Even though studio executives and investors hope that their films can achieve widespread appeal and become so-called ‘four quadrant hits’, the nature of the business is that every project is going to have a different target demographic. For something like Pixar’s Inside Out, the hope is families will flock to the theater. A sci-fi film like Jurassic World is going after those who crave big screen spectacle and action. In short, films ranging in scope from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Whiplash all have that one segment they’re specifically made for.
That brings us to the case of Magic Mike XXL (read our review), the sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper dramedy Magic Mike. The 2012 original was sold to audiences as eye candy for the female moviegoer, but ended up scoring very positive reviews and ended up having more allure for women and men than initially thought. But based on XXL‘s critical reception, the consensus that emerged was that the sequel lacked that narrative intrigue the first one had, relying more on its ‘male entertainer’ angle to draw in viewers (specifically, the ladies).
And if that was the filmmakers’ intention, they were very successful – perhaps too much so. According to THR, during Magic Mike XXL‘s opening weekend (in which it brought in $27.1 million for the 5-day stretch), audiences were a whopping 96 percent female. While the report stops short of saying that’s a record, THR admits that figure is unheard of, and is a substantial increase from the first film, which only had 73 percent of its viewership be women attendees in its opening weekend.
The most obvious reasoning for this gap is the nature of the marketplace. The box office that the first Magic Mike was released in was far less competitive, with lackluster films like Madea’s Witness Protection and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter taking up screens. Yes, it couldn’t contend with the original Ted, but the word-of-mouth and relative lack of options gave Magic Mike a strong enough boost to become a respectable commercial hit. Grossing $39.1 million in its first three days, Magic Mike went on to make $113.7 million total domestically – a number the sequel will struggle to reach.
There was clearly a deeper menu of movies to pick from this Fourth of July weekend, with holdovers Jurassic World and Inside Out remaining at the top of the charts, posting very healthy numbers a few weeks into their respective runs. Plus, the arrival of Terminator: Genisys gave male audiences something else to check out (even though it didn’t light the multiplex on fire). Simply put, for something like Magic Mike XXL (which was marketed as a niche film), there was going to be an uphill climb to surpass the more high-profile releases – even with the bankable Channing Tatum back in one of his biggest roles.
It just goes to show that the nature of scheduling movies is a fickle one. After the first Magic Mike became a surprise box office hit in the summer, WB was most likely hoping for a repeat of that with the sequel, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s arguably somewhat odd the studio picked this weekend to release the film, given the amount of major blockbusters that are currently playing. Few could have predicted the staying power of Jurassic World, but even before records were broken, it might have been smarter for WB to put this ‘smaller’ film out in a less competitive time frame to avoid being overshadowed. Despite having a few weeks’ padding, most audiences are going to pick a dinosaur amusement park over a male stripper convention for their Fourth of July thrills.
If there are any silver linings for the makers of Magic Mike XXL, it’s that their project was relatively inexpensive. The production budget for the film was just $14.8 million, meaning that it has already more than doubled its costs when the worldwide gross ($32.8 million) is taken into account. So even if the appeal is very limited, they’re still going to find a way to turn a profit. Now that’s what you call magic.
Magic Mike XXL is now playing in theaters.