CATEGORIES Movies
There isn't anything too surprising about a well-marketed and well-reviewed mainstream comedy opening well on its debut weekend, especially when there are no new releases to compete against. Still, 21 Jump Street (review) topped the box office this weekend with a whopping estimated $35 million. If that number holds up, it will be the seventh-biggest debut for an R-rated comedy ever, as well as the fifth-biggest R-rated comedy debut for a non-sequel and the largest such debut outside of summer. Sony knew they had a winner on their hands, as the $42 million-budgeted film was as much a commentary on the current trend of recycling brand names as an example of such. They've been screening it out the wazoo, building solid buzz and strong word-of-mouth, for months on end. Oddly enough, the film earned just a 'B' from Cinemascore, and I'm frankly puzzled by that. Yes, audiences under 25 gave it an A, but it's such a winning film that I'm shocked it's not playing well across the board (my 61-year old father-in-law laughed his butt off at the press screening). It's a terrifically funny and uncommonly warm and sweet (for an R-rated action comedy) picture, so one would presume that it will have legs in the coming weeks. Hopefully Sony will focus its second round of advertising on getting females into the theater (although it played 47 over/under 25 years old) by emphasizing how *not* sexist and/or homophobic the picture is. It faces no direct competition (aside from the all-consuming hurricane that is The Hunger Games next weekend) until April 6th, when Universal debuts American Reunion. This is another big win for Channing Tatum. This is his third-biggest debut behind The Vow ($40 million) and GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra ($54 million). He also has a second GI Joe movie as well as a Steven Soderbergh reunion in Magic Mike both opening on June 29th. This is Jonah Hill's second biggest live-action debut behind the $54 million opening of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Following last week's semi-wide release of Friends With Kids (which expanded to 640 screens this weekend and grossed another $1.5 million, dropping 25%), we have three more theoretically mainstream films that have been relegated to the arthouse circuit. Will Ferrell's telenovela satire Casa de Mi Padre debuted with $2.2 million on just 382 screens, the Jason Segel/Ed Helms comedy Jeff Who Lives At Home debuted with on a mere 254 screens grossing $840,000, and the 90s-action throwback Seeking Justice (with Nicolas Cage) debuted on 231 screens grossing $260,000. The highest grossing of the trio was Lionsgate's Will Ferrell romp (which is entirely in Spanish with English subtitles), as it earned a solid $5,700 per-screen average. Yes, the film cost just $6 million, but you'd think that a decent marketing campaign centered around one of the more popular comic actors around could generate an opening of at least $10 million, with a final gross of around $25-30 million (Weinstein Company pulled that same trick for the $5 million Paul Rudd vehicle Our Idiot Brother last August). I've long complained about the ever-increasing trend of treating seemingly mainstream genre fare, even ones with big stars, and tossing them off to die in limited release so that The Lorax can have a 2D screen, a 3D screen, and an IMAX screen all to itself. Long story short, arthouse audiences aren't the sort to flock to a bawdy Will Ferrell comedy while Ferrell fans are either unable to find it at a nearby cinema or don't realize that it's being released. Memo to studios - if you want your films to make money, you might want to position them to actually be seen by paying audiences. In uber-limited release news, Kid With the Bike grossed $51,000 on three screens while Detachment (the best film of 2012 thus far) grossed $11,100 on two screens.

For holdover news, including the fate of John Carter and the continued strength of The Lorax, go to Mendelson's Memos.