Ice Cube and Kevin Hart did it again. “Ride Along 2”, the second installment in what is sure to become a series of “Ride Along” movies, opened in the number-one spot in its debut weekend, taking in an estimated $39.5 million in domestic grosses, according to Variety. “Ride Along 2” also has the distinction of displacing the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” juggernaut from its four-week run at the top, as well as besting critical darling “The Revenant” ($34 million) as it continues to gain momentum from awards season.
Universal spent $40 million re-teaming Ice Cube and Hart for “Ride Along 2,” which finds the bickering police officers working to bring a Miami drug ring to justice.
“It’s a very funny movie,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief. “We have a very committed group of filmmakers and our cast has been promoting the heck out of it.”
The first “Ride Along” movie ultimately earned $134.9 million and even though its sequel debuted a few million shy of its predecessor, the audience skewed slightly more female, with women making up 52% of the opening weekend audience, implying the film will have legs as it clearly appeals to both sexes.
Fox Searchlight had another solid debut this weekend with its initial limited opening of Belle in four New York and L.A. theaters. British-set period drama Belle,directed by Amma Asante and staring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, managed a regal bow, grossing over $104K, giving the film a $26,123 theater average. Searchlight said the feature outgrossed “Spider-Man 2” at the Landmark Theatres in West LA and was the second-highest grosser at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood. In New York, it also had strong numbers at Lincoln Plaza and Sunshine theaters.
“We’re pretty happy with how it opened. It’s an interesting thing with a film that’s very sophisticated like this and you’re hoping to get the cinephile crowd out,” Searchlight’s EVP of Distribution Frank Rodriguez told me Sunday morning. “The secret of this film is to keep it in theaters and see if it can get some traction. We know we have a great art film and we know we’re going to do well with it. The real goal here is to see if it can go a little mainstream. To do that with Spider-Man and the like will be interesting. Perhaps it’s a bit of counter-programming, but if we had had a $15 – 25K [PTA this weekend] I would have been happy, so we’re at the high end of that. In this business anything can happen, but we’re going into the right theaters and targeting a sophisticated audience.”
Fox Searchlight will open Belle in ten more cities next weekend including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston as it lures the film’s natural art-house crowd while also tempting some cross-over. The company expects Belle to be in about 350 theaters by Memorial Day weekend and it will head into about 50 – 60 runs next weekend.
Although Thor: The Dark World hung on to the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend, the big story was a stellar opening for The Best Man Holiday, which trounced all expectations to debut with a studio-estimated $30.6-million. Disney’s 3-D sequel Thor: the Dark World took in a solid $38.5-million, which represented an expected 55% drop from its opening weekend when it grossed $86 million.
The Best Man Holiday received a coveted average grade of A+ from moviegoers, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That means it joins an elite club of films that have enjoyed long and fruitful box office runs, including Argo, 42, The Help, The King’s Speech, The Blind Side and Titanic. Going into the weekend, the distributor Universal Pictures projected that The Best Man Holiday would take in a modest $17 million, while prerelease audience surveys indicated the film would start off with around $23 million.
“There’s no crystal ball in guessing this stuff,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s president of distribution. “It was fair to think this film— where 87% of the audience was African American—would open in the high teens.” That it nearly doubled that estimate is “a phenomenal result,” said Rocco. “I would never have thought in my most non-lucid moment to expect this — the picture only cost $17-million.” Thanks to the A+ CinemaScore, Rocco says she believes the film will eventually reach a broader audience.
The Best Man Holiday, which is about a group of friends gathering for Christmas, is a sequel to 1999’s The Best Man which grossed $34 million. Both films were directed by Malcolm D. Lee and star a number of the same actors, including Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard and Nia Long.
Although it’s been in theaters for more than a month, Lee Daniels’ The Butler continued its strong box-office performance with a fourth-place finish that saw North American ticket sales cross the $100 million mark. With a production budget of approximately $30 million, in limited release internationally and awards season still ahead, The Butler is in strong contention for becoming one of the most profitable movies of 2013.
The top movie this weekend was horror film Insidious: Chapter 2, which debuted in first place with $41 million, more than tripling the opening take of the 2010 original. Another newcomer, Relativity Media’s Robert De Niro-Michelle Pfeiffer crime caper The Family, opened in second place with $14.5 million. That bumped last week’s champ, the Vin Diesel starrer Riddick, to third. Jennifer Aniston vehicle We’re The Millers rounded out the top five.
According to Variety.com, Universal Pictures segued a solid $61 million overseas debut for “Oblivion” last weekend into an estimated $38.2 million Stateside opening, a better-than-expected result that lifts the film’s worldwide total to $150.2 million. Internationally, “Oblivion” has earned so far $112 million.
The $120 million-budgeted Tom Cruise/Morgan Freeman science fiction flick launched a week ago overseas to lengthen its playtime before Disney begins rolling out “Iron Man 3″ on April 24. The Marvel tentpole bows May 3 domestically.
Warner Bros.’ second-frame holdover “42″ only dropped 34% for an estimated $18 million three-day gross. The film has reached $54 million and counting.