A look at why raunch and laughs have been a potent 1-2 punch at the summer box office
The final raunchy comedy in a summer packed with them, “Let's Be Cops,” opens Wednesday.
If the rest of the season is an indicator and the tracking numbers are on the money, Fox will be laughing its way to the bank after this weekend. The film, which stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as faux peace officers, could go north of $25 million over its first five days say the analysts. The studio is more conservative, but the “Let's Be Cops” budget is less than $20 million, so it looks like a win going in.
Another financial score with an R-rated comedy isn't surprising this summer. Sequels and superheroes have been the biggest box-office winners as usual, but raunchy laughs have provided plenty of fireworks — and profits.
“By nature comedies offer something different than the superhero movies and blockbusters,” Rentrak senior analyst Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap. “Besides being great counter-programming they give audiences something different to consider, and help fend off superhero fatigue.”
Sony's sequel “22 Jump Street” is the season's king of comedy, and is about to hit $300 million globally. Universal's frat vs. family romp “Neighbors” is over $260 million worldwide. And Open Road's Jon Favreau food truck comedy “Chef” has been the summer's biggest indie hit with $39 million, roughly three times its production budget.
If “Let's Be Cops” connects, it will solidify August as a strong launch pad, he said, noting the success of similar raunchy late-summer hits like last year's “We're the Millers,” “Pineapple Express,” “Tropic Thunder” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
The studios have maximized their returns, and cut their risks, by holding the line on production costs. Melissa McCarthy's “Tammy,” also rated R, has topped out at $82 million domestically, but that's nearly four times its budget. Even “Blended,” the studio's Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy disappointed domestically. But it's not a loss because it cost $40 million – less than a typical Sandler project – and has taken in $121 million globally.
Not only have there been 12 comedies released this summer, a dose of humor has played a part in the recent box office resurgence. Both “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” took direct aim at action fans’ funny bones.
“It's summer and people are looking for escapist fare,” Dergarabedian said. “Laughs go great with the popcorn movies.”
“Let's Be Cops” is directed by Luke Greenfield, who co-wrote the film with Nicholas Thomas.
Fox's marketing team appears to have driven home the simple premise of “Let's Be Cops” with moviegoers, and made a point of screening it at the fanboy extravaganza Comic-Con three weeks ago.
“The crowd there loved it,” said Chris Aronson, the studio's distribution chief, “so we ramped up the screenings and it's been going over great.” Rob Riggle, Andy Garcia and Nena Dobrev co-star in the films which is produced by Greenfield, Simon Kinberg (“X-men: Days of Future Past”) and Aditya Sood
There will be screenings starting at 10 p.m. on Tuesday night and by Friday it will be in 3,093 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. It's solid on social media, and was behind only “Ninja Turtles” and “Guardians” in advance sales at online broker Fandango on Tuesday. Lionsgate's “Expendables 3”and the Weinstein Company's “The Giver” open wide on Friday as well.
Here's a chart that shows how much bang for the laugh buck the summer's biggest comedies managed: