LOS ANGELES – It opened against very light competition, and over the Fourth of July holiday weekend no less. Warner Bros. pumped it with marketing support. Its star, Melissa McCarthy, aggressively trotted the publicity circuit.
And yet “Tammy” arrived on tiptoe.
Extending a bleak streak for Warner and leading to questions about the limits of McCarthy’s R-rated comedic style, “Tammy” took in an estimated $21.2 million over the weekend, for a total of $32.9 million since arriving in wide release on Wednesday. Based on prerelease surveys of potential ticket-buyer interest, several box office analysts had projected a five-day total closer to $45 million.
The poor turnout for “Tammy” contributed to the weakest Fourth of July box office results in a decade, studio executives said. Viewership of the World Cup and the Friday timing of the holiday probably contributed. Compared with last year, when “Despicable Me 2” and “The Lone Ranger” arrived in theaters, sales for the weekend were down 34 percent, according to Rentrak, which compiles ticketing data.
Among new films in wide release, “Tammy” competed with a horror picture, “Deliver Us From Evil” (Sony), and a family entry, “Earth to Echo” (Relativity), each of which took in less than $10 million between Friday and Sunday.
The No. 1 movie over the weekend was Paramount’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” with $36.4 million, for a two-week North American total of about $174.8 million. “Age of Extinction” is a runaway hit in a summer that has had few of them: Rentrak estimates that overall movie ticket sales since the first weekend in May have totaled $2.3 billion, a 19.3 percent decline from the same period last year.
“It’s product driven, no question about it,” Dan Fellman, Warner’s president for domestic distribution, said in an interview Sunday.
Several big-budget movies, including “Fast & Furious 7” and Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” were pushed back following production problems. Other splashy entries, like Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” have not connected with audiences as anticipated.
Warner, which has now sustained back-to-back-to-back disappointments with “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Jersey Boys” and “Tammy,” appears to have overestimated the popularity of McCarthy’s rowdy style of comedy. “Tammy” was a vanity project for this star, who acted in the movie, produced it and co-wrote the script with her husband, Ben Falcone, who also made his directing debut with the film. The Wall Street Journal reported that the studio bought the script sight unseen.
But reviews were crushing, with critics complaining that McCarthy’s shtick has grown tiresome. “The problem is that she just keeps playing the same card,” wrote Betsy Sharkey, a critic for the Los Angeles Times. Ticket buyers gave “Tammy” a C-plus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, an ominous sign for word-of-mouth, a critical part of a movie’s success in the social media age.
“Tammy,” about a fast-food worker (McCarthy) who goes on a road trip with her feisty grandmother (Susan Sarandon), was notably marketed as a splashy summer comedy, something that puzzled some people who saw the movie, swathes of which suggest something more like an indie dramedy.
Fellman defended “Tammy,” noting that the movie cost only $20 million to make. (Marketing expenses added tens of millions more.) “It’s going to be a profitable movie for us,” he said. “We’ll be fine. We will leg it out during the week.” Fellman said his confidence about the movie’s ability to chug along in the coming weeks came in part by a ticketing uptick between Friday and Saturday.
He projected that “Tammy” would ultimately sell between $80 million and $100 million in tickets.
One reason for his optimism: Warner’s comedy “We’re the Millers” took in a slight $26.4 million over its first three days last year and went on to gross more than $150 million in the United States and Canada.