Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg’s American Reunion landed at no. 2 on the North American box office chart, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. At 3,192 locations, the R-rated comedy took in $21.5 million — including $660,000 earned at Thursday midnight screenings. That’s quite a bit lower than the $25 million some had been expecting as late as Friday evening, or the near-$30 million predicted by Box Office Mojo a few days ago.
If those estimates are correct, Universal will surely claim that American Reunion easily surpassed the $18.7 million earned by the original American Pie at 2,508 sites in 1999. In 2012 dollars, however, American Pie would have earned approximately $29 million. And what that means is: many more tickets were sold for American Pie than for American Reunion.
Also, remember that American Reunion cost a reported $50 million (not including marketing / distribution expenses), whereas American Pie cost $11 million — or about $15 million in 2012 dollars. The 1999 comedy was directed by Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz (later of The Twilight Saga: New Moon fame and more recently the director of the socially conscious drama A Better Life, starring Oscar nominee Demián Bichir).
At the no. 3 position, James Cameron’s Titanic 3D, the top (2D) movie of the late 20th century, raked in $17.35 million at 2,674 locations. Tellingly, despite 3D surcharges Titanic’s per-theater average was lower than American Reunion’s: $6,488 vs. $6,736. Remember that all things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters the higher the per-theater average should be; American Reunion is playing at about 500 more sites than Titanic 3D.
Admittedly, one must also bear in mind that Titanic opened last Wednesday, thus blowing off some box office steam prior to the weekend. But then again, some had been expecting that Titanic 3D would rake in $30 million in its first five days. Not even close: its cume is an estimated $25.71 million.
For comparison’s sake: Walt Disney Studios’ Beauty and the Beast 3D took in $23.23 million in its first five days this past January (including a holiday), while The Lion King 3D drew $35.08 million in Sept. 2011. George Lucas / Liam Neeson / Ewan McGregor / Natalie Portman’s Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace grossed $24.5 million in its first five days out in Feb. 2012.
Paramount (Titanic 3D’s domestic distributor), 20th Century Fox (the international distributor), and Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment have reportedly spent 60 weeks and $18 million on Titanic’s full restoration and 2D-to-3D conversion. Remember that studios earn on average about 50-55 percent of a film’s domestic box office grosses.
Overseas, American Reunion collected a surprisingly high $19.3 million at 28 markets, while Titanic 3D brought in $35.5 million at 84 territories. Obviously, the 3D gimmick remains considerably more popular abroad than in North America. Also, it’s worth remembering that the original Titanic earned more than twice its box office take overseas; this at a time when China and Russia — and even Brazil and Mexico — weren’t the powerhouse movie markets they’ve since become.
American Reunion features Grassroots / Life Happens’ Jason Biggs, Hank and Mike / The Good Life’s Chris Klein, Please Give / The Bridge to Nowhere’s Thomas Ian Nicholas, Date Movie / How I Met Your Mother’s Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Dania Ramirez, and Jay Harrington, in addition to a cameo by Neil Patrick Harris.
Titanic stars The Aviator / Catch Me If You Can’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Quills / Little Children’s Kate Winslet, The Invisible Man / Gold Diggers of 1935’s Gloria Stuart, The Roommate / The Mule’s Billy Zane, About Schmidt / Dolores Claiborne’s Kathy Bates, Haywire / Shanghai Calling’s Bill Paxton, and The Host / Gone in Sixty Seconds’ Frances Fisher.
Also: Valkyrie / Gandhi’s Bernard Hill, Morgan! / A Doll’s House’s David Warner, The First Wives Club / Milk’s Victor Garber, The Usual Suspects / Firestorm’s Suzy Amis (James Cameron’s wife since 2000), Separate Lives / Chapter 27’s Mark Lindsay Chapman, Anaconda / Jumanji’s Jonathan Hyde, Sinatra Club / World Trade Center’s Danny Nucci, and Sanctum / Fantastic Four’s Ioan Gruffudd.
Titanic 3D photo: Paramount / 20th Century Fox.