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​Box Office: Why Did ’22 Jump Street’ Win Against ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’?

box officeThis weekend’s battle of the sequels was supposed to be close, with nearly every pundit giving “How to Train Your Dragon 2” a slight edge over “22 Jump Street.” To some experts, it wasn’t even going to be close, with the cartoon expected to earn as much as $ 70 million, contrasted with about $ 50 million for the action comedy.

Well, it wasn’t close, but Father’s Day weekend ended with estimates of $ 60.0 million for “Jump Street” and just $ 50.0 million for “Dragon 2.” This even though “Dragon 2” is playing on nearly 1,000 more screens than “Jump Street.”

Why did nearly everyone overestimate the prospects for “Dragon 2” and underestimate those for “Jump Street”? Here are some possible reasons the two rival sequels fared as they did.

Animation is trending downward. A lot of folks thought “Dragon 2” would do well because there’s no Pixar movie to compete against this summer. That’s true, but cartoon features, from “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” to “Rio 2,” have underperformed all year; the only real smash has been “The LEGO Movie.”

R-rated comedy is trending upward. This has been the case for several summers now, including this one, with the success already of “Neighbors” (still in the top 10 after six weeks, it finished at No. 9 this weekend and has earned $ 143.1 million to date). True, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” tanked, but that’s because the movie was no good, not because viewers are tired of raunchy humor. Indeed, “Million Ways”‘ absence as a competitor only strengthened “Jump Street,” giving it the field all to itself.

Timeliness matters. It’s been just two years since “21 Jump Street,” so the high jinks of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as undercover cops posing as students are still fresh in fans’ minds. It’s been four years, however, since the original “Dragon,” which is an eternity for the kid-movie audience. Sure, there’s been a “DreamWorks Dragons” TV series to help remind young viewers of the 2010 movie, but that also makes this big-screen sequel less of a special event. A lot of the kids who loved the original film may have felt they’ve outgrown the franchise and graduated… to the “Jump Street” comedies.

Reviews matter. Well, sort of. Both movies earned extremely strong word-of-mouth, as measured by their grades at CinemaScore (A- for “Jump Street,” A for “Dragon 2”). Reviews for both have been strong as well. But the first “Dragon” scored even better reviews than the sequel. The young adults who make up the “Jump Street” audience may not pay much attention to critics, but parents do, and they’re the ones making purchasing decisions about “Dragon 2.”

Everyone loves Channing Tatum. You might expect the sausage-fest team of Tatum and Hill to appeal mostly to guys. He works for male audiences both as an action star and as a light-comedy buddy-movie partner. But of course, women like the “Magic Mike” hunk, too. Not all of his recent movies have been huge, but the recent People Magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” knows his sweet spot and how to promote himself to audiences. (Not to knock two-time Oscar nominee Hill, who has also tirelessly promoted “Jump Street” on more than one continent, but who would you rather look at?).

How big a draw is Tatum to female moviegoers? Well, it’s worth noting that last week’s box office champ, “The Fault in Our Stars,” fell to fifth place this weekend, losing a steep 67 percent of last week’s business to take in just an estimated $ 15.7 million. This despite the tearjerking romantic drama’s excellent word-of-mouth (it earned an A at CinemaScore) and critical acclaim. Where do you suppose that movie’s predominantly female teen and young-adult audience went this weekend? Not to see a cartoon about a Viking lad.

One should also step back and note that a $ 50 million second-place opening is nothing to complain about. In fact, this is only the fourth weekend in history featuring two movies that opened at $ 50 million or higher. With no other cartoons due until Disney’s “Planes” sequel on July 18, there’s no reason “Dragon 2” shouldn’t develop strong legs and become one of this summer’s biggest family hits over the next few weeks. The overall box office gross this weekend is estimated at $ 188.0 million, the largest haul so far this summer. Everyone made money, so weep not for DreamWorks over “Dragon 2.”

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