Critics like to think that they have some sway over the nation’s viewing habits, that if they speak loudly and passionately enough, and occasionally in unison, they might be able to steer moviegoers in the right direction. And then some shit like this happens: Despite boasting a rare zero-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an equally damning 14 Metascore—with our own C- grade the high end of that dismal ratings spectrum—Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 opened in second place, bumbling its way to a decidedly decent $24 million opening weekend. Granted, that’s a little less than what the original film managed to claim during its first few days of release, way back in January of 2009. But it’s still the second best debut of Kevin James’ career, an ongoing cycle of fat jokes, Segway jokes, and ouch-I-fell-down jokes. That James’ best reviewed movie (2012’s not-abysmal Here Comes The Boom) is also basically his lowest-grossing suggests that the actor is not just critic-proof, but also some kind of anti-acclaim folk hero, capable of parlaying bad reviews into big business.
Surprisingly solid reviews may have helped Unfriended, that webcam horror movie everyone assumed would be terrible, scare up some $16 million in business. That’s huge for a film that reportedly cost around $1 million, and also pretty good for an original property with a targeted marketing campaign. Again, these kind of numbers demonstrate how relative box-office success is. It Follows, which appears to have finally hit its ceiling, has made a little less in six weeks than what Unfriended made in three days, but it too is something of a sleeper hit—mostly because it cost next to nothing, did its business without a huge advertising push, and slowly expanded as word-of-mouth spread. Could these kind of unconventional victories cause a sea change in Hollywood funding strategies, with the powers that be investing in more small movies and gambling less on enormous opening weekends?
Probably not, alas, as April’s true smash—no invoking of relativity required—is still Furious 7, which topped the box-office for a third weekend in a row, made another $29 million domestically, and passed a billion in global receipts. It’s probably safe to assume that the blockbuster sequel will win next weekend, too, before falling to another ongoing franchise featuring a bunch of supermen (and women) joining forces to take on a greater foe. Who knows, though, maybe we’re still underestimating the box-office draw of Kevin James, who has another movie coming out next weekend, one that could be even worse than Paul Blart. Just remember, critics: If you trash it, they will come.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.