The Box Office Success of Us Should Surprise No One
Of course the film did well.
Jordan Peele’s Us was projected to make between $45 and $50 million at the box office during opening weekend. Instead, it made $70.2 million, making triple the budget back and becoming the third-largest opening ever for a horror film (behind 2018’s Halloween and 2017’s IT).
Add in the fact it’s an original film, and it becomes the biggest opening ever for an original R-rated movie, the best opening ever for an original horror film, and the best opening for an original film since 2009’s Avatar. Critics wrote about how stunned and surprised they were that the film performed so well.
Did we forget how well Get Out opened, too?
We’ve written about underestimating female-led films before, but it’s important to note that Black-led films are often treated the same way. White male critics tend to assume that when they do well, it’s a surprise and a shock, as if white audiences cannot support films in which they are not the protagonists. The same thing happened with Hidden Figures, Girls Trip, Black Panther, and yes, Get Out.
Articles were written prior to Us’s opening weekend about the potential box office take, with Variety worrying that lightning would need to strike twice, saying that Us should earn backers a “tidy sum,” while still predicting it to only open a little higher than Get Out did. When they covered the actual total, the site then said it was a “stunning debut” and expressed surprise at how it nearly doubled the expected weekend gross.
But here’s the catch: Last week, several critical pundits began tracking pre-sale tickets and calculated that Us could make anywhere from $60 million to $80 million, which would have made it the highest-grossing original film of all time. These numbers seemed more in line with the film’s buzz, which could only be described as massive. From the mysterious first poster to the terrifying trailer, to the rave reviews pouring out of SXSW, this film had already captured the audience’s attention.
There’s no reason to assume that audiences wouldn’t flock to see the film after the reviews began coming out, after word of mouth spread, and after Get Out was an Oscar-winning smash. This isn’t like the third film in a mediocre franchise doing well; this is an event film in its own right. Again, we have to ask, why were critics so hesitant to say that this film could track to have massive numbers?
Us will probably break $100 million within a weekend or so, which is five times its $20 million budget. Let’s hope that, going forward, Black-directed and -led films are not treated as box office unicorns, but the same as white-led films: able to be box office successes without being surprising. Seriously, anyone who didn’t think this film would do well was feeding into a very different narrative, but it’s time that we all got on the same page.
(image: Universal Pictures/ Claudette Barius)
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