4 Reasons Why ‘Trainwreck’ Broke Out at Box Office – Besides Amy Schumer

Judd Apatow’s return to form, LeBron James and John Cena’s social media muscle all contributed

Last Updated: July 20, 2015 @ 5:06 PM

There’s no doubt Amy Schumer is the biggest reason R-rated comedy “Trainwreck” broke out at the box office this weekend, but she had plenty of help.

The comedian’s star power went supernova as “Trainwreck,” which Schumer also wrote, blew past analysts’ expectations and tracking with a $30 million third-place opening, final Monday figures show. That was behind only the debut of Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” which took in $57 million for Disney, and another Universal Pictures release, Illumination Entertainment’s animated “Minions,” which had a $49 million second weekend.

The success of “Trainwreck” broke a run of underwhelming performances by R-rated comedies — the big-screen version of HBO’s hit “Entourage,” Melissa McCarthy’s well-reviewed “Spy” and “Ted 2.” It also extended the winning streak of Universal, the studio behind three of the weekend’s top five films, with the blockbuster “Jurassic World” claiming fifth in its sixth week.

The star of Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer” sketch series is about as hot as it gets these days, coming off seven Emmy nominations and recent viral videos over her skewering of Bill Cosby apologists and a sexy “Star Wars”-themed spread in GQ. It’s telling that the film did much better on both coasts — where hipsters tune in to cable comedy shows — than in the Heartland.

But the film also benefited from several other factors:

Judd Apatow’s Touch
“Trainwreck” was a nice rebound for the director, coming off of two very personal but commercially middling efforts, “This Is 40” and “Funny People.” By using a light hand and leaning on his stars’ improv skills, he reproduced the winning recipe that worked on “Knocked Up” and “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” and reinforced his reputation as a major incubator of comedic talent.

trainwreck sportsGood Sports
NBA superstar Lebron James and WWE star John Cena gave guys a reason to turn out for a film that might otherwise have skewed hugely female (it was 66 percent women as it was). Both delivered in roles that weren’t just cameos, and both pack major social media muscle: Cena has 37 million Facebook followers and seven million on Twitter, while James has 21 million on Facebook and 22 million on Twitter. By comparison, Schumer has 851,000 Facebook followers and 1.4 million on Twitter.

Miami and Cleveland, where James has played on teams, were among the top markets and James is a global presence as well, which will help overseas. Warner Bros. capitalized similarly with Michael Jordan and “Space Jam” two decades ago.

Bill Hader
The “Saturday Night Live” star significantly expanded his profile with his portrayal of a kineseologist beloved by sports heavyweights. “Audiences will look at him in a different light now,” said BoxOffice.com senior analyst Phil Contrino. “After playing a lot of schticky comedy characters, he’s shown he can play a grounded, everyman sort of role very well.”

Dysfunction Depth
Having sex and getting wasted is a favorite pastime of Millennials, and that had to resonate with young audiences who know they’ll someday face their own Peter Pan moment. But Schumer and Apatow made sure there was more to “Trainwreck” than laughs, and the fact that every family has to make lemonade out of its dysfunctional dads, aunts and criminal cousins is a universal experience. That blast of reality made the film a broader and deeper experience for audiences and helped win over the critics (85 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and the word of mouth (“A-” CinemaScore) should help it play strongly in the weeks to come.