Contrary to Bieber Fever-induced speculation that “Never Say Never” was going to gross seven gajillion dollars this weekend, Justin Bieber’s 3-D concert flick fell just short of the #1 box-office spot.
Instead, Adam Sandler’s weakly reviewed rom-com “Just Go With It” came out on top , with the film’s estimated $31 million haul just besting the $30.3 million that “Never Say Never” took in. Both films deserve B.O. kudos, but the question remains: With a rabid fanbase and a premium ticket price, why didn’t Bieber’s movie do better? After all, “Hannah Montana/ Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” opened in 2,400 fewer theaters in 2008 yet managed to open with $31.1 million. So what happened?
“I think two reasons why Justin didn’t beat Miley were that the ‘Hannah Montana’ movie came at the beginning of the 3-D boom, so it was more of a special and rare event,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com, told MTV News. “Plus it was promoted as a one-week-only run, so fans felt there would not be another time to see it. In addition, tickets were $15 each for Miley where they varied across the country for Justin but were mostly lower.”
There’s also potentially a gender-based explanation, according to Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. “Tween girls showing their ‘love’ for another girl is widely acceptable, because at that age, they are more than likely to have mostly girls as friends,” he said. “As a tween-ager, often admitting you like boys is still a bit of a taboo, which makes the nearly $30 million debut of Biebs all the more impressive.”
The “Never Say Never” audience, it should be noted, was 84 percent female, according to Paramount’s exit data. “Just Go With It,” meanwhile, appealed to a vastly different demographic. So the two films didn’t suffer from audience cannibalization. The truth just might be that $30.3 million, at this point in time, is as high as “Never Say Never” could ever go. As Bock put it, the movie “definitely maxed out its box-office appeal over the weekend.”
That being said, it remains impressive that “Just Go With It” — which received a measly 18 pecent freshness rating at the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator — was able to notch a $30 million-plus opening. To begin with, while it didn’t benefit from premium 3-D ticket prices, Sandler’s comedy debuted on about 700 more screens than “Never Say Never.” And though Bieber is new to Hollywood, Sandler has become one of its most reliable brands.
“Reviews are irrelevant in Sandler’s world,” Pandya said. “He makes formulaic comedy vehicles that are easy to digest and require little thinking and a lot of people like that sort of thing. It’s the same formula for hit sitcoms but used in a multiplex. Say what you want about his talents, but the man has had $100 million hits in 10 of the last 13 years and has accomplished this without doing sequels, even though it seems he plays the same guy every time.”