While everyone is expecting New Line’s It: Chapter 2 to tee us off into what is expected to be a lucrative fall-holiday season with at least a $90 million-$110 million start, one shocker that hit tracking last Thursday: STX Entertainment’s Jennifer Lopez-Constance Wu stripper crime drama came on with a hot $24M-$26M projection.
Typically we post projections ASAP for tentpoles, but this one gave us pause: Really?
Historically, stripper movies are a challenge at the box office, the last two notable ones being the 1990s pair Striptease and Showgirls which failed to dazzle with $12.3M and $8.1M opening weekends, respectively, while costing $45M-$50M.
However, many tracking services are forecasting that Hustlers is set to be a record opening for STX and Jennifer Lopez’s best live-action opening of all time at the domestic B.O. How the heck is that? You mean the STX that is reportedly seeking a half billion in fresh capital? Typically, Lopez averages in the mid-teens for an opening. But $20M? Lopez’s best live-action opening of all time was the 2005 New Line comedy Monster-in-Law ($23.1M), which repped Jane Fonda’s return to the big screen after a hiatus. An $20M-plus opening for Hustlers would be a ray of sunshine for STX — the challenged mini-major that saw bombs this summer with UglyDolls and Poms — possibly beating the studio’s previous record debut, Bad Moms ($23.7M).
So, we talked with several sources in box office analytics and distribution, and, yes, no B.S. here: Hustlers as of this minute is poised to do $20M-plus — that is if it doesn’t get deep-sixed by critics after its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival (which would put the pic’s opening in the teens). However, those with knowledge tell us that STX wouldn’t chance a TIFF launch for the film unless they thought they had the goods. Following test screenings, females have embraced this high-concept empowerment story about how the women take down the man. Directed and written by Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers is based on “The Hustlers at Scores,” the New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler about the high-end strippers who turned the tables on their greedy Wall Street clients. The pic was put in turnaround by Annapurna last fall, with STX giving it the greenlight.
The pic is told from the POV of Constance Wu, who is mentored by Lopez’s star stripper at New York City’s Scores — not just in the trade, but the hustle as well that they put into place. Riverdale‘s good girl Betty Cooper Lili Reinhart plays against type in the pic as a stripper who comedically vomits on cue (that talent comes in handy with the hustle). Cardi B, who used to be a stripper, also has a cameo in Hustlers. All together, this foursome screams closed to 275 million followers on social media across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. That’s one factor contributing to the pic’s wattage in addition to the diverse cast’s alchemy, say sources. Lopez counts 187M followers alone, with Cardi B at 63M-plus. Some also attribute Lopez’s recent celeb renaissance as a factor that’s fueling the pic; Variety reported today in its weekly cover story that the multi-hyphenate’s latest tour, It’s My Party, racked up close to $55M after 38 sold-out shows in August.
One tracking service reports that Hustlers is the first choice for women with a low double-digit score, well ahead the single-digit scores of such female-skewing pics as Ocean’s 8, A Star Is Born, Girls Trip, Crazy Rich Asians, Bad Moms and Magic Mike XXL. Wow.
Will Hustlers be No. 1? No, because it’s following in the wake of It: Chapter 2, which should lead in its second weekend with at least $36M. But it will be No. 2. Pic opens against Warner Bros’ drama The Goldfinch, another TIFF opener, which is expected to do around $12M.
Other bright light indicators for Hustlers, social media monitor RelishMix reports; “With two trailers in rotation and over two weeks till release, Hustlers is engaging an audience who are reposting on YouTube at an exceptional rate of 45:1 which is far beyond the norm for any sub-genre of crime titles and nearly 30M views on YouTube alone.” That’s rate isn’t that far from Warner Bros’ all-star femme caper Ocean 8’s viral rate last June, which was 47:1 (but a $41.6M opening).
Hustlers also touts a strong social media universe of 290M across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, well above the average for other crime dramas which counted 109M at the same point in their campaign.
And how about advance ticket sales? Fandango reports Hustlers is pacing ahead of STX’s Bad Moms Christmas at the same point in their respective sales cycles. That latter movie posted a three-day total of $16.7M.
Word on the street has been that STX moved all of their summer pics, i.e. 21 Bridges, Brahms the Boy II, Playmobil and My Spy later into Q4 or Q1 2020 so it could have the cash to open Hustlers. Hustlers cost $20M before P&A per the studio ($30M with others who have knowledge of the project) and was shot reportedly in 28 days. STX has prided itself on its thrifty, demo-targeted marketing campaigns; rival sources tell Deadline that to open a pic north of $20M at the B.O., it takes about $30M in P&A spend. With projection numbers like these for Hustlers, the pressure is on STX to open this film.
Does the success of Hustlers boost STX’s financial profile? Too soon to tell, but it’s the slate that makes a studio of this size, not just the success of one pic. STX back in January celebrated its first No. 1 weekend win with Lantern’s The Upside, which debuted to $20.3M. Overall, it made $108.2M domestic and $122.7M worldwide.
But after a summer that has seen some counter-programming pics challenged (the latter half has shown some promising resurgence with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Good Boys, Yesterday and Angel Has Fallen), it truly would be amazing if Hustlers works on the big screen.
Netflix might have to be concerned that streaming doesn’t completely own the low- to mid-budget film space.
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