'10 Cloverfield Lane' draws crowds while 'Brothers Grimsby' struggles

The new Sacha Baron Cohen comedy 'Grimsby' did not do well at the box office after opening this past weekend. Why did audiences stay away from the film?

Daniel Smith/Sony Pictures/AP
'The Brothers Grimsby' stars Sacha Baron Cohen (l.) and Mark Strong (r.).

Movies like “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “Zootopia” performed well at the box office this past weekend, while the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “The Brothers Grimsby” stumbled.

The Disney animated movie “Zootopia,” which centers on a police rabbit (Ginnifer Goodwin) working in a city populated by animals, came in first at the box office after having opened and done well last week. “Zootopia” grossed an additional $50 million this past weekend. 

The new film “10 Cloverfield Lane,” a sort-of-sequel to the 2008 hit monster movie “Cloverfield,” opened on March 11 and grossed more than $25 million this past weekend, a result that is being looked at as a success by industry watchers considering the mystery surrounding the movie and the lack of marketing for the film (it was only revealed to the public earlier this year). 

The superhero movie “Deadpool” continued to do well this past weekend, taking in more than $10 million, while the action movie “London Has Fallen” came in fourth with more than $10 million this past weekend and the Tina Fey war film “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” came in fifth with more than $4 million.

“Grimsby” did not perform as well. The film, which stars Cohen and Mark Strong as long-lost brothers who are forced to flee for their lives, only took in more than $3 million, with new movies “The Perfect Match” and “The Young Messiah” both doing better. “Grimsby” came in eighth place at the box office. 

Cohen was behind the 2006 box office hit “Borat.” Why did “Grimsby” not do well?

Paul Dergarabedian of the analysis company Rentrak told Variety that there have been a lot of films opening recently. Films like “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Gods of Egypt,” and ‘”Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” have all struggled to make themselves known to audiences. 

“It’s a traffic jam out there,” Mr. Dergarabedian said. “The marketplace is monumentally overcrowded and there are too many films that don’t have a solid chance to do well.”

In addition, Dergarabedian notes the contrast between “Zootopia” and “Grimsby.” There is little else for families to see right now in theaters, and so “Zootopia” has become a hit. In terms of movies rated R and so presumably aimed at adults, however, “Grimsby” has to go up against films like “London Has Fallen,” “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” and “Deadpool.” “Deadpool” in particular seems to share the elements of comedy and action that are present in “Grimsby.”

“The marketplace [is] loaded with R-rated fare,” Dergarabedian told the Associated Press

In addition, the results from comedies seemingly aimed at adults have movie fans wondering if the genre is having trouble breaking through with audiences. New York Times writer Brooks Barnes noted this past summer that “raunchy comedy is having a rough run at the box office,” pointing to the underwhelming financial results from films like “Vacation,” “Ted 2,” and “Entourage.” 

Why did these movies not do well? Mr. Barnes notes that most of those movies didn’t get good reviews (the R-rated comedy “Trainwreck” did and became a hit) and a large amount of films in the genre, with that rating, were being released. 

Variety writer Brent Lang noticed a similar trend this past summer. 

“Unlike other genres, novelty is a key selling point for comedies,” Mr. Lang wrote. With “Ted 2” in particular, “the posters and television spots were too reminiscent of the promotional campaign for the first ‘Ted.’” 

After all these factors came into play, comedies in 2015 were not some of the highest-grossing films of the year. Superhero movies and family fare have ruled over the past few years, with films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic World,” and “Inside Out” doing well. In 2015, the highest-ranked film that had elements of a comedy was “Pitch Perfect 2,” and that had the additional draw of popular music appearing in the movie. 

It’s not until number 22 for the year that a traditional comedy, Will Ferrell’s “Daddy’s Home,” appears. 

This is in contrast to the box office results of, for example, the 1990s, when movies like “Wayne’s World,” “The Mask,” and “The Nutty Professor” were some of the highest-grossing films of their respective years.

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