Universal's raunchy comedy is building buzz while Sony's superhero sequel is battling weak word of mouth
The Seth Rogen-Zac Efron comedy “Neighbors” is poised to pull off the summer's first box-office stunner and knock “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” out of the top spot after just one weekend.
Universal's R-rated frat boys vs. family romp is tracking to open north of $35 million, but analysts said Tuesday they expect it will come closer to $40 million. If Sony's Marvel superhero sequel falls off 60 percent from its $91 million opening last weekend — which looks like a distinct possibility — it will come in at $37 million.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” looks vulnerable for several reasons.
The biggest is the combination of mediocre reviews — 55 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes — and weak word of mouth, evidenced by the so-so “B+” CinemaScore first-night audiences gave it.
Spidey brought in $5.1 million at the box office on Monday. That's the lowest first-Monday haul of any of the four previous entries in the franchise. It's well under the $7.5 million that “The Amazing Spider-Man” did in 2012, and less than half of the $11 million that the original “Spider-Man” managed in 2002.
“It's going to be close,” BoxOffice.com vice-president and senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap. “I don't know that ‘Spider-Man’ is going to fall as far as 60 percent, but the word of mouth has not been good and that Monday number is telling.”
Superhero movies are typically front-loaded and often take steep tumbles in their second weeks. Even April's very well-reviewed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” fell off 57 percent from its $95 million first weekend, 2014's best opening, and it received an “A” CinemaScore.
If there is an upset — that Spidey would dominate the box office until “Godzilla” lands on May 16 was seen as a given a month ago — it will have as much to do with the surge by “Neighbors” as it does any weakness of the webslinger.
“Neighbors” has been building buzz since it wowed the crowd at the CinemaCon theaters owners gathering in Las Vegas last month. The reaction to the red-band trailer has been through the roof. And on Twitter and Facebook it's pacing well ahead of “This Is the End,” Rogen's raunchy comedy that was a breakout hit for Sony last summer.
“It shows just how powerful an R-rated comedy can be in summer,” said Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock, “especially if it's from Universal.” The studio has scored in recent years with raunchy hits including “Ted,” “Bridesmaids” and “Knocked Up.”
That sort of movie typically does best with young males and that isn't good news for “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which targets the same crowd and families. And “Neighbors” is showing strength in other demographics as well.
“Even though much of the film takes place at a frat house, it's also a sweet and thoughtful story about a young couple trying to make life work with a new baby, so ‘Neighbors’ plays as a great date movie,” said Dave Karger, chief correspondent at Fandango. On Tuesday, “Neighbors” was doing twice the advance ticket sale business that “This Is the End” did at a similar stage.
“Most audiences will go to ‘Neighbors’ knowing most about Seth Rogen‘s and Zac Efron‘s roles,” said Karger, “but Rose Byrne, already a recognizable face from ‘Bridesmaids,’ may emerge as the biggest breakout from the film. Besides being emotional heart of ‘Neighbors,’ Byrne boasts some of the movie's best sight gags and one-liners.”
If Spidey does sputter domestically, it will be a major concern for Sony, which has already set sequels for 2016 and 2018, and is developing two spinoffs based on its villains.
The saving grace for the $200 million-plus “Amazing Spider-Man 2” could still be overseas. It's performing better abroad than its predecessor, which took in $490 million from abroad. It has brought in more than $300 million internationally and is bearing down on $400 million worldwide after three weeks.
“Don't tell that to Sony's stockholders,” Contrino said. The studio has been under fire since last summer, when costly flops “After Earth” and “White House Down” drove activist shareholder Daniel Loeb to bludgeon the studio for being profligate and urge a spinoff of the entertainment division.