In the “What do you need, a road map?” department, file the strange case of why a movie aimed not at hetero bros for a change that delivered on the promise of endless, ripped male flesh and junk thrust in the camera lens came up short at the box office. The weekend of America’s birthday, “Magic Mike XXL” offered counterprogramming to the boys’ club likes of “Jurassic World” and “Terminator: Genisys,” as well as the secretly not-so-kiddie Pixar toon “Inside Out.” And it was off to a big start: It grossed a bulgy $9.3 million on Wednesday, its first day of release. But that turned out to be a third of its total five-day grosses, which capped off at a sad little nub of $27.1 million. By contrast, “Magic Mike” netted $39.1 over three days back in 2012.
The gender issue is the most obvious problem. A full 96 percent of the audiences were female, confirming that — despite our pleasto the contrary — straight dudes just don’t feel comfortable seeing a movie about scantily clad men with six packs. It also implies that sex, at least in America, tends to only sell once. The “Magic Mike”s aren’t exactly porny — what they really offer is a cartoon sexuality — but they appeal to base urges, and in this part of the world sex seems to leave audiences feeling dirty after. (Witness the super-short-lived wave of hard-R erotic thrillers in the wake of “Basic Instinct.”)
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“Magic Mike” devotees may have gotten their fill with the first then felt too ashamed to return for a second — even if, as nearly every review mentioned, this one was more populist and breezy than the sometimes darker first. And, of course, no one, especially women, should feel shamed into wanting to see mostly naked bodies cavorting for their express pleasure. Whatever the reason, Hollywood is about to make even less movies targeted at women, instead appealing endlessly to teenage boys and the emotionally stunted adults who’ve made “Jurassic World” into what may become the highest grossing movie ever. Too bad: “Magic Mike XXL” includes a pretty hilarious number set to Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer.”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge