Box Office Outlook: Neighbors
Neighbors poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 8, 2014
Iím expecting very good legs and I suspect its total is going to land in between $100 and $125 million.
Neighbors is the only R-rated comedy opening in theaters before 22 Jump Street comes along in June and I think itís going to do very well at the box office but Iím hesitant to say that it could open to more than $30 million because there are a few factors keeping it back from being a sure thing in victory. After I saw this movie in February, I was almost positive it was going to turn into a word of mouth sleeper and word of mouth sleepers are movies that donít necessarily open big but surprise people on the first night and push them to eagerly tell their friends to see it in a domino effect. After I saw it, I was stuck at a debut between the low $20-millions and low $30-milions, which is kind of a broad range. It had elements of a $10 - 12 million opening day comedy but there was something that struck me as a sub-$10 million first day opener that would stay around once people passed the word around that it is funny. It has no competition within the genre of comedies but what it does have as competition is the second week run of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which will be a top first choice, which I knew was going to be hogging up big auditoriums and be potentially keeping this comedy back from delivering what it normally might achieve otherwise. The star-power here was another thing keeping me back from being confident in over $10 million Friday, because while Seth Rogen has proven to be a solid draw at the box office consistently, it also has Rose Byrne and Zac Efron and Dave Franco, none of whom are sure things when it comes to big box office.

This is kind of an underdog comedy in the vein of The 40 Year Old Virgin, one that doesnít boast great star-power but has plenty of laughs and heart behind it and enough so to surprise people when they see it the first night. The trailer isnít funny if you ask me but its big gag involving Rogen being tossed into the air at work in a frat-house prank on him has consistently drawn solid laughs in theaters. That gag is one of the lighter gags in the movie as most of the humor is in the foul and dirty dialogue and raunchiness. I havenít watched the red-band trailers yet because I donít actually want to know the extent of which the studio decided to reveal the edgier punch-lines, and Iíve actually forgotten some of the gags since my first viewing and I want to be surprised again when I show up again. I had low expectations going into the movie and was quite surprised when it actually made me laugh decently because the trailer didnít make me laugh and it had looked like more of a stereotypical frat comedy.

One thing I am sure of is that it is going to beat the debuts of Road Trip, Old School and Role Models, which opened to $15.5, $17.5 and $19.2 million respectively. There is material in Neighbors that is stronger in effect than those frat-boy comedies but what I am not sure of is to what extent it can surpass the debuts of The 40 Year Old Virgin ($21.4) and Project X ($21.1), and whether or not it can open to the very strong levels of Knocked Up ($30.7) and Superbad ($33.1). Itís a much funnier movie than what Project X delivered but not quite as funny as Virgin happened to be for me. Neighbors made me laugh but Virgin made me laugh harder, but some people might disagree and call this better. Ticket prices are also a little higher now than when Road Trip and Old School came out in the early 2000ís, as their adjusted opening weekends would be a little over $22.7 and $22.9 million today. There is also the comparison of last summerís end-of-the-world Rogen comedy, This Is the End, pushing me to predict a stronger opening because that movie was heavily an insider-Hollywood-comedy and movies about Hollywood with celebrity and genre in-jokes usually donít open as strongly universally as otherwise. This Is the End opened on a Wednesday rather than Friday so its weekend performance was padded out over five days. That movie turned in $7.8 million on Wednesday and $6.9 million on Friday and enjoyed a 3-day tally of $20.7 million and a 5-day haul of $33.0 million, which also makes me divided as to where Neighbors will land.

Neighbors isnít rooted in insider-comedy which could help this open stronger in three days. This Is the End was also counter-programming against the second weekend of Man of Steel, which was still enjoying a big $44.0 million weekend take after debuting with $116.6 million. I thought Neighbors was funnier than This Is the End even though I grade them on the same quality level. Watching Neighbors I was stuck between a B- and B rating and my second viewing will determine which one I officially declare. The movie plays very much like a Judd Apatow comedy balancing good raunchy laughs with a heartfelt story. Part of what makes me doubt a debut of around $30 million is that Knocked Up had the big benefit of Katherine Heigl who was a big draw for women because of her hit television series, Greyís Anatomy.

