Weekend Box Office Winners & Losers: A Small Victory for Marvel, a Big One for ‘Trainwreck’

Universal Pictures

The good times rolled at the box office this weekend. You got your semi-regular Marvel fix with Ant-Man; Judd Apatow hit a home run for the first time as a director since Seth Rogen accidentally impregnated Katherine Heigl; and the Minions … well, they kept Minioning. Together they made for the sixth consecutive week of trumping the bummer summer of 2014: Domestic ticket sales were up a whopping 30 percent over the same period last year. Life’s good.

Why, with Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler1 still to come before the month is over, you might mistake theatrical moviegoing for a growth industry. Seriously: Domestic revenue is up almost 9 percent this year and we haven’t even had our Very Star Wars Christmas yet. You really have to squint to find some stray nimbi gathering in the sky this sunny box office weekend. But this being Hollywood, someone will, and if you really want to name a loser this Monday morning—

Loser: The Incredible Shrinking Winner

There’s no arguing who won the weekend; when Marvel comes to dinner, it always sits at the head of the table now. The studio’s long-awaited Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd as the tiniest hero, took first at the domestic box office with $58 million, roundly beating the oh-so-marketable Minions, which fell to second at $50.2 million. That’s Marvel’s 12th straight no. 1 opening. Oh, and Ant-Man burgled another $56.4 million abroad, for a grand total of $114.4 million worldwide. On its relatively modest (by superhero standards) $130 million budget and boasting solid reviews that should lead to a nice theatrical run, Ant-Man performed well for his corporate overlords.2 So all’s well in the Marvel Universe, right?

Then why does it feel like every analyst’s column came with an arched eyebrow? Call it the Insane Expectations Problem, but for the second time this year, Marvel’s failed to live up to some degree of unsustainable hype. Hey, Avengers: Age of Ultron sits at no. 6 on the worldwide gross list and it still can’t get any respect — especially when it’s been topped by two other movies (Jurassic World, Furious 7) from this year — so when Ant-man comes in under its $60 million to $65 million projections, you bet everyone’s taking notice and breaking out the unflattering size puns. When you’ve been on as big a roll as Marvel, anything even slightly underwhelming leads all of us Chicken Littles to look skyward nervously. Indeed, Ant-Man did open below every other Marvel offering save 2008’s The Incredible Hulk ($55.4 million). And the comparisons really start to smart if you hold it up to Guardians of the Galaxy, another little-known Marvel property, but one that overcame its relative obscurity to become a breakout sensation.3 I guess even the mighty Marvelverse has its limits. But Kevin Feige doesn’t need to hurry off to the bomb shelter and elbow for some room next to the Terminator.4 The Twilight of the Comic-Book Movie Gods hasn’t arrived quite yet.

Winners: Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow

If you want unadulterated good news, you can always turn to this year’s old reliable, Universal Pictures, which birthed another hit this week in Trainwreck. The Judd Apatow comedy became the latest film to ride the Female Moviegoer Express to Big Money Junction: Amy Schumer’s debut came in third at the domestic box office with $30.2 million — way above estimates that had Trainwreck bowing in the high teens. That’s Apatow’s second-biggest opening weekend as a director after Knocked Up, and it puts him back on top of Comedy Mountain after the disappointments of This Is 40 and Funny People. But the real surprise might be that a starlet was born: Apparently 28 percent of attendees went to Trainwreck for Schumer, even though the comedian had never headlined a film before.

Winner: The Unstoppable Universal

Take a look at the top five this weekend and you’ll notice the word “Universal” quite a lot; not only did Trainwreck overperform, but Jurassic World became the fourth film in history to cross $600 million at the domestic box office. And with $1.513 billion worldwide, it’s taking a pit stop at no. 4 on the all-time list before taking its rightful place at no. 3, probably sometime this week. Universal has reached $5 billion worldwide faster than any other studio, is ready to break Fox’s 2014 record of $5.5 billion soon, and there are still well more than five months of moviegoing left in the year.

Winner: A Country for Old Men

The art house provided safe haven for the sun-stroked seniors this weekend: Reviews be damned, Woody Allen’s latest, Irrational Man, got off to a solid start with $188,115 in five theaters. That’s just below Magic in the Moonlight, and given Allen’s devoted fan base of fellow sardonic nihilists, Indiewire projects it could eventually get to around $10 million, good enough to keep his backers happy. Meanwhile, Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes, with Sir Ian McKellen as the aging sleuth, made $2.5 million, breaking into the top 10 despite opening in just 363 theaters. Watch your back, Cumberbatch.

The Tiny Hero’s Top Five

  1. Ant-Man, Disney, $58 million
  2. Minions, Universal, $50.2 million ($216.7 million domestic total)
  3. Trainwreck, Universal, $30.2 million
  4. Inside Out, Disney, $11.7 million ($306.4 million domestic total)
  5. Jurassic World, Universal, $11.4 million ($611.2 million domestic total)

Filed Under: Box office, Movies, ant-man, Trainwreck, Minions, universal, Marvel, amy schumer, Judd Apatow

John Lopez is a Grantland contributor and a writer/filmmaker living in Los Angeles.

Archive @ jedgarlopez

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