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Box Office: Why Ted 2 Faltered & What It Means For The Summer’s Remaining R-Rated Comedies

Posted on the 01 July 2015 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

I missed the window on Seth MacFarlane’s Ted. I didn’t see the first one until it came out on DVD, and it only made me laugh a couple of times, mostly in the section of the story where Mark Wahlberg and his magically sentient teddy bear encounter a coked out version of Flash Gordon’s Sam J. Jones. My problem was that much of the film’s humor is dependent upon its inherent shock value, yet since I’m a Family Guy fan and most of Ted’s jokes come straight out of Family Guy I was never particularly shocked by anything. Even the randomness of the glorified cutaway gag involving the very game Sam J. Jones was right in the Family Guy wheelhouse. Perhaps a bigger problem was that I was watching it by myself, missing out on the communal experience of seeing it in a theater full of like-minded people laughing at all the jokes. Ted was, after all, an astonishingly big hit upon its June 29, 2012 release, grossing $54.1 million at the domestic box office in its first weekend, setting a new record for an original R-rated comedy. It ended up with a stunning $218m domestic, fourth best all time among R-rated comedies, and $549m worldwide. That’s for a movie that only cost $50m to make! Within days of its opening weekend, FX scooped up the TV rights.

So, when Ted 2 came out this weekend I ignored the generally negative reviews and headed to my local theater for a Sunday matinee showing, imagining a packed theater where the laughter would be infectious thus helping me enjoy the sequel more than the original. The theater manager seemed to be banking on big crowds, kicking Jurassic World out of the main auditorium in favor of Ted 2 even though the experts had predicted Jurassic World and Inside Out would gross more than Ted 2 on the weekend. I entered the auditorium only to find it around a quarter full, a quick glance revealing what appeared to be an audience mostly comprised of college-aged guys and girls. If I was going to enjoy Ted 2 it was not going to be influenced by any kind of hive mind reaction in a packed theater. Luckily, it actually isn’t that bad. It’s far too long, really strains to connect all of its plot points, turns serious in ways it doesn’t really earn, and is often times very lazy with its story or joke construction. However, there are plenty of funny jokes. I’m still kind of laughing at Ted’s impression of Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry. The whole thing is kind of like a Family Guy episode where the plot mostly goes through the motions but you’re still entertained because of funny cutaway gags and/or peculiar line deliveries from Brian or Stewie. I don’t regret seeing it, but I understand why some might sit this one out and catch it later on DVD or TV.


Amanda Seyfried gamely endures several jokes about her large eyes, both here and in A Million Ways to Die in the West

And it appears as if a great many are indeed choosing to avoid Ted 2. It opened to $33.5m this weekend, more than $20m lower than Ted 1’s debut and at least $10m-$15m lower than pre-release projections. Ted 2 was unlikely to unseat either Jurassic World or Inside Out, but it was at least supposed to be a close race. Instead, Ted 2 got the cold shoulder as Jurassic World pulled in $54.5m to barely beat Inside Out’s $52.3m.   This is now becoming a familiar story this summer – the box office pundits are getting their asses kicked as their projections continually fail to match up to reality with the biggest movies of the season. Pitch Perfect 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, San Andreas, Jurassic World, and Inside Out all opened significantly higher than expected while the summer’s only R-rated comedies, Spy and Entourage, opened well short of expectations.

McCarthy Cement Spy

Spy took a while to get going because of San Andreas, but it’s still around thanks to good word-of-mouth thus offering direct competition to Ted 2

That type of thing has been happening for years, though. No one saw the first Ted doing the numbers it did in 2012. The week before it came out the pundits were predicting an opening between $35m and $40m while the studio was guessing a more conservative range of $26m to $35m. History has repeated itself with Ted 2, just in the opposite direction.

To understand why Ted 2 underperformed you have to first understand why the first Ted over performed.

Here’s how BoxOfficeMojo rationalized Ted’s huge debut:

Ted‘s success is due primarily to the strength of its broadly-appealing, completely original premise: what’s not to like about a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear hanging out with Mark Wahlberg? It didn’t hurt that this felt like a logical transition to the big screen for Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, and previews maintained the general humor of that show while clearly bringing something new to the table.

It’s also worth pointing out the importance of a great release date. Originally, Ted was scheduled for July 13, which was sandwiched directly in between The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises. When G.I. Joe: Retaliation was bumped to next March, Universal immediately moved Ted up two weeks to June 29. As a result, Ted came out at a time when animated movies (Madagascar 3, Brave) had ruled the box office for three-straight weeks, and when two R-rated comedies (The Dictator and That’s My Boy) had already failed to deliver this Summer. This turned out to be the perfect time for a raunchy crowd-pleasing comedy like Ted, and kudos to Universal for figuring this out.

Keep in mind that the summer of 2011 was partially the summer of the R-rated comedy thanks to The Hangover Part II ($254.5 million), Bridesmaids ($169.1 million), Horrible Bosses ($117.5 million) and Bad Teacher ($100.3 million). Flash-forward to the summer of 2012 where none of the R-rated comedies had delivered and family-friendly entertainment had taken over. Audiences were starved for something like Ted at just that exact moment. Plus, it was Seth MacFarlane’s first movie after building up a fanbase for so many years with Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show.

