How Universal Drove Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ To $70M+ Opening, The Best Start For A Live-Action Original Since ‘Avatar’ – Update

Universal

SUNDAY AM FINAL after 6:41am post: Our sources spotted it last night and it has continued into this morning: Jordan Peele’s Us has cracked the $70M mark, after an estimated Saturday of $25.4M, which, next to the full Friday gross, is -12%. Uni is calling the weekend at $70.2M for the Monkeypaw Production, and rivals see it at that level as well.

The concern was that, with the lower-than-Get Out exit polls (B CinemaScore, 3 1/2 stars on PostTrak) and a polarizing ending, that Us would fall further. But no, everyone is intrigued. Fandango reports that Us is still No. 1 in advance ticket sales for Sunday. Updated PostTrak shows an overall 80% positive score, and in the excellence tier, Us has a 39% excellence score, which outstrips the horror average of 28%.

What is evident as this pic has excelled and beat its exit scores in dollars is that Peele, like Christopher Nolan, is a brand name in and of himself.

Us

“Simply put, Jordan Peele is a genius, and we’re thrilled he put his signature touch to the genre,” beamed Universal domestic distribution boss Jim Orr. “Folks come out of the movie and they have to talk about. It’s really a topic of conversation, how people are interpreting the movie. That’s a great sign for legs.”

We spotted several records in the previous write-up, chiefly that Us reps a record opening for an original horror film. But it is fair to say that the Peele pic also notched the third- best horror opening of all-time after New Line’s It ($123.4m) and Universal/Blumhouse/Miramax’s Halloween last fall ($76.2M). Even more impressive, it’s the best opening for a live-action original since James Cameron’s 2009 Avatar ($77M), though the second-best debut for an original piece of IP behind that mega-grossing epic.

Technically speaking, business was up for Us on Saturday over Friday, if you back out the $7.4M Thursday previews from the latter’s $29M. Friday would have been $21.6M, and then Saturday $25.3M. The Us start beats tracking’s pre-week estimate of $45M by 56%. One film finance source kept swearing to us that his analytics saw over $60M-plus, and he was right. However, with these projections, once these movies open, comps go out the window and these movies take on lives of their own, becoming their own standards.

Per ComScore, Us drove total weekend ticket sales to $148.6M, +14% over a year ago. 2019 still lags -17% behind 2018 for the Jan. 1-March 24 period, with a running U.S./Canada B.O. total of $2.19B.

RelishMix noticed the vibrant divide over Us on social media. “Fans want to talk about the end of Us immediately after seeing it. While it’s a true surprise to some, and to some, horror expectations are not met, an incredible let-down to others. This clip from Insider, which discusses the ending, posted on Friday, has over 629K views. To say the discussion is polarizing is accurate, in that some Jordan Peele/Get Out/horror fans are singing the movie’s praises. This positive contingent is calling out the surprises/twists, the child actors, and the experience of seeing it in theaters with a big crowd who are engaged. Others chiming in with critique and negative convo, who are likely more on the thriller side of the fans, are a little let down and feel like the decisions made by the family in the movie are pretty cliche. Some say flat out that Us just wasn’t scary – and they’re wondering about some plot points, as in, they did not make sense.”

Universal and Peele kept this movie under wraps for quite some time, indicating that it was only a social horror film back when the pic was first announced. They kept this intrigue up as long as they could, down to the Rorschach teaser poster which Peele dropped on his social media, a moment that flooded Twitter with 176 million impressions. Peele worked closely with Uni marketing so that the campaign wouldn’t over-reveal any elements. We hear from insiders that Peele gave Uni marketing wonderful tools to play with in the pic’s iconography of gold scissors and red jumpsuits. There’s wonderful imagery in the film that went far and went fast.

The first trailer hit on Christmas day, garnering more than 106M global views. It was here that we began to really see what Us was truly about: A family terrorized by their doppelgangers. It’s not standard for a horror film to drop on Christmas day, and Uni played with the whole notion that they were invading people’s homes, arresting them, much like the antagonists in Us, on a day when folks were home watching NBA games. It’s a fun, disruptive way to get everyone’s attention on a day when they’re all in one place.

