Audiences ain’t afraid of no nostalgia bait, King Richard hits the net, and Other Box Office News.
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
The existence of Ghostbusters: Afterlife – or at least the film being sold in the trailers, I should be seeing the full-length feature for myself by the time you read this – has perplexed me for months. Every single new reverential piece of marketing, every Abrams-doing-Spielberg poster, every interview quote about it being “what the fans have been hoping for,” every Stranger Things-baiting trailer lacking in seemingly any comedy inclinations. I fully admit to watching all of this unfold and my reaction at each new slice of the film being, “why?” Why turn an offbeat comedy where the central joke was about making the art of ghostbusting mundane, explicitly an equivalent to pest control, and resisting the urge at every step to treat any of the mythology seriously as a blockbuster with real weight… into a serious Force Awakens-style blockbuster? Who was this movie meant to be for? Shit, it’s Ghostbusters!
However, I never once expected this thing to bomb for pretty much exactly those reasons. I’ve learnt my lesson about failing to trust cheap-pop, low-investment nostalgia bait on bringing in the bucks. And the second that our very own Kelechi Ehenulo messaged me to finally provide the definitive answer to that “who is this for?” question – quote: “Fans who love every scene littered with Easter Eggs at the sacrifice of the story” – I knew this was gonna make the COVID-era equivalent of a billion dollars. So, unsurprisingly, Ghostbusters: Afterlife dominated the box office this weekend. Not only unseating Eternals as if it were the Thanos to that film’s Infinity War Avengers, not only devouring into the Marvel film’s share like it were Galactus, and not only beating conservative studio and pundit forecasts of $30 mil… but actively demolishing such expectations. $44 million. For those with longer memories, that’s a mere $2 million less than the 2016 female reboot opened to without the COVID-era asterisks we must affix to all openings. I shall only accept this development if it leads to Jason Reitman getting to spend the rest of his career working exclusively with Diablo Cody without having to be concerned about those movies inevitably bombing with audiences despite being great.
On the exact opposite end of the spectrum – in terms of both execution on “wait, why?” premises and box office performances – was Reinaldo Marcus Greene’s excellent tennis biopic King Richard. You could blame any number of reasons for its flatlining performance. A Williams Sisters biopic from the perspective of their father at the very start of their careers is a weird sell with awkward optics until you see the execution. The stupid stupid continuing commitment by Warner Bros. to simul-release on HBO Max inevitably cutting into the box office for older-skewing films such as this. It being a long time since Will Smith had a proper hit, indicating he’s maybe just not a giant draw anymore. Releasing after three straight weeks of similar demographic movies which have repeatedly bitten into each other’s takings, as mentioned last week. COVID fear still keeping said target audience away from cinemas to a not insignificant degree. Goblins stealing the movie’s money before it could be registered. Whichever excuse you want to go with, a $5.7 million debut is still not very good.
In a brief Limited Release detour pre-Full List, we do have a sliver of good news – unless you, like me, didn’t really care for Mike Mills’ latest project, in which case I apologise for falsely getting your “good news” hopes up. Regardless, it is worth noting that C’mon C’mon is one of the biggest indie hits of the year so far. An excellent opening of $134,447 from 5 theatres, a PTA of $26,889, which is rather in line with how Mills’ previous feature, 20th Century Women, did on its opening weekend at a time where Corona was merely the producer of one of the 90s all-time best dance tunes. Please send Mills and the film your best muted applause, as is the indie way of expressing strong positive emotion.
This is the rhythm of the Full List! Fuuuu-ll List! Oh, yeah!
US Box Office Results: Friday 19th November 2021 – Sunday 21st November 2021
1] Ghostbusters: Afterlife
$44,000,000 / NEW
Again, I’ll likely be seeing Afterlife on the day that this BOR goes up, so you’ll have to get your takes from Kelechi’s excellent write-up til next week. In the meanwhile, I’m going to take this opportunity to re-pimp a piece from The Before Times, when the most pressing threat to our daily lives was Men in Black: International, where I was forced to explain the joke behind both Ghostbusters and MIB sos it became crystal-clear why trying to turn these franchises into, well, blockbuster franchises fundamentally does not work. We’ll see soon enough whether my hypothesis needs revisiting.
$10,825,000 / $135,817,163
Since Hawkeye kicks off this week, I’d just like to take a moment to remind you all of our lord and saviour The Edge of Seventeen which is now five years old, deserves to be a cultural touchstone in teen-focussed media, and should’ve netted Hailee Steinfeld at least an Oscar nomination.
3] Clifford the Big Red Dog
$8,100,000 / $33,512,835
The more I have to look at Clifford in those still images they released to the press for articles such as last week’s, the more wrong he appears. As somebody completely incapable of not dropping whatever conversation, activity, or train of thought they had to gleefully exclaim in the direction of a nearby dog, the fact that these stills make me want to run away from the giant red doggo really is some kind of commendable anti-achievement.
4] King Richard
$5,700,000 / NEW
London Film Festival coverage over at Soundsphere should FINALLY be wrapping up this week – god, I hate my brain and its inability to concentrate/work – but at least I got the King Richard and Petite Maman write-ups done in time for their UK release week. Almost like a professional! Here’s a link to those.
5] Dune: Part One
$3,065,000 / $98,191,988
Desert Bus for Hope 2021 was excellent, btw. Just some much-needed wholesome good vibes at a time when the world’s supply of those often seems bone-dry. $1.18 million raised for charity over an entire week (-1 hour) of virtual bussing, embarrassing displays of coffee pong, random dance parties, D&D improv, full-scale Buster Sword replicas, and more Animorphs knowledge than I ever expected or really wanted to learn. Congrats and thanks, gals, guys, and gender-busters. See you all next year – metaphorically, since I’m only a viewer much as I’d love to help somehow.
6] Venom: Let There Be Carnage
$2,800,000 / $206,500,066
Wild suggestion this, but just hear me out. How’s about we… don’t spoil Spider-Man: No Way Home for everyone else a month in advance of release? In fact, let’s all try to not actively spoil any big movie for people a month in advance of release? Ditto with cryptic teases designed to stoke fan flames for cheap traffic. Can we manage that, Grace Randolph? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
7] No Time to Die
$2,705,566 / $154,688,693
Speaking of movie franchises which could do with a hard reset and fresh creative blood: Star Wars! OK, that was actually pretty mean since it sounds like the 900 different comic strands are doing well for themselves. Amy Walker’s just gotten done covering the Monster of Temple Peak quadrilogy and really enjoyed her time with it.
$970,000 / $13,298,043
Oh, jeez, that’s bleak.
$940,000 / $3,436,010
Oh, heck, numbers this low are making me feel lethal amounts of empathetic pity!
10] Ron’s Gone Wrong
$888,000 / $22,098,722
OK! I ADMIT IT! THE BODY IS UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS! JUST MAKE THE TINY NUMBERS STOP!
Dropped out: Spencer, Antlers