‘Pie’ flies in face of ‘R’ rating

Sequel opened to estimated $45.1 mil

Ratings, schmatings.

Along with new evidence of the allure of sequels and the power of super-saturation releases, “American Pie 2” came with this sweet topping for distrib Universal: A well-marketed pic can succeed even when wrapped in an R-rating.

The estimated $45.1 million weekend bow for U’s sequel to 1999’s “Pie” — which more than doubled the original’s $18.7 opening — is the best ever for an R-rated laffer. Bow outpaced a previous record set by Miramax/Dimension’s horror spoof “Scary Movie,” which opened in July 2000 at $42.3 million. “Pie 2” perf also repped the second-best “R” opener of any kind after MGM/U’s “Hannibal,” which unspooled at $58 million in February.

Conventional wisdom had it that such feats would no longer be possible for R-rated laffers, after exhibs –acknowledging political pressures –tightened enforcement of guidelines barring patrons under 17. So how did U pull off the boffo “Pie ” bow?

The simple answer seems to be clever marketing. Exit polls show a stunning reversal of the original’s 55% male bias to a 53% female skewing for “Pie 2.” U marketing boss Peter Adee fashioned TV spots in advance of the sequel’ opening that keyed less on gross-out humor and more on characters’ general “amiability.”

“A couple of months back, people were saying the R-rated comedy was dead, and we had a lot of conversation about it,” Adee recalled. “What came out of that was a campaign that was user-friendly — we reminded people of characters that they knew and loved.”

Adee added that both “Pie” pics “put people in embarrassing positions, but in a gentle way and one that involves people you like.”

By the same token, it seems a stretch to suggest that success with an established R-laffer franchise like “Pie” means that new titles bearing that rating can bow well without big teen numbers. But that’s what U execs claim they did with “Pie 2.”

Exit data showed some 67% of pic’s auds were under 25, but execs claim precious few of those younger patrons were under age 17. Meanwhile, credit U distrib topper Nikki Rocco and her troops for muscling an impressive 3,063 engagements for pic’s Friday bow, despite a late-summer season that remains crowded to an extent never seen before. Just three days prior to pic’s opening, Rocco had said she’d be fortunate to make it into 2,900 theaters, as “Rush Hour 2,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Jurassic Park III” together accounted for almost 10,000 competing playdates.

More Film

  • David Crosby and Cameron Crowe'David Crosby:

    Cameron Crowe Picks Five Favorite Underrated David Crosby Tracks

    “Music is love,” as David Crosby once sang, and nothing breeds deeper love than a sense that something is overlooked. So that’s why Variety asked Cameron Crowe to dig deep into the Crosby canon and pick not just a triad but five favorites from among the CSN singer’s most underrated tracks. Crowe, of course, has [...]

  • Halloween

    New 'Halloween' Movies Set for 2020, 2021

    Universal Pictures has unveiled back-to-back “Halloween” sequel movies that will open in 2020 and 2021. The studio made the announcement Friday, noting that last year’s “Halloween,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis and directed by David Gordon Green, went on to become the highest-grossing installment in the horror franchise at more than $250 million worldwide. The first [...]

  • Above the Shadows

    Film Review: ‘Above the Shadows’

    Grief-fueled romantic fantasies can be tricky for filmmakers not named Wim Wenders. Everyone aspires to make “Wings of Desire” with its stirring immediacy, beautiful imagery and pressing poignancy, but most wind up delivering something closer to its decent but dreary American remake, “City of Angels” — which could also be said for writer-director Cynthia Myers’ [...]

  • Crawl Movie

    'Crawl' and Other Disaster Movies Pose Unique Obstacles for Production Designers

    The rampaging fires, earthquakes and storms of disaster movies present unusual challenges for a production: On top of the normal work of creating a film’s lived-in and realistic locations, designers must build sets that the forces of nature can batter, flood and ravage into something completely different. Take “Crawl,” in which a Category 5 hurricane [...]

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Tops $130 Million Overseas

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has roared past $130 million in international ticket sales ahead of its domestic debut, led by $76.6 million in its first week in China. Other markets began launching Wednesday, led by France with $8.3 million in its first two days with the second-biggest opening day for a Disney movie after “Avengers: [...]

  • The Lion King The Gift

    Album Review: Beyoncé’s 'The Lion King: The Gift'

    Before touching down on what Beyoncé has called her “love letter to Africa,” it’s important to see what may have brought her to the mother of mankind, with its wide vistas and sonic planes, for “The Gift” in the first place — beyond, of course, voicing Nala in the film and whatever international marketing tie-ins [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content