Jim Carrey is back on top.
The comedian has struggled at the box office in recent years, suffering through the indignity of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” but by revisiting one of his most beloved comedies two decades after it hit screens, Carrey has scored his biggest hit in years with “Dumb and Dumber To.” The cinematic adventures of a pair of dim bulbs shone brightly at the box office this weekend, picking up an estimated $38.1 million across 3,154 locations.
Despite the strong showing, “Dumb and Dumber To” had to fight for first place with last weekend’s champ, “Big Hero 6,” which soared past the $100 million mark. The Disney film fell a meager 36 percent from its opening, picking up $36 million across 3,773 screens. Its total stands at $111.6 million after two weeks.
“Interstellar” also showed impressive staying power. Christopher Nolan’s space adventure fell less than 40 percent in its second weekend, adding $29.2 million to its pot and driving its domestic total to $97.8 million. Imax screenings were a major factor, contributing $7.4 million to its haul from 368 screens.
The strong holds bode well for “Interstellar” and “Big Hero 6,” signaling they could continue to generate robust ticket sales throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.
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“Dumb and Dumber To’s” big numbers and “Big Hero 6” and “Interstellar’s” endurance helped the overall box office trump the year ago period, with ticket sales up more than 10 percent from the same weekend in 2013 when “Thor: The Dark World” topped the leaderboard for a second week.
“The weekend was a perfect harmony of blockbusters and smaller more intimate awards season films,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak.
That mélange didn’t leave much left over for the weekend’s other fresh wide release, “Beyond the Lights,” which earned $6.5 million from 1,789 theaters. The story of a suicidal pop star who falls in love with a member of her security detail fell short of tracking, which had projected an opening between $8 million and $10 million. It’s the latest in a string of box office disappointment for Relativity Media, which has fielded whiffs such as “The Best of Me,” “Earth to Echo” and “Brick Mansions” in recent months.
One thing that should cushion the blow is that “Beyond the Lights” is inexpensive, carrying a mere $7 million production budget. It marks the kick-off of Relativity’s new multicultural division, which is being run by “Barbershop” producer Matt Alvarez. To that end, the opening weekend crowd was 61 percent female and 49 percent African American. The studio hopes that the A Cinemascore ranking can help “Beyond the Lights” hang in there and draw audiences in future weekends.
In the case of “Dumb and Dumber To,” absence and frequent cable viewings bred fondness. In addition to Carrey, original star Jeff Daniels returned along with directors Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. Their reunion is well-positioned to be a profitable hit for its backers. Red Granite Pictures put up the $40 million production budget and Universal Pictures is distributing the film.
“‘The Dumb and Dumber’ original audiences who grew with this for the years, they were there, but it was also something young people had on their radar,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal Pictures distribution chief.
Rocco noted that there hadn’t been a broad comedy in theaters since “Let’s Be Cops” debuted in August, so there was pent-up demand from moviegoers eager for a laugh.
“The stars aligned with this release date,” said Rocco.
The opening weekend crowd was 55 percent male and 57 percent aged 25 and older. It marks Carrey’s biggest debut since 2003’s “Bruce Almighty” and the best showing of the Farrelly brothers’ career.
Box office veterans “Gone Girl” and “St. Vincent” nabbed fifth and sixth place on the box office chart, picking up $4.6 million and $4 million, respectively. “Gone Girl” has made $152.7 million since opening last month, while “St. Vincent” has earned more than $30 million. Also still kicking around, “Fury” nabbed another $3.8 million, bringing the World War II adventure’s domestic take to $75.9 million.
In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics debuted true-life murder tale “Foxcatcher” to $288,113 on six screens. That’s a sterling $48,019 per-screen average and bodes well for the indie label’s rollout plans for the Academy Awards contender. The company also expanded another Oscar hopeful, “Whiplash,” from 88 screens to 419, picking up $800,509 in the process. That brings the total for the film about a young jazz musician to $2.5 million.
“The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart tried his hand at directing with “Rosewater,” the true story of journalist Maziar Bahari and his imprisonment and torture in Iran. Released by Open Road, the film did $1.2 million of business from 371 locations in its initial weekend of release.
Open Road’s Chief marketing officer Jason Cassidy said Stewart was crucial to selling the film, talking it up on “The Daily Show” and consenting to a rigorous publicity tour. The plan is to stay in roughly the same number of theaters for now, as “Rosewater” tries to rise above the steady stream of adult dramas in the marketplace.
“It’s certainly a great market for quality movies,” said Cassidy. “It’s a tough market, absolutely, but this is a solid start and the picture can build from here.”
“The Homesman” a revisionist western courtesy of Tommy Lee Jones, another director better known for his in front of the camera work, picked up $48,033 from four theaters for an an estimated per-screen average of $12,033. Roadside Attractions and Saban Films are releasing the film, which centers on a frontier woman (Hilary Swank) escorting three insane women across rugged terrain.
Saban Films President Bill Bromiley said the company planned to keep expanding “The Homesman” and noted that the grosses improved as the weekend progressed, which he argued indicated word-of-mouth was strong.
“It’s a difficult market, but if you have a good film people will find it,” he said.
Two Best Picture frontrunners, “The Theory of Everything” and “Birdman,” benefitted from strong word-of-mouth. Focus Features’ “The Theory of Everything,” the story of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking’s love affair with his first wife, expanded from five theaters to 41 locations, earning $738,000 for a per-theater average of $18,000. It has made more than $1 million in two weeks.
Fox Searchlight’s “Birdman” also impressed, earning $2.4 million in 857 theaters, up from 460 the previous week. The gonzo showbiz sendup has made $11.6 million in limited release.
On the opposite end of the prestige spectrum, Samuel Goldwyn Films released “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” on 410 screens, where it earned north of $1 million. The studio will continue expanding the film throughout December.