Pundits expected the reunion of the "Bad Teacher" leads and director Jake Kasdan to open with around $23 million this weekend. Instead, it debuted with a weak estimated $15.0 million, settling for fourth place, behind the returning victor "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and two more new releases.
What went wrong with the seemingly surefire comedy? You can chalk a lot of its problems up to bad timing, but there were other issues, too. For instance:
Who was it for? That anachronistic title offers a clue. After all, nobody makes a sex "tape" anymore, including Diaz and Segel's characters; the joke is that the couple's risqué home movie was shot digitally and leaked via the Cloud. So people too young to remember videocassettes may not have been part of the target audience. Certainly, people under 17 were not part of the audience, since the movie comes honestly by its R rating. So that doesn't leave much of a demographic.
Familiarity breeds contempt. This is the fifth R-rated comedy this summer and the second Cameron Diaz sex farce. Could be that audiences are tired of this sort of thing, except that "Neighbors" and "Tammy" are still in the top 10. Still, that's a sign that the raunchy-comedy market is oversaturated and didn't have room for one more.
Women went to see 'The Purge: Anarchy." You might have expected a Diaz comedy like this to draw more women than men, as "The Other Woman" did. Unfortunately, women were drawn instead to the new horror film "The Purge: Anarchy." Horror films have performed weakly this year, but they still tend to draw more women than men; indeed, according to exit polls, "Purge" drew an audience that was 52 percent female. Also, "Anarchy" did better than many of this year's horror films (an estimated $28.4 million debut, good for second place), in part because it was a much-anticipated sequel to last year's surprise-hit franchise-launcher.
Parents took their kids to see "Planes: Fire and Rescue." Again, you might have expected a slightly older couples' audience for "Sex Tape," but a lot of those couples are parents who would have spent this weekend's movie money taking the kids to see the new Disney animated sequel. In fact, it opened in third place with an estimated $18.0 million.
Everyone else went to see "Apes." Last week's chart-topper, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," lost 50 percent of its business and still finished in first place with an estimated $36.0 million. And no one was surprised. After all, "Apes" enjoys demographic appeal across the board. Plus, it had strong reviews. "Sex Tape," on the other hand...
Uh, it wasn't that good. Reviews were poor, which is a problem when you're trying to attract an older audience that actually still reads reviews. Word-of-mouth was bad, too, with the film earning a weak C+ grade at CinemaScore.
One paradox of the weekend is that "Sex Tape" was the only new wide release with an original premise. Indeed, it's the only movie in the top nine besides "Tammy" that's not a sequel or reboot. So it might have been able to overcome all the bad timing of its summer scheduling niche -- if it had been a better movie.
Photo courtesy Sony