“Pitch Perfect” made a boatload of money last weekend — much more than anyone expected. Hollywood sages predicted the girl-power a capella comedy would run neck-and-neck with the post-apocalyptic action flick “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But it wasn’t even close. Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and company blew away the competition with more than $70 million. “Max,” with stars Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, brought in a mere $44 million.
A surprise success is always a teachable moment for Hollywood. Studio executives will frantically pick apart the ingredients for the unexpectedly huge numbers, hoping to replicate the box office haul.
But we all know that what Hollywood should learn is different from what Hollywood will learn. The key takeaways are that 72 percent of the audience was female and 57 percent was younger than 25, so what Hollywood should conclude is that women make money too, and they’re willing to spend it on a movie that’s worth their time. (“PP2” got an A- CinemaScore.) Maybe it’s time to stop catering almost exclusively to the supposed gravy-train demographic of young male movie-goers.
Alas, we can’t expect studios to grasp all that. Despite the successes of “The Heat” and “Bridesmaids,” female-driven comedies remain few and far between. But based on recent history of faulty showbiz logic, we can guess what Hollywood will learn. Here are some of the likely suspects.
Anna Kendrick can really carry a movie. Hey, why not put her in a superhero movie? Maybe playing a girlfriend or something.
Kendrick is a tiny and hilarious actress. The public may not buy into her kicking butt in battle the way, say, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow does, but Hollywood decision makers probably wouldn’t mind injecting some of her singular energy into the same-old, same-old superhero template. Because you know who else is teeny and talented and chronically underutilized in superhero movies? Emma Stone, Natalie Portman and Amy Adams, the Oscar nominees lately stuck doing time as love interests in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Thor” and the upcoming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
Hey, Elizabeth Banks is a pretty good director. Maybe she should direct a superhero movie, but, you know, one about a female superhero.
According to Deadline, Banks had the highest opening weekend ever for a first-time director. The success of the actress-turned-director is no doubt turning heads in Hollywood. What it should signal: Give that woman the freedom to do whatever she wants! Instead, Hollywood producers, who have been under fire recently for giving jobs only to men, will probably try to sign her up for a blockbuster about a super-heroine (because women are apparently unable to direct movies about male superheroes).
The sequence is familiar at this point. Promising directors who make interesting and unique movies are rewarded by getting signed to a big franchise deal, which takes them away from ground-breaking original work. Joss Whedon’s two very successful “Avengers” movies kept him from dreaming up his own universes. And now Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the guys behind “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie,” will direct “The Flash”; Rian Johnson, of the mind-bending “Looper,” is on for “Star Wars: Episode VIII”; and Patty Jenkins, who directed “Monster,” is currently on board to helm “Wonder Woman.”
We should totally make more movies about singing competitions.
If a movie works well, why not make more movies just like it? That’s the popular wisdom when it comes to churning out blockbusters. No sooner is “Guardians of the Galaxy” a hit, than “Suicide Squad” is announced. And if one live-action Disney fairy tale does well, why not transform all of the animated classics? So brace yourself for a bunch of movies with titles like “Beat Down” and “Tune Up.”
Let’s sign the whole crew up for multi-film deals and spin-offs.
What we need now is clearly more sequels. If one installment is good, 17 is definitely better! Or so the thinking goes. And if audiences liked watching Beca (Kendrick) and Jesse (Skylar Astin) fall in love against the backdrop of the cutthroat world of a capella competitions, maybe they’d also like to watch Beca and Jesse move to Los Angeles together, where they both pursue music careers, but are torn apart by jealousy (because Beca obviously makes it, while Jesse founders), only to be brought back together during a rainstorm. Throw in some more pro-athlete cameos — box office gold, right?
And then, a few years down the road, when audiences get sick of watching the same people doing the same things, producers can just reboot the franchise or remake the first movie with fresh new faces. Who has time for originality when there are easy bucks to be made?