The battle this weekend was "Batman v Superman" vs. "The Boss," and while the superhero saga was widely expected to threepeat at No.1 on the box office chart, it ended up being a neck-and-neck race. On Sunday, it looked like "The Boss" would be the victor, claiming an estimated $23.5 million and edging out "BvS" by just $45,000.
For "Boss" to come out ahead of "BvS" and two new competitors ("Demolition" and "Hardcore Henry") is no small feat, especially considering how many obstacles it had to overcome. "The Boss" became the fifth McCarthy starring vehicle in a row to open above $21.5 million -- despite really bad reviews and a C+ CinemaScore. This weekend's results seem to show that, no matter what hurdles McCarthy has to leap, she's an indomitable, dependable, bankable box office hitmaker. Here are five challenges she had to face before "The Boss" earned its title:
Most of McCarthy's hits, including "The Heat" and "Spy," have been summer releases. Could a big, broad comedy like this one open well in April? Well, why not? Her "Identity Thief" debuted strongly during the wasteland of February. Seems like audiences are happy to see McCarthy at any time of year.
2. The R Rating
Because it keeps kids and young teens away, the R rating is considered much more commercially risky than the more common PG-13, which Hollywood believes hits the sweet spot between edgy enough for adults and too edgy for kids. Yet McCarthy's hits, going back to her initial breakout with "Bridesmaids," have all been R-rated. As with her earlier films, the R rating on "Boss" lets viewers know that McCarthy has been allowed to go hog wild, without having to restrain her bull-in-a-china-shop comedy style in order to placate the ratings board.
3. The Demographic
There's already a comedy out there that appeals to older women. In fact, "Boss" studio Universal released it just two weeks ago -- "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2." Fortunately, there seems to be room for both movies in the marketplace. "Wedding 2" came in fourth this weekend with an estimated $6.4 million, good for a three-week total of $46.8 million. Of course, Nia Vardalos isn't the star that McCarthy is, and her PG-13 movie won't offend your grandma, while "Boss" certainly might. So the audience overlap is only so big.
4. The XX Factor
By now, it should be time for Hollywood to bury the perception that female-driven movies are risky bets.
McCarthy's fearlessness makes her appealing to both men and women, but women drove the success of this film, making up 67 percent of its customers. Oh, and look at the top four movies on this weekend chart. Besides "Boss," there's "Batman v Superman" (whose strongest draw may actually have been the long-awaited introduction of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman), "Zootopia" (headlined by Ginnifer Goodwin's relentless rookie rabbit cop heroine), and Vardalos' "Wedding 2." Hey, Hollywood, still think women can't sell tickets?
5. The Competition
New entries this weekend proved to be non-starts. With its first-person-shooter-POV gimmick and its clever online marketing campaign aimed at gamers, "Hardcore Henry" had been expected to open between $8 and $12 million, but mixed reviews and weak word-of-mouth (it also earned a C+ at CinemaScore) led to a fifth place debut with just an estimated $5.1 million.
Similarly, Jake Gyllenhaal's "Demolition" had been tracking toward a $3 million debut, but it also garnered mixed reviews. As a result, it didn't even crack the top 10, opening instead at No. 15 with just an estimated $1.1 million.
And then there's "Batman v Superman." Despite its steep second-weekend drop last week, "BvS" has earned $296.7 million in just three weekends, or $700,000 more than Disney breakout hit "Zootopia" has earned in six. Its estimated $23.4 million gross in its third week is still better than most movies do in their first.
So should "The Boss" hold its slight lead over "BvS" when Monday's final tally comes out, McCarthy will win more than just bragging rights for the week, or for having dethroned Batman and Superman.
She will show that, all by herself, at any time of year, even in a poorly-reviewed movie, McCarthy still can rule the box office like a boss.
Wealthy CEO Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) always gets her way, until she's busted for insider trading and sent to federal prison. After leaving jail, Darnell finds herself broke, homeless and hated. Luckily, she tracks down former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), the only person who's willing to help. While staying with Claire and her young daughter, the ex-con devises a new business model for a brownie empire. Unfortunately, some old enemies stand in the way of her return to the top. Read More