With Hunger Games fever still burning hot in American theaters, box office expectations for American Reunion were reserved. The weekend's final totals hit as predicted: the fourth American Pie movie took home $20 million range — a modest sum, but is that a success for the franchise?
American Reunion acts as a sweet, sentimental finale to the Pie series, but it also leaves its end open enough for possible revisits to the film's lovable gang of gents. A sequel would be a no brainer if the demand was there. But comparatively, American Reunion flew way under previous installments' box office grosses. In 2001, American Pie 2 blew the first film's indie origins out of the water with an opening weekend of $45.1 million. In 2003, American Wedding took a minor dip, managing $33.4 million. In nearly the same amount of theaters, Reunion dipped another $10 million — even when ticket prices are at the highest they've ever been. The film's unknown budget is a factor in sequel talk, but with a swell of summer blockbusters on the way, American Pie's future is up in the air.
In the eight year gap between Wedding and Reunion, the American Pie brand mutated into a direct-to-DVD factory, spinning off four sex-filled misadventures set in the "world of Pie. Instead of convincing Universal Studios head honchos that the small screen was the new home for Pie, the straight-to-video success of the series actually prompted the new movie. Speaking to the LA Times, Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson explained: “When the franchise was in its direct-to-DVD run, we learned that the brand had really established itself, not just with the original viewers but with young people who’d never seen the films in a movie theater." Reasonable thinking, but American Reunion doesn't have teenagers barreling through a sex romp. Instead, it's about growing up, maturing and leaving the sex-crazed antics behind. Not exactly in tune with American Pie: The Naked Mile.
Unlike other wide-gapped reunion sequels (think Fast & Furious), critics weren't too hot on the latest installment (although our own review gives credit to the lead actors for bringing the funny), and its April release put it against big performers (Hunger Games) and in the wake of a different brand of comedy (21 Jump Street), that's more familiar in the Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen/Jonah Hill dominated comedy landscape. Would Pie have performed better later in the year? The previous films did, but the timing issue may be less "which weekend" than "could it ever work in 2012?"
There is a shining light for an American Reunion: the cast. Although wrangling the original ensemble was something of an accomplishment when the movie was first announced in early 2011, most of the players' careers haven't hit the A-List since their last Pie in 2003. And the future is equally murky: Alyson Hannigan will continue to have her CBS mainstay How I Met Your Mother, Jason Biggs has a reoccurring role on Good Wife and a few supporting parts in big screen ventures, and Seann William Scott is in a career revival after impressive turns in both Cop Out and Goon. But even for the main trio, and especially for the rest of the gang, American Pie is where the spotlight shines the brightest. The allure could be there for a sequel.
Relying on the fond remembrance of the American Pie of yesteryears may have been Reunion's biggest issue. Nostalgia is one thing, but a tired formula is another. American Pie needs to feel fresh and there's room for the raunchy escapade, even in today's market (the direct-to-DVD movies do prove that). For the right price tag and the right slate of actors (which may not even be the original cast), Universal could take another stab at reviving the brand. Even if the numbers this time around don't add up.