It was the big sequel showdown of summer 2014: the R-rated comedy 22 Jump Street vs. the family-friendly How to Train Your Dragon 2. While the latter’s predecessor was a much bigger hit and widely expected to open at the top of the box office, it was the Jonah Hill-Channing Tatum team-up that rocketed to the #1 spot. The comedy sequel opened with an estimated $60 million, making it the fifth-largest opening for an R-rated film of all time (behind The Matrix Reloaded, The Hangover Part II, The Passion of the Christ and 300). It zoomed past the original’s $36.3 opening from March 2012, as well as raunchy summer hits Ted ($54.4 million) and Neighbors ($49 million).
22 Jump Street‘s victory over How to Train Your Dragon 2 was even more impressive considering the comedy was playing in nearly 1,000 fewer theatres and did not benefit from 3D surcharges. Not only that, but Phil Lord and Chris Miller are now the first directors to have two of their films open to over $60 million in one year (The LEGO Movie, which featured Hill and Tatum in supporting voice parts, opened to $69.1 million back in February). A lack of competition for young adults should keep the film near the top of the chart over the next month, as well. A reported 56% of the crowd who showed up for the comedy was under 25, while there was an even male-female split. With a solid A- CinemaScore, 22 Jump Street should hold up much better than the average comedy sequel and surpassing the original’s $138.4 million total will likely be a breeze.
However, that may not be the same story for How To Train Your Dragon 2, the latest summer 2014 release to have a solid but unspectacular opening. Considering the love audiences both young and old gave to How to Train Your Dragon, which had a leggy run in the spring of 2010 to a total of $217.6 million, a $50 million opening weekend for its sequel (just 23% of its predecessor’s final) is disappointing. It brought in more over its first three days than the original film ($43.7 million), but box office prognosticators were predicting an opening in the $60 to $70 million range.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone in Hollywood who thought this sequel would not be one of the three highest-grossing films of the summer. However, it will need exceptional staying power to surpass the original’s total. It could make up ground overseas, and with strong audience reaction (an A CinemaScore) and virtually no competition for families over the next four weekends, it would not be surprising if the film got to $200 million. However, its opening was more in line with Kung Fu Panda 2 ($47.7 million after a Thursday opening) than Madagascar 2 ($63.1), among sequels to big DreamWorks hits.