'Pitch Perfect 2': Can the sequel recapture the original comedy's success?

'Pitch Perfect 2' stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Brittany Snow as members of a college a cappella team. The first film became a surprise hit.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
'Pitch Perfect 2' stars Rebel Wilson (l.), Anna Kendrick (second from l.), and Brittany Snow (r.) starred in 'Pitch Perfect,' written by Kay Cannon (second from r.).

The "Pitch Perfect” movie series has already defied expectations once with its first film, which found unexpected success.

The first movie, which stars “Into the Woods” actress Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson of “Pain & Gain,” and “Hairspray” actress Brittany Snow, among others, as members of a college a cappella group, was released in October 2012 and studio Universal tried out an unusual strategy for the film, promoting it heavily on social media and releasing it in limited theaters at first.

It wasn’t clear at first whether it would pay off, according to website Box Office Mojo. “The movie has an appealing cast including Anna Kendrick and Bridesmaids scene-stealer Rebel Wilson, and should do a decent job tapping in to the younger female audience that's made ‘Glee’ such a hit,” BMO writer Ray Subers wrote before the movie’s release. “Still, the campaign seems overly-reliant on social network word-of-mouth, which is tough to quantify, and the relatively-untested release strategy could backfire as well.”

However, “Pitch” became a surprise hit, performing above expectations at the box office (it eventually grossed more than $65 million domestically). It was also fairly well-received by critics, with Associated Press writer Christy Lemire being one reviewer who was won over. “Cheeky and snarky but with an infectious energy… It's ridiculous and predictable but also just a ton of fun,” she wrote.

In addition, the movie succeeded beyond the movie theater. It sold well on DVD (according to Home Media Magazine writer Thomas K. Arnold, it was "the holiday season's top overperformer in terms of home video sales") and, according to Billboard, the movie’s soundtrack peaked at third on the Billboard 200, the chart for albums of any genre, while Kendrick’s song from the film, “Cups,” peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.

So can a sequel recapture the success? “Pitch Perfect 2” is set to hit theaters this May, and “Pitch” star Elizabeth Banks is directing the sequel as well as appearing in the film. Banks told Entertainment Weekly she’s aware there’s more attention this time around. “The first film flew under the radar, and it was a gift,” she said. “This time around, much higher stakes.”

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