By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Sausage Party" scored at the box office this weekend, debuting to a meaty $33.6 million and providing a much needed win for struggling Sony Pictures. In a summer dominated by spinoffs and reboots, the story of a gang of grocery items grappling with the dangers of the kitchen, was an antidote to sequelitis and a reminder of the power of original ideas.
"It was the something different that adult audiences have been craving," said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. "When comedy pushes the envelope, that's when it works best."
In the case of "Sausage Party," which liberally deploys sex jokes and four-letter words, it's a foul-mouthed affair that more than earns its R-rating. The $19 million animated comedy was also backed by Annapurna Pictures. Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, and Jonah Hill are among the sprawling vocal cast members.
"When you have something so fresh, it just stands out to audiences," said Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution chief. "People were blown away by the movie. It's outrageous, off-the-wall fun."
Sony has had a bruising period at the multiplexes, with flops such as "Ghostbusters" outweighing hits such as "The Shallows" and "The Angry Birds Movie." The studio released "Sausage Party" in 3,103 locations, and "Sausage Party" now holds the record for the largest August opening ever for an animated film. It gives Sony momentum as it tries to put its recent bad run behind it and prepares for a fall and winter that will bring the debuts of "The Magnificent Seven" and "Passengers" with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.
And then there are victories that feel more like defeats. "Suicide Squad" topped domestic charts with $43.8 million, bringing its stateside total to a hefty $222.9 million. However, that represented a punishing 67% slide in the superhero movie's second week business, nearly equaling "Batman v Superman's" 69% sophomore plunge. It's a signal that the deplorable reviews are catching up with the film and is unwelcome news for Warner Bros., which is trying to launch an inter-connected series of cinematic adventures based on DC Comics characters, but is still struggling to make movies that people like, as well as attend.
The weekend's other major new release, Disney's "Pete's Dragon" faltered, mustering roughly $21.6 million from at 3,702 locations, despite scoring with critics. The remake of the 1977 family film about a boy who befriends a dragon stars Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard. "Pete's Dragon" snagged third place on the charts. It cost $65 million to make, but Disney believes that it could ultimately make a profit when its foreign grosses are factored into the picture."We're going to come out of this having made money," said Dave Hollis, Disney's distribution chief. "People who are coming out of the theater are just loving it and their advocacy is going to help us put together a nice solid run."
Coming in fourth, Universal's "Jason Bourne" added $13.6 million to its haul, pushing its domestic total to $126.8 million. STX Entertainment's "Bad Moms" rounded out the top five with $11.4 million. The raunchy comedy has been a breakout hit for the new studio, earning $71.5 million to date on a $20 million production budget, and holding well on a week-to-week basis despite the presence of summer tentpoles.
Paramount debuted "Florence Foster Jenkins," a comedy about a horrific opera singer and heiress (Meryl Streep) who rents out Carnegie Hall for a public performance, in 1,528 locations. The film did a muted $6.6 million worth of business, and appealed primarily to older audiences, with 97% of its opening weekend crowd clocking in over the age of 25.
"Word-of-mouth is definitely going to be our friend," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's president of worldwide distribution and marketing. She added that the studio is confident that Streep and possibly her co-star Hugh Grant could end up in the hunt for awards, something which could goose revenues.
"This is very much in line with the Academy's sensibilities," said Colligan.
In limited release, Bleecker Street launched the World War II thriller "Anthropoid" in 452 theaters, earning $1.2 million.
CBS Films scored with "Hell or High Water," a bank heist picture that earned critical raves at the Cannes Film Festival. The thriller picked up an impressive $592,000 from 32 locations for a per screen average of $18,500. The studio partnered with Lionsgate on the distribution. It expects to keep expanding the film in the coming weeks.