Seth Rogen wasnít a proven success at that point because he was just a scene-stealer in Apatowís Virgin. Rose Byrne doesnít have Heiglís appeal and thereís nobody in Neighbors working from similar success. Byrne just has Bridesmaids, which opened to $26.2 million, and she wasnít even the star of that movie. She may have starred in the horror hit Insidious but she doesnít have strong clout with comedies yet. After opening night, though, that is likely going to change, because she handles the frat-boy genre very well here. I didnít like her in Bridesmaids but with Neighbors I was impressed by what she agreed to do. Sheís just as dirty and rebellious as the guys around her which is going to help promote her reputation as a daredevil comedian. Iím more confident in a very solid debut like Bridesmaids than one that reaches into the $30 millions. Bridesmaids didnít boast strong star-power either as it was the concept that sold it and not big stars. Bridesmaids was a hardcore chick flick and it had fantastic legs that made it reach Knocked Upís total. I donít see such fantastic legs for Neighbors but I am pretty sure this is going to sail past $100 million.

The other major player in Neighbors, Zac Efron, is going to be a surprise here, as he is coming off routine chick flicks and little-girl movies, and this is his first comedy where he is both a bad-ass rebel in R-rated terms, as well as a nice and sweet guy, and people who have normally sighed in deep frustration over his feel-good cutesy movies are going to become quick fans of his with the well-balanced presence. The poster of Neighbors is trying to sell him as a beer-drinking dickhead, kind of positioning him as the next Vince Vaughn-in-Old School personality, and it doesnít do justice for the solidly layered role that he has. In Neighbors, he is super-cool, and heís going to impress frats just as much as he will with otherwise. It wonít mean anything to you if you havenít seen the movie yet but I remember watching one of the memorable hip-hop dance-off sequences in the frat-house setting (which the trailer briefly hints at with a couple of shots) and thinking that this guyís hip-and-cool vibe is going to skyrocket and turn him into a big favorite now.

Efron is more of a favorite with teenage girls and has yet to be approved by hipper young adults. And his teenaged female fans who normally support him are going to have trouble getting into this movie without their parents because various theaters are probably going to card kids at the door to the auditorium and not just at the ticket booth because of certain envelope-pushing R-rated scenes. Little girls are going to have to persuade someone to try and sneak them in unless their parents come with. This also isnít a little-girl movie and might not be what they expect from him and they might prefer cutesy comedy over this. But those who havenít been a fan of Efron thus far are going to have a radically different reaction. Those who hate High School Musical or even refuse to watch it are going to wish he had made Neighbors sooner. Neighbors is the opposite in tone and itís going to turn Efron into a seriously bankable commodity outside of feel-good, lighthearted chick flicks. This is the kind of movie thatíll get him offered edgier roles in the future because he pulls off the genre sufficiently. All an actor/comedian needs is one departure that strays away from their typical and then their options begin to open up.

Neighbors is a crowd pleaser, much like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and there is a $10 million difference between the openings of each movie which makes this kind of a head-scratcher. Thereís a 50/50 chance of it debuting at either region, and it has also been nearly ten years since Virgin came out, which makes its adjusted weekend closer to $26.3 million with higher ticket prices now. That would be right in line with Bridesmaids, which is the figure Iím going to land at as a midpoint forecast. After seeing the movie early, I predicted mostly positive reviews, and so far on Rotten Tomatoes with only a handful of critics a month in advance, Neighbors stands at a full 100% rating with everybody saying the same things. I figured it was going to land between an 80 and 90% approval rate where 10 - 20% of the critics will just be uptight people in general. Thereís always a very small handful of reviewers who donít agree with the popular vote on something like this, which forces the many fans to point fingers at the small percentage and claim that these people just arenít any fun to be around. I expect the Rotten Tomatoes score to drop a little as the release approaches but not by much. And I expect the movie itself is going to have positive word of mouth from paying-audiences and have a theater life into June. It opens a few weeks before Memorial Day weekend and thatís a weekend when various moviegoers catch up on what they have missed out on. Iím expecting very good legs for various reasons, and I suspect its domestic total is going to land somewhere in between $100 and $125 million.
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'Neighbors' Articles
  • Craig's Neighbors review C+
    May 12, 2014    This movie is a lazy, crude-for-the-sake-of-crude bore that does nothing for either actor. -- Craig Younkin
  • Neighbors: Box Office Tracking
    May 8, 2014    Theater bookings are better than they were for Knocked Up and Superbad, and with inflation those weekend figures would be $36.8 and 39.6 million today. -- Lee Tistaert
  • Lee's Neighbors review B-
    February 8, 2014    I was impressed by its competent tone and direction and I found the movie pretty entertaining and funny at times. -- Lee Tistaert