The same weekend that Saturday Night Live began its first season in nearly a decade without him, Bill Hader starred in the No. 1 movie in America.
Just as question marks have surrounded how SNL will survive the loss of Hader’s five-tool hilarity (as well as departing co-stars Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis), the customary uncertainty of a post-“Live From New York” life has not escaped the conversation around the 35-year-old actor. Sure, the world of Lorne Michaels is an insane gauntlet of hurried preparation and stone-cold nods, but Hollywood outside the confines of 30 Rock can be even harder. For every superstar-mogul like Will Ferrell there is a Dana Carvey, an incredible stand-out favorite from the sketch series who never fully launched as a successful solo artist.
Which is why the timing of Hader’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is so notable; sure, it’s an animated movie and a sequel, which are prime ingredients for box office success. But the man of a thousand impressions has been front and center in the marketing for the culinary-meteorological hybrid comedy. In an otherwise subpar weekend for ticket sales, the movie, while not reaching the height of increasingly untrustworthy projections, took in $35 million at the box office, giving Hader his first big post-SNL success.
And there should be plenty more where that came from.
Even before he left SNL, Hader was beginning to spread his wings, from the supporting roles in Judd Apatow movies (Superbad comes to mind especially) to his continuing work in writing for South Park. But in the last year, he has really ramped up the side projects in preparation for his exit from 30 Rock, including guest spots in The Mindy Project and voicing a slug in this summer’s Monsters University. He also co-starred in his wife Maggie Carrey’s summer comedy The To Do List.
In fact, a significant portion of his laundry list of upcoming roles are of the animated variety. The guy can make any voice whatsoever, making him Pixar’s new mainstay, with parts in the upcoming films The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out. In fact, he was on the stage so much during the movie presentations at Disney’s fan conference in August, John Ratzenberger — the guy who has had a role in every Pixar film — came out on stage to reassert his legacy in the face of Hader’s growing ubiquity. But Hader’s had no such troubles, presumably, while working on buddy Seth Myers’ animated Hulu comedy, The Awesomes.
Oh, and he’s also the voice of Mr. Peanut, because why not?
Hader’s rubber face will not be lacking from exposure in the real — read: not animated — world, either. He’ll return to The Mindy Project this season, recently finished filming a movie with old SNL co-star Kristen Wiig called The Skeleton Twins, and has an important role as James McAvoy’s best friend in the uniquely paired dramas The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His and Hers, which is a set of complimentary films meant for back-to-back viewing. It’s a new concept in filmmaking, and for Hader, a more dramatic role, reminiscent of Adventureland. It was bought by The Weinstein Company out of Toronto, though no release date is set.
In short: All your screens are belong to Bill Hader.
The American public was largely disinterested in the rest of what was offered on the big screen this weekend, despite some big star power involved in several of the films.
In its second weekend, and first in front of a national audience, Ron Howard’s period F1 drama Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth the late playboy race car driver James Hunt, made just $10.3 million. Americans, it seems, just don’t care much about F1 racing, even when a movie has Oscar pedigree and stars a blond slab of godliness who also plays a prominent role in the most successful film franchise of this 21st century. Those that saw the movie did enjoy it, according to its A- Cinema Score, but perhaps that’s a skewed sample, as anyone that went was likely to be part of a niche market that was predisposed to being interested in the subject matter.
If you want to know more about the movie, which has gotten great reviews, read our interview with Olivia Wilde.
The performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon was either a mild disappointment or disaster, depending on the way you look at it. The actor’s first stab at writing and directing, which saw him play a Jersey Shore-type guido with a well-sculpted and tireless masturbating elbow, made about $9 million this weekend. That number eclipses a production budget that was between $3 and 6 million, but also falls short of the $25 million in marketing that Relativity budgeted for the R-rated comedy when it bought it as one of the hottest commodities at Sundance.
The marketing budget was supplemented by Gordon-Levitt’s hustle, which led to near-ubiquity as the release date neared. The star had big features in magazines like Entertainment Weekly and took over IMDb, to go along with his usual Twitter dominance. Pair that with popular co-stars like Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore, and it’s sort of a wonder that it fell so hard. Then again, even the people that did go see it didn’t love the movie, as its C+ Cinema Score suggests. Perhaps a semi-moralistic tale that subtly tackles media messages about sexual intimacy and expectations just wasn’t what the audience was expecting from its very graphic ad campaign.
On the bright side, there was the surprising strength of the comedy Baggage Claim, which stars Paula Patton as a flight attendant determined to meet her true love. It was poorly reviewed — and that’s despite the limited nature of the pre-release screenings that were held for critics — but its likable lead and heavy marketing to the African-American community overcame professional misgivings. It earned $9.2 million and an A- Cinema Score, proving that buzz is often just a whole lot of static noise.
Similarly, Spanish comedy Instructions Not Included added another $3.6 million to hit $38.6 million, making it the most successful movie released in that language in American history.
Here are the estimated top 10 box office figures for Friday to Sunday, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:
1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs* — $35 million
2. Prisoners — $11.2 million
3. Rush* — $10.3 million
4. Baggage Claim* — $9.2 million
5. Don Jon* — $9 million
6. Insidious: Chapter 2 — $6.7 million
7. Instructions Not Included — $3.6 million
8. We’re The Millers — $2.8 million
9. Lee Daniels’ The Butler — $2.4 million
10. Enough Said — $2.15