I’m torn on how to interpret Pixels‘ lackluster $24 million opening this weekend. The big budget Sandler vehicle directed by Chris Columbus landed at number two, just a shade behind Ant-Man, and well below its budget; reportedly $88-89 million after rebates (IMDB lists the budget at $110 million, but with no explanation of how they got to that number). It also received a B Cinemascore, which is pretty low for a self-selecting group that went to see an Adam Sandler movie on purpose.
Is this that long-awaited audience repudiation of Adam Sandler’s brand of bellicose laziness? Maybe. $24 million is pretty paltry for a film that got the full-court press tour and was advertised endlessly during the NBA finals. But another way to look at it is that Happy Madison made a movie so lazy it looked like they created the script at a booth in the mall next to Spencer’s Gifts, and the actors just sort of showed up to the set and played with the props and went home. And it was still the number one new release of the weekend.
Anyway, $24 million isn’t a great number, but it sounds like overseas box office will save Pixels from being a disaster. So you non-Americans can’t blame us for Sandler movies (China Film Group also contributed some of the budget).
All told, Pixels is playing in 42 percent of the international marketplace, where it placed No. 1 in 23 territories this weekend, many of them smaller. Major markets where it placed No. 1 are Mexico ($3.7 million), Brazil ($3.1 million) and Argentina, where it scored Sony’s best debut of all time with $2.3 million. Pixels likewise debuted to No. 1 in Russia ($2.7 million) and in Spain ($1.3 million). It has yet to debut in China (Sept. 15) and the U.K. (Aug. 12), among other major territories. [THR]
And while this may be the last time Adam Sandler gets to be this lazy, there’s a reason he was allowed to be this lazy for so long:
Adam Sandler is clearly not the box office draw he once was, although his winning streak was close to unparalleled over the last twenty years. He had fourteen $100 million domestic grossers between 1998 and 2013, which puts [him] in a crowd alongside the likes of Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and Will Smith. I imagine he’ll have another one this September with Hotel Transylvania 2 (also Sony). [Forbes]
As someone who grew up with Adam Sandler and still thinks of him as one of the defining comedic influences of my adolescence, I think he’s still funny deep down, and he knows these movies he’s been making aren’t great. So why does he do it? It’s fun to imagine a Dickensian world where Adam Sandler is genuinely resentful of his audience (who generally showed up in droves for the crappy stuff but mostly ignored his more serious work) and is now hellbent on making them feast on the garbage they seem to want. But more likely it’s probably just really easy for him to say yes to projects even when he doesn’t care much about them. That’s my guess, anyway. Who wouldn’t take Grown Ups for a Maserati?
The other new releases of the weekend were the over-performing Southpaw (my review), which came in fifth, with $16.5 million on a $30 million budget, and Paper Towns, at sixth with $12.5 million. That only cost $12 million to make, but the studio was hoping for more from the follow-up book by the author of The Fault In Our Stars, which had a monster $48 million opening on the way to $307 million worldwide.
But come on, any idiot could tell you that a movie with Shailene Woodley with tubes up her nose crying about cancer and falling in love with Ansel Elgort (I swear that’s not an anagram) on her IKEA death bed was going to sell better than whatever this is:
Get it? His witty indie pedestal pixie is also Tyler Durden. She’s going to help you get revenge on the jocks who were mean to you, you just have to follow the clues! This is all going to come down to how much you obsessed over her! This is kind of like the perfect window into the high school dude psyche. And maybe that’s why it wasn’t big hit with teen girls like the last one. Paper Towns earned a B+ Cinemascore.
Ironically, a decent chunk of that female audience was watching Southpaw, a boxing movie from über meatheads Antoine Fuqua and Kurt Sutter, where the only female character died in the first 10 minutes so that she could be Jake Gyllenhaal’s talisman for when he needed to punch better.
[Southpaw’s] showing was due to a strong turnout from women (50 percent) and an ethnically diverse audience (43 percent Caucasian, 24 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African-American and 12 percent Asian/other). [THR]
Anecdotally, I can report that my screening was indeed full of teary-eyed Latin ladies. I guess they just love Jake Gyllenhaal. And ya know, they’re not wrong. People always bring up Leonardo DiCaprio’s supposed Oscar snubs, but Leo’s never been snubbed half as hard as Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Leo holds his own in Scorsese movies, but let’s see him make a dopey movie like Southpaw watchable.
This week brings us Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (huge hit, just watch) and Vacation. I drove through LA a few weeks ago, and everywhere I saw big billboards advertising Vacation, all of them using that scene where they’re swimming in sewage. It blows my mind to imagine a boardroom full of people somewhere, all of whom are earnestly convinced that the key scene of that movie, the indelible image that’s really going to sell it to the masses, is the shot of Christina Applegate smearing sh*t on her face (an artless ripoff of a Naked Gun gag, btw). These people are adults. Who presumably raise children and drive cars and stuff. Terrifying thought.