Talk about an anticlimax.
Hurt by withering reviews and perhaps some bad timing, "Sex and the City 2" — despite its pedigree — came in third place on its opening weekend, grossing less money over five days than the original made in three.
But looking toward a summer dominated by testosterone-fueled films, Warner Bros. is hoping the sequel has legs as long as Carrie and her fashionista friends. And depending on those legs, the studio is not ruling out a third go at it.
Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution, acknowledged that many of the women the film targets may have had other plans over Memorial Day weekend. But he also figures his is the only female-driven movie over the next few weeks of summer.
Including its Thursday opening, "Sex and the City 2" made $51 million in its first five days, while the original took in $56.8 million in its first three days in 2008 — when tickets were less money. It came in third behind "Shrek Forever After" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
The comedy, based on the beloved and influential HBO series, follows longtime friends Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) as they travel to Abu Dhabi on an all-expenses-paid adventure.
Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com, called it "a head-scratcher" that the sequel's opening numbers weren't bigger. Expectations were high, especially since the original had the biggest opening ever for an R-rated comedy on its way to making nearly $153 million domestically alone.
"It was a surprise. I think everyone had it pegged to be the No. 1 film of the weekend," he said. "Pretty much every woman I talked to could not wait to see the movie. Even if they didn't think the movie would be that great, they wanted to go for the camaraderie, the experience, the girls' night out. It turns out Memorial Day weekend was a much more family oriented weekend."
Fellman said he wanted to open on a weekend when there were no other female-driven movies: "Sex and the City 2" competed against the video game adaptation "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" as well as holdovers like "Shrek Forever After" — which ended up staying at No. 1 — "Iron Man 2" and "Robin Hood."
This week, the new releases include "Get Him to the Greek," a Judd Apatow-produced comedy that's a spin-off from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"; the horror movie "Splice"; and the action-comedy "Killers," starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, which isn't being shown to critics before opening day. Upcoming movies include a big-screen version of the '80s series "The A-Team"; a remake of "The Karate Kid" starring Will Smith's son, Jaden; and "Toy Story 3" in 3-D.
"I'm looking at five weeks of summer where I feel I have the competitive advantage to maximize the revenue of the movie," Fellman said Wednesday. "While I knew this was going to be a tough weekend because of the commitments many female fans of the movie have, I'm happy to walk away from it with $51 million. Let's see what happens when the girls go out during the week. On a female-driven movie, mid-weeks always overperform."
Dergarabedian also suspects negative word of mouth through social networks also may have hurt the movie beyond the critical trashing it took. "Sex and the City 2" received just 16 percent positive reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website, compared to 49 percent for the original.
"Women trust each other," he said.
Plus, it's a sequel, so the four years of pent-up excitement for the original film following the TV series finale no longer exists.
"I think with `Sex and the City,' the first one was such a novelty: the big-screen manifestation of the characters they love so much," Dergarabedian said. "Sometimes with a sequel, it's a little bit of diminishing returns."
As for the movie's negative critical reception, Fellman said: "Great reviews are always good but this is a franchise where we have such a strong fan base. ... Yes, the reviews were unfavorable to the point where I totally disagree with most of them, but the audience likes it and the girls are going to go."
So is there really a chance for a "Sex and the City 3"?
"Personally, I'd love to see it," Fellman said. "We're sitting back and watching what happens."
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