In the run-up to the debut of "Bridesmaids" this past weekend, with theaters jammed with popcorn action flicks like "Thor" and "Fast Five," industry insiders were predicting a box-office gross of around $15 million to $17 million. But stellar reviews, strong word of mouth and, most importantly, a staggeringly funny film combined to thrust "Bridesmaids" to a $26.2 million opening.
Yet while the rest of Hollywood might have been surprised that the movie, starring "Saturday Night Live" star Kristen Wiig and a slew of hilarious supporting women, did so well, producer Judd Apatow had a feeling the comedy would connect with a previously untapped slice of the movie-going public.
"I always hoped that there was this huge neglected audience out there hoping someone would start making movies for them," Apatow said in an email to MTV News on Monday (May 16). "I am so excited I was not imagining things. Hopefully this will lead to a lot more movies being made starring funny women."
The larger-than-expected opening has led industry observers to wrack their brains, trying to figure out just how "Bridesmaids" performed above expectations. Was it the way Universal's marketing campaign capitalized on a buzzy premiere at the South by Southwest film festival? Did a social-media effort — mass emails sent from female entertainment veterans and stories, like one in Salon, that suggested that seeing the movie "is a social responsibility" — drive ticket sales? Or maybe simply being attached to the Apatow brand was enough? The filmmaker himself, though, prefers a much simpler explanation.
"I think people appreciate the fact that it is crazy funny, but is also a very sweet story about female friendship," he said. "And it is always fun to see new hilarious comedy stars. People like it like they like discovering a new band."
He's hoping that once these up-and-coming actresses — like Ellie Kemper and Melissa McCarthy — have been discovered by a wide audience, they'll follow in the footsteps of actors like Jason Segel and Jonah Hill, who played supporting roles in Apatow films such as "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" before going on to anchor their own comedies.
"I think they all deserve to star in their own movies," Apatow said. "It is usually a dearth of scripts which hold great actresses back. Hopefully the studios will develop more movies for them. As will I."
Movies like "Knocked Up" and "Virgin," of course, kicked off a new era in Hollywood, as studios raced to green-light films attempting to mimic the intangible comedic ingredients that made those films so great. On the (high) heels of "Bridesmaids," are we now in for a slew of female-driven imitators — a second wave of the Apatow effect? On this topic, at least, the writer/director is staying out of the fray.
"The only thing we like to do is come up with emotional stories we like, then try to figure out how to make them funny," Apatow said. "I think when you start with the comedic idea and try to jam emotion in there it usually comes out weird and forced."
Check out everything we've got on "Bridesmaids."
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