5 Reasons ‘Sex Tape’ Couldn’t Get It Up at the Box Office

The R-rated Cameron Diaz-Jason Segel comedy opens to a limp $15 million

“Sex Tape,” the Cameron Diaz-Jason Segel comedy about a married couple who accidentally post their best Kama Sutra imitation online, failed to generate much box office heat in its opening this weekend.

The raunchy R-rated romp reteamed the stars of “Bad Teacher” as well as director Jake Kasdan from the hit 2011 comedy. But it took in just $15 million over its first three days — less than half the opening haul of the trio’s previous film.

It’s not a disaster for Sony. With a $40 million price tag, it’s the latest in a string of risk-mitigating low to mid-range budget comedies that Hollywood is favoring these days. And it may yet get into the black, if it can manage decent foreign returns and some staying power at the domestic box office. But the latter will be tricky, since audiences disliked the comedy almost as much as critics and gave it a limp “C+” CinemaScore.

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Here are five reasons that factored into the film’s failure to ignite:

Dicey Title: It probably helped Sony’s marketers give audiences a clear handle on what the movie was about, but it may have put off Heartland crowds in the process. “Calling a film ‘Bad Teacher’ is acceptable, but ‘Sex Tape’ is certainly walking the line for some audiences,” said Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock. “I mean, one could definitely get the wrong idea when you told them what you did last night.”

Toxic Reviews: With only a 20 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews weren’t just bad, some of them were aggressively toxic: “The cinematic equivalent of herpes, ‘Sex Tape’ is an uncomfortable embarrassment to raunchy comedies everywhere,” wrote the Miami Herald’s Connie Ogle.  “As with most leaked sex videos, ‘Sex Tape’ is more embarrassing to those involved than memorable to those who watch it,” said the Toledo Blade’s Kirk Baird. “For a movie filled with amateur porn, sex toys, cocaine and Cameron Diaz‘s butt, ‘Sex Tape’ is awfully tame,” added the Arizona Republic’s Barbara VanDenBurgh.

Also read: Critics Pound ‘Sex Tape’: 11 Takedowns That Might Make Audiences Pull Out

Dated Concept: The idea of making a sex tape — and then being ashamed that you did — seems so yesterday that it gave the film a tired feel before it opened. “Sex Tape” might have worked five years ago, or had it taken on lewd “selfies,” but anyone who found this idea fresh was probably turned off by the idea. Can anyone say Kim Kardashian?

Lousy Timing: With this summer’s surfeit of R-rated comedies, finding a good slot to launch “Sex Tape” was always going to be tricky, and this wasn’t it. With two other ribald romps — “Melissa McCarthy‘s “Tammy” and Sony’s own “22 Jump Street” — still drawing strong numbers, “Sex Tape” may have encountered raunch fatigue and couldn’t find its footing.

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Uncoupled: To break out the way earlier R-rated movies “Neighbors” and “22 Jump Street” did earlier this summer, “Sex Tape” was going to have to draw a young date night crowd. It didn’t, instead attracting an audience that tipped female (53 percent) and older (52 percent over 30 years of age).