pre-built video audiences to much larger opening weekends than the first film. The two films that come to mind here are Scream and Austin Powers, both of which had sequels that exceeded the original's opening weekend by vast amounts. American Pie is in a slightly different category, as with an $11 million budget and a $100 million domestic gross for the original, a sequel shouldn't have snuck up on anyone. However, few were quite prepared for the jump that the film made on the original. The $45 million it earned on the second weekend of August was almost two-and-a-half times the $18.7 million that American Pie started with, a jump made all the more stunning by the film's hard R rating, which would seem, in theory, to prevent a huge portion of the film's target audience from actually attending. This, of course, leaves two options; either the rating system is ineffective and unenforced or else the target audience is broader than imagined. I think it's a blend of the two options myself, but the importance of the latter cannot be overlooked.
The reason that the inevitable copycats like Road Trip have not succeeded as well is likely due to the undercurrent of heart that runs through the American Pie films. While films like Road Trip have gone straight for the gross-out, the American Pie films have combined this with actual characters and relationships, attracting a larger audience that would otherwise dismiss it. You don't see anything quite as complex as the relationship between Jim and his dad (Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy) in a teen film too often. At least, not since John Hughes lost his mojo.
Worldwide and video money also added tremendously to the coffers of this film; surprisingly, despite the Ameri-centric nature of the film, it did equally as well overseas as domestic, pulling in $140 million to match the $145 million domestic. On video, it was one of the most successful 2001 releases, bringing in just over $90 million. In addition to this, American Pie 2 was a part of last year's confirmation of the late summer as an extremely viable box-office period; escaping the glut of May and June, this was the capper of four straight weekends with a $45 million-plus opening film, the first such occasion in history. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Vital statistics for American Pie 2
Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Seann William Scott, Eddie Kaye Thomas
Natasha Lyonne, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy, Chris Owen, Molly Cheek, Eli Marienthal, Denise Faye, Lisa Arturo
James B. Rogers
Adam Herz, David H. Steinberg
||Click Here for Trailer
||Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture
Comparison films for American Pie 2
|Austin Powers in Goldmember
|Rush Hour 2
|Austin Powers II:The Spy Who Shagged Me
|American Pie 2
|Scary Movie 2
|Wayne's World *
|Wayne's World 2
|City Slickers 2