By James Hirsen
Copyright James Hirsen
This weekend’s box-office results have sent shock waves through Tinseltown, with “Pitch Perfect 2” bringing in an unexpected $70 million plus in ticket sales.
Not only did the a capella face-off film eclipse the big budget action movie “Mad Max: Fury Road,” it also became the first film to unseat the superhero blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
“Pitch Perfect 2” made record-breaking news as well for having the largest take for a cinematic musical opening and the biggest debut weekend for a first time feature film director, in this instance, Elizabeth Banks.
Hollywood insiders are trying to figure out how a musical comedy with a budget of $29 million substantially outperformed a $150 million action reboot that boasts an A-list cast.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is of course considered a solid success with its $44 million opening amount. The plot of the film involves Max Rockatansky (played by Tom Hardy) working hand-in-hand in a post-apocalyptic world with Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) to assist in the rescue of a number of women in distress from the despicable Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne).
Notwithstanding the billing of the actors, Theron is clearly the star of the film. She portrays a female warrior who turns the movie into a quasi-feminist fable that weaves in a supersized surreal vehicle chase.
The underlying women empowerment theme, though, may provide a partial explanation as to why the movie ranks as one of the best reviewed in Warner Bros’ history, with an extraordinary 98% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. In contrast, “Mad Max: Fury Road” received a B+ audience grade from CinemaScore.
“Pitch Perfect 2” received a somewhat mixed rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 68%, yet it was able to garner a coveted A- grade from CinemaScore.
“Pitch Perfect 2” is a sequel to the original 2012 sleeper hit “Pitch Perfect,” which brought in $65 million domestically across its entire run. However, the original “Pitch Perfect” generated powerful word of mouth, which resulted in the film raking in $115 million worldwide. Fans of the movie made it one of the best selling DVDs, VODs and pay-cable movies in 2013.
“Pitch Perfect” features an a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, competing against a rival a cappella group, each fighting to win a national competition. Cast members include Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Brittany Snow, among others. The film’s music ended up being a huge asset. The soundtrack of “Pitch Perfect” has sold more than one million units and Kendrick’s single, “Cups,” remained on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for 50 weeks.
“Pitch Perfect 2” takes place at a time when most members of the a cappella group are college seniors. After being suspended from the a cappella performance circuit, the Bellas must reestablish their credibility by being victors in a world competition that no American team has ever won before.
The original stars are in the sequel cast mix, with the addition of a new member (played by Hailee Steinfeld). Banks, who appears in the original and the sequel, directed and produced the latest launch.
Unlike many of the recent film comedies, “Pitch Perfect 2” is not raunchy or laden with sexual imagery, alcohol, or drugs. According to the movie’s writer, Kay Cannon, the film serves to highlight positive female relationships.
“Yeah, I mean, this movie is not a romantic comedy and I’ve heard critics talk about how there’s been no love toward showing Becca and Jesse’s storyline and Jesse’s kind of taken a backseat, and my response to that is, ‘This is not about how these ladies are with dudes. This is about the Bellas and their friendship…,’” Cannon told Variety.
Universal evidently took the viewpoint that the key to the sequel’s success would be to market to a target audience of young women.
“It starts with young female appeal, generally, and then expands beyond that thanks to careful marketing and publicity,” Universal Pictures’ President of Domestic Distribution Nick Carpou told the Associated Press.
“We ran ads throughout the NBA playoffs, we also had an ad at the Super Bowl. That might seem a bit counter intuitive, but it actually helped to grow our audience base,” Carpou added.
The strategy has hit the bulls-eye for Universal. The audience thus far for “Pitch Perfect 2” has been 75% female and 62% under the age of 25.
Female filmgoers have propelled a number of recent movies to the top of the box office, including “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Cinderella,” and “Lucy,” However, what has set apart the marketing of “Pitch Perfect 2” from the conventional has been a cutting edge social media campaign.
Universal bought commercial space on the video messaging application Snapchat and was among the first advertisers to utilize a new Facebook Instant Article. Universal was among a few advertisers who bought Snapchat ads for specific events and locations.
The Los Angeles premiere of “Pitch Perfect 2” featured booths that included a Snapchat stop, Instagram Instastop, Tumblr Gif, and Twitter Mirror, while parts of the event were livestreamed on Periscope.
Even prior to its release, the film had already counted to its credit several hundred thousand followers on Snapchat, a filter created for the premiere that had more than 6 million views, and a positive trending pattern on Twitter.
Since the marketing of “Pitch Perfect 2” was in perfect tune with its target audience, it all made for a ringing box-office success, which means a sequel to the sequel can’t be too far behind.