The problem is that R-rated comedies are so hit and miss, dependent upon a novel premise and solid execution. As Rentrak’s senior media analyst told Variety, “When a comedy is a sensation, it’s normally a picture that no one saw coming. R-rated, raunchy comedies are one of the few areas where originality is king.”


The moment it was announced that Milas Kunis would not be back in Ted 2 was the moment the sequel was on shaky ground

Universal has been on both sides of that equation now with Ted, the first one embraced for seeming original and new and the second somewhat rejected for feeling familiar and tired. In 2012, Universal’s president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco was all smiles, spreading praise around and telling THR, “I also want to pay tribute to the incredible marketing campaign that began generating interest [for Ted] from a very early stage.” Here in 2015, Universal’s new distribution chief Nicholas Carpou told THR, “You have to remember that no one expected Ted to do what it did. So for Ted 2 to do $33 million in a very crowded weekend isn’t bad. And we have a very good chance of playing out. Ted 2 will be a successful film for us.”

Ted did what it did because of a perfectly timed release and a marketing campaign which successfully hooked audiences on a novel-sounding premise. It was Seth MacFarlane’s breakout moment. It opened up opposite of Magic Mike and the second weekend of Brave. Ted 2 did what it did this weekend because since the first movie MacFarlane’s perpetually, somewhat smugly smiling face has alienated people after his stint as an Oscar host and the box office flop that was last year’s A Million Ways to Die in the West (which I actually kind of liked, for what it’s worth).  Plus, not even Universal predicted Jurassic World’s success, creating a true four-quadrant blockbuster which is now dominating almost everything in its path other than Inside Out. They effectively cannibalized their own business by opening Ted 2 just two weeks after Jurassic World, although I don’t really blame them. Jurassic World was not supposed to be doing what it’s doing, and giving Ted 2 the same exact end-of-June weekend as the first Ted made sense.  It just didn’t work out, at least not on the level that it did for the first Ted.


Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck has to contend with Ant-Man, but it could prosper where Ted 2 falters – appealing to women

All of this could lead one to ponder if the R-rated comedy is going through a rough spot right now. After all, last year’s Sex Tape and Million Ways to Die in the West bombed.  Although Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy ended up being considered a hit, it did so exactly the way Spy is this summer – a disappointing opening followed by strong week-to-week holds leading to a respectable and likely profitable total gross. However, last summer also had several instantaneous hits among its R-rated releases, most notably Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, and Let’s Be Cops.  This summer still has Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck and the Vacation revival on the way.

BoxOffice.com’s Phil Contrino told Variety that there really is no cause for concern at this point. R-rated comedies typically struggle if they come on the heels of blockbusters, Spy suffering in the shadow of San Andreas and Ted 2 being crowded out by Jurassic World and, to a lesser degree since there’s not much audience overlap, Inside Out. “Comedies that try to open a little earlier in the summer tend not to perform as well,” said Contrino. “August and late July seem to be the right period of time for these kind of films. People have blockbuster fatigue by then and they’re sick of watching things blow up.” That’s at least one partial explanation for why Let’s Be Cops did so well last August, and it also suggests good things for Trainwreck (7/17) and Vacation (7/29). Then again, Trainwreck is going up against Ant-Man and Vacation only has a one-week cushion before the new Fantastic Four.

This Weekend’s Actual Box Office Top 10 Totals (6/26-6/28)

1) Jurassic World

  • Production Budget=$150m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$54.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$82.5m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$500.3m/$745.4m/$1.24b

2) Inside Out

  • Production Budget=$65m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$52.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$26.4m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$185.1m/$81.5m/$266.6m

3) Ted 2 (Debut)

  • Production Budget=$68m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$33.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$20.3m
  • Total Debut: $53.8m

4) Max (Debut)

  • Production Budget=$20m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$12.1m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
  • Total Debut: $12.1m

5) Spy

  • Production Budget=$65m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$7.9m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$6.4m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$88.4m/$106.6m/$195m

6) San Andreas

  • Production Budget=$110m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$5.4m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$10.4m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$141.9m/$297.8m/$439.7m

7) Dope

  • Production Budget=They’re not telling
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2.7m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing
  • Domestic Total: $11.6m

8) Insidious Chapter 3

  • Production Budget=They’re not telling
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$4m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$49.7m/$37m/$86.7m

9) Mad Max: Fury Road

  • Production Budget=$150m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.7m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$3m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$147.1m/$209.3m/$356.4m

10) Avengers: Age of Ultron

  • Production Budget=$250m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$1.6m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Total not available
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$452.4m/$919.1m/$1.37b

What Left the Top 10?: Pitch Perfect 2 (Current total: $181m domestic/$276m worldwide), Tomorrowland (Current total: $90.1m domestic/$202m worldwide)

What’s Up Next?: Mad Max XXL and Terminator: Genisys open on Wednesday (7/1) in front of an awkward July 4th where Independence Day will fall on a Saturday thus potentially killing the weekend box office. Both new releases may fail to unseat Jurassic World and Inside Out.

Sources: Rentrak, BoxOfficeMojo, Variety

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