Ted rides a blue streak to top spot in the US box office
Two independent cinema success stories ruled the roost in the US in the run-up to the 4 July holiday session. R-rated comedy Ted, which features a potty-mouthed teddy bear, dominated the weekend. It exceeded projections to debut on $54.1m (£34.5m), according to estimates from US distributor Universal Pictures. Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper romp Magic Mike, purportedly based on star Channing Tatum’s past experience as a dancer, launched in second place on an excellent $39.2m.
Ted was financed and packaged by Media Rights Capital, the LA-based company behind a varied roster that includes the Ricky Gervais vehicle The Invention of Lying, Babel, Brüno and Devil. None set the box office alight in quite the way Ted has done. It has brushed aside The Hangover’s $44.9m June 2009 debut to score the biggest opening weekend for an original R-rated comedy.
The movie’s budget was approximately $50m, and the producers and MRC have already begun to capitalise on the studio’s global distribution pipeline. It will roll out internationally in the coming months and has already notched up a couple of million dollars through preview screenings in Australia alone.
Magic Mike also owes its roots to forces outside the studio system. The independent production has been gathering storm among the international distribution community for some time, and FilmNation, one of the leading international sales agents based in New York, has been busy over the last year or so licensing distribution rights to territories. Warner Bros’ participation as the US distributor will only raise Magic Mike’s credibility among international buyers and bolster their campaigns.
Speaking of which, Fox Searchlight has high hopes for Beasts of the Southern Wild, a Sundance hit within hours of the first screening in snowbound Park City last January. Benh Zeitlin’s eye-popping postcard from the deep south, starring Quvenzhané Wallis, is occasionally dazzling and got off to a fine start in limited release. It launched in four theatres on $169,000 for a $42,250 per-site average, which is the number arthouse distributors throw around when they talk about strong debuts. Beasts is certainly that, although it will need to rely on solid word of mouth to stick around and figure in the awards season, which I understand is Searchlight’s goal.
Ten years after Sam Raimi gave audiences the first Spider-Man film, Sony is about to unleash a Spidey reboot. In fact, in a number of territories it has already done so, to the tune of $50m so far (the US launch is Tuesday). The Amazing Spider-Man stars Andrew Garfield, who delivers a more nuanced performance than Tobey Maguire, the webslinger in Sony’s first three movies. The studio must keep on making Spidey movies or the rights to the cash cow will revert to Marvel Studios. Don’t expect that to happen soon.
The movie should prosper over the 4 July weekend. As the US prepares to celebrate independence, it is delicious to note that British actors have a monopoly on the three leading superheroes: as well as Garfield, Christian Bale will return as Batman in a couple of weeks, and Henry Cavill will portray Superman in next year’s Man of Steel.