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'The Hangover' Now the Top R-Rated Comedy Ever

I mentioned it for a sentence or two yesterday in our box office recap, but I thought we should take a little more time to discuss exactly how impressive the run for The Hangover has been and continues to be. I was asked to contribute to an article for back in late April and one of the questions was what I thought would be the sleeper hit of the summer. I answered The Hangover, so at least I got that one right.

The movie opened opposite Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost, and on paper even a few months ago, you would have said that Land of the Lost should have been the bigger movie of the two. It has been lapped almost five times over by a modestly budgeted R-rated buddy comedy with no stars.

Now, even though I thought it would be the sleeper hit of the season, I had no idea we were looking at an all-timer, and in no uncertain terms, that's exactly what this is. Over the weekend, The Hangover topped Beverly Hills Cop to become the highest-earning R-rated comedy of all time, according to the records at Box Office Mojo.

We can throw in the arguments about ticket prices and theater numbers, and those are viable, but so is the increased competition and limited release windows that movies from the 1980s didn't have to face. It's probably not a wash because the grosses are so close, and historically, I'd still give the edge to Axel Foley, but don't you think another R-rated comedy would've been here by now?

The $236 million the film has rung up places it in the bronze medal position among all R-rated movies ever; only The Passion of the Christ and The Matrix Reloaded have earned more money. Here's a breakdown of the current top ten rated R flicks:

1 - The Passion of the Christ - $371 million
2 - The Matrix Reloaded - $281 million
3 - The Hangover - $236 million
4 - Beverly Hills Cop - $235 million
5 - The Exorcist - $232 million
6 - Saving Private Ryan - $217 million
7 - 300 - $211 million
8 - Wedding Crashers - $209 million
9 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day - $204 million
10 - Gladiator - $188 million

Again, some of those raw numbers are perhaps more impressive, like The Exorcist making most of its $200-plus million back in the early 1970s. However, it was in theaters for a year, and didn't open nationwide the way movies now open nationwide. The smaller cities had to wait a few months and there was no DVD to watch, no download to steal, nothing. So there's a balance all the through the comparison.

I do think it's interesting, however, that the two films left on this list for The Hangover to overtake both opened with over $85 million, while The Hangover was a surprise at $44 million. Passion of the Christ earned a little more than 20% of its total U.S. revenue in its first weekend, Matrix Reloaded a more average 33%. That's actually almost exactly the industry average, incidentally. The Hangover is at 19% and falling, a sure sign of a movie with repeat business and phenomenal word of mouth.

In terms of where it ranks on the all-time list of comedies, that depends on your definition of comedy. If animated movies and tongue-in-cheek action-adventures count, then the film currently sits in 20th place. But that's with three Shrek movies, three Pirates movies, Men in Black, and five Pixar flicks. Subtract those and it looks like this:

1 - Home Alone - $285 million
2 - Meet the Fockers - $279 million
3 - How the Grinch Stole Christmas - $260 million
4 - Night at the Museum - $251 million
5 - Bruce Almighty - $243 million
6 - My Big Fat Greek Wedding - $241 million
7 - Ghostbusters - $239 million
8 - The Hangover - $236 million
9 - Beverly Hills Cop - $235 million
10 - Mrs. Doubtfire - $219 million

You can do the math; The Hangover sits $7 million away from being in the top five comedies ever released, and has a legitimate shot to kick The Grinch out of the top three. Nobody saw it coming, and of all the success stories this summer, this one might be the most compelling.

Here's one final thing to consider: We know Transformers made $200 million in its first five days. The Hangover made $59 million. Wanna bet which one can get to its next $200 million first?

Reader Comments (1)

This thing might just beat Star Trek

Friday, July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ

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