"We are only here because of the fans," Elizabeth Banks, director of "Pitch Perfect 2," said before the film's premiere at the Nokia Theatre on Friday. "There are a lot of you here."
"A lot" is an understatement. Hundreds of fans lined up around the venue, some arriving as early as 9 a.m. and braving rain showers, to get prime spots in the "fan pit" set up in the middle of the premiere's black carpet. Many said they received emails about attending the premiere; others said they won tickets.
The original "Pitch Perfect" followed a college a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, as they worked and bonded to compete in a national singing competition. The eclectic group included the artsy, aspiring producer Becca (Anna Kendrick), the hilarious Australian jokester "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson) and the aca-obsessed overachiever Chloe (Brittany Snow).
The sequel takes place when most of the group's members are seniors in college. This time around, the Bellas must fight to be taken seriously after Fat Amy accidentally exposes herself to President Obama during a performance. To maintain the group's legacy, they must win a world competition. Hailee Steinfeld plays new member Emily. Banks, who has a role in both films, directed and produced the second installment.
"Pitch Perfect 2" could debut with about $40 million, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. If tracking estimates hold, the debut would far outpace the opening for "Pitch Perfect." In 2012, Universal Pictures released the first film in a limited number of theaters before expanding it to theaters nationwide, with its first weekend of wide release bringing in about $14.7 million.
Universal reported Sunday that the film opened over the weekend at No. 1 in Australia and New Zealand, surpassing the original film's ticket sales in those markets by more than 300%. It became the first film to dethrone Marvel blockbuster "Avengers: Age of Ultron" in any market around the world. The weekend estimate for the two countries was a solid $9.19 million.
The fan pit at the L.A. premiere resembled a college party, with USC a cappella group the SoCal Vocals and UCLA group the Scattertones taking turns performing on stage. A DJ played remixes from the movie as the stars walked the black carpet.
One fan asked not to be interviewed because she "ditched work for this," but others were vocal about what they deemed their "favorite film."
Holding posters that said "We're back, pitches" and sporting free T-shirts for the sequel, fans chanted out the stars names ("Anna!" "Rebel!") as they walked by -- and some even nabbed selfies.
"I drove 17 hours to get pitch-slapped," one fan's sign read. Another sported a homemade T-shirt that read "#pitchslapme."
"I was in six different choirs growing up. 'Pitch Perfect' really kept it true to the a cappella culture," said Tatiana Santana, 30, from Los Angeles. "They capture the spirit of it all."
Adam DeVine, who plays Bumper, called the fan frenzy "bizarre and insane but very cool."
"It's pretty surreal that the tiny movie we made in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, turned out to be such a hit," he said on the carpet before the film's premiere. "We made it and were like, 'We think this it's funny,' but it's cool that the world also thinks that."
Also on the carpet, Snow, Steinfeld and Alexis Knapp (who plays Stacie) said they thought the fans are drawn to the comedy because of the characters and their camaraderie.
"It really shows the acceptance that I think everyone should have," Snow said of the films. "A cappella wasn't necessarily a cool thing, even to be in a movie. ... I think what everyone related to was you can be not cool as a person but that doesn't make you not lovable."
Steinfeld echoed the sentiment.
"So many unique personalities are accepted and embraced, and that's what we need to see more of," she said.
Knapp noted that women, especially young teens who are struggling with their identities, might look to the films for empowerment.
"I think this helps them do whatever they want and do it in their own styles," she said. "We are such a diverse group of individuals and characters. ... There's somebody for everybody."
After the premiere, guests rocked out on a stage set up for karaoke performances.
The film sings its way into theaters on May 15.
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