For the last few days, Hollywood has been abuzz over the idea that "The Hangover Part II" could pull over $125 million into its boozy box-office wake over the extended five-day Memorial Day holiday. Could an R-rated comedy really do such boffo biz?
It's looking increasingly like it can. Wednesday's midnight screenings of "Hangover" pulled in $10.4 million, a record for an R movie. Thursday followed suit, with a final gross of $31.6 million — another R-rated record for biggest opening day ever. Many schools and colleges are now on break, audiences have been giving the flick an A- CinemaScore and not even tepid critical reviews can seem to stop the inevitable.
"We think it will crack $125 million," BoxOffice.com editor Phil Contrino said. "Our prediction was $129 million, and that's looking like a real possibility. These movies appeal to anyone who has ever greeted the morning with dry mouth and a splitting headache. But the films also have heart underneath all the raunchiness. They are about all the mixed feelings that people have before getting married. Do I like my spouse's family? Do I really want to stop having fun?"
Other industry experts are not as convinced. David Poland of Movie City News is taking a wait-and-see approach while noting that anything over $100 million during the extended weekend would be considered a huge success. "The swing, with numbers this big, is $25-plus million in five days," he said. "There's no way to know how much of the must-see-or-die audience has been served by this huge Thursday. We can all guess, but we're just guessing."
Poland compared the "Hangover" sequel's opening to the second "Matrix" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" films: The originals were surprise blockbusters and the follow-ups received a "mega-opening in response." Helping spur audience excitement, he also noted, was a top-notch marketing campaign including exceptional TV spots. "I've seen the film and they make me want to see it again," he said. "They do exactly what a sequel wants to do — click into the characters you love and promise more."
All of this makes "The Hangover Part III" seem less like just a possibility than an unavoidability. Even last year's "Due Date," which director Todd Phillips shot between "Hangover" flicks, grossed $212 million worldwide. The guy can do no wrong for his studio. As Contrino put it, "He will be in a league of his own after this movie. Warner Bros. would let him film an adaptation of the phone book at this point just to keep him happy."
So while the filmmaker continues to keep his studio bosses and audiences delighted, it doesn't seem like he'll start to give a hoot what critics — those who love him as well as those who hate him — think. "He knew that the nasty reviews for this were coming," Poland said. "He doesn't get the amount of space from critics that, for instance, Judd Apatow gets. So maybe that will be his secret goal, though I believe him completely when he says that he won't start making other kinds of movies or adjusting what he thinks is funny just to get the critical love he wants. No 'Funny People' coming from Todd."
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