This Weekend’s Winner: 21 Jump Street, No. 1 with $35 million.
This Weekend’s Loser: Disney’s John Carter plunged 55 percent, finishing its second week in second place, with a meager $13.5 million.
How It All Went Down: Who says bromance is dead? In fact, it’s merely been absent for the last half-year — and you know what they say about the effect of absence on the heart. As one rival studio’s PR chief noted, “This was the first real broad comedy (R-rating notwithstanding) in a very long time: To give you an idea of how long it has been, think [back to] November with Harold & Kumar, Tower Heist, and Jack and Jill — and the highest gross of those three was just $78 million [for Tower Heist]. Audiences have been starved for a good comedy.”
And indeed, Jump Street was a good comedy — as one top studio marketing consultant noted, it was “better-reviewed on RottenTomatoes.com than some Academy [Award] nominees” — and what’s more, it was aimed squarely an audience that was “predominately older … and that means that the reviews helped.”
According to CinemaScore, Jump Street may have been split more or less evenly between the sexes (53 percent male; 47 percent female) but it was still overwhelmingly a nostalgia play, with over 67 percent of the audience over age 25.
How Sony got the film to appeal to both men and women is a function of marketing and good fortune. To reel in the guys, Sony relied on a near nonstop presence in sporting events, selling Jump Street with jump shots: You could not watch NBA regular season games or the NCAA playoffs without catching a glimpse of officers Jenko and Schmidt. Wooing the ladies, meanwhile, was far simpler: Tatum had just starred in The Vow, a film that has grossed over $121 million domestically to date.
The result is probably the most-qualified compliment ever given, but impressive still: IndieWire notes that 21 Jump Street was “the biggest debut weekend for a non-summer, non-sequel R-rated comedy” — which, when you put it like that, sounds a bit like Kenneth from 30 Rock explaining that “Mr. Donaghy will understand because he’s my best friend in the whole world, comma, beautiful hair category, parenthesis, strong.”
Instead, we prefer to compare 21 Jump Street with its closest competitor, John Carter: At a cost of just $42 million, Sony spent six times less than Disney and still grossed $5 million more on its domestic opening weekend tally. (Yow! And from some Justin Beaver, Miley Cyrus–lookin’ muthas, at that.)
And to the extent that Disney was overconfident in the appeal of John Carter, Sony took nothing for granted: Columbia dispatched its stars in tandem (and often in uniform) around the nation with its patent-pending Paul Blart: Mall Cop Itinerary: Denver, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Miami, before ending with a domestic press junket in New York, a festival premiere in Austin at SXSW, and a red-carpet domestic premiere in L.A., and finally an opening day hat-tip to WonderCon in Anaheim. It brings to mind Alfred Hitchcock’s old maxim about law enforcement: “I’m not against the police,” the director once deadpanned, “I’m just afraid of them.”