Us fan art by Mark Asburne

As had become an organic phenomenon over the course of Get Out, the trailer inspired an outpouring of fan art, which Peele featured on his social media and has been featured in the campaign to help elevate and include other artists. Tastemaker outreach at this time included custom red velvet boxes sent to celebrities, influencers, and press. Each box contained a note from Peele, which included a URL customized to each person receiving the package, with their own personalized web page promoting the trailer launch. Mailers also contained the iconic golden scissors. The combined reach for these mailers exceeded 285M impressions. In-Theater trailer targets included The Mule, Vice, The Favourite, If Beale Street Could Talk, Destroyer and Mary Queen of Scots.

The next big high-profile spot for Us aired during the Super Bowl pre-game, which earned more than 64M total views. Outdoor art was posted in Atlanta surrounding the Super Bowl to take advantage of the heavy traffic in that area.  Peele released the film’s spot that aired in the pre-game for the Super Bowl as an early exclusive on a new Monkeypaw sub-reddit, allowing true loyalists their chance to analyze and discuss its mysteries.

While Get Out triggered early buzz as the Sunday special screening back in 2017, this time around Uni world premiered Us at SXSW and, as a result, pushed back the release date by a week so that all that great word-of-mouth could percolate. A pop-up gallery at SXSW was constructed to promote the film, celebrating the pic’s fan art. A film stunt was captured while on location at SXSW featuring Trevor Noah. This custom :60 piece with Nyong’o debuted on The Daily Show this week, the show’s first film integration featuring Noah.

Digital campaign highlights included a photo generator, through which users could upload an “evil” and “regular” image of themselves into a program online which will provide them with a shareable #WatchYourself film a themed image featuring themselves and their doppelgangers. On March 18, Peele took over Spotify’s TV & Movies hub in a playlist that runs one hour and 50 minutes. The deal marks the first time a single film took over one of Spotify’s hubs. Us star Winston Duke also has a playlist available.

‘Us’ NYC subway campaign

The outdoor campaign on Us highlighted the “good” and “bad” versions of key family side-by-side.  These have been featured in marquee locations across Los Angeles and NY. A subway takeover of Grand Central Station in New York City with Us ads and art filled the location for over a month. Graffiti art of the iconic gold scissors across LA, Atlanta, DC, Baltimore, Houston, Detroit and Austin

In addition to the Super Bowl, Us spots aired during NBA games from Feb. 12 to March 21 and March Madness from March 17-24. Other big events that spots aired during include the Grammy Awards, the premieres of The Voice, Empire, The Walking Dead, World of Dance, Shadowhunters, Station 19, Boomerang; the season finales of Lip Sync Battle, The Bachelor, How to Get Away with Murder, All American, Drunk History, Love & Hip Hop, Top Chef, The Passage, Lethal Weapon, and such primetime hits as Black-ish, Riverdale, This Is Us, Family Guy, and American Idol.

With African American and Hispanic audiences making up 51% of Us’ moviegoers this weekend, Universal made great strides to stoke those demographics. On the same night as the SXSW Premiere, influential Black audiences in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York were among the first to see the film. Called the #USFirst program, the three screenings ignited social media chatter resulting in #USFirst trending on Twitter in all three markets and nationwide. Notable attendees included John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Janelle Monae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Ryan Coogler, Lakeith Stanfield, Ludacris, and Kandi Burruss, along with reps from every major African American press outlet.

Winston Duke’s character proudly wears a Howard sweatshirt throughout the majority of the movie, so the studio partnered with Howard University for a special screening of US on March 18 to engage with the HBCU community with over 1,500 students in attendance (the largest single house screening of the film pre-release).

Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico City, proved to be a secret weapon for Hispanic outreach, having recorded Spanish language custom ads for use on platforms like Spotify. She made a trip to Miami to conduct a live bilingual interview on Telemundo’a morning show Un Nuevo Día as well as participating in a first-ever Unstoppable Women Speaker Series live stream led by Emmy award-winning journalist Rashel Diaz from Telemundo Center. In addition she conducted interviews with  Suelta la Sopa, Al Rojo Vivo, LatinX Now, Titulares y Mas, and Univision’s Al Punto with Jorge Ramos.

RelishMix notes that the size of Us social media universe at 122.8M exceeds the average of a horror pic, which typically pulls in 82M across YouTube views, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o is the social star of the film, with over 11.7M followers. “The actress has been sharing Us materials since the trailer dropped late last December, and lately, Nyong’o has been doing a thorough appearance tour from Colbert to the All Def clip and much, much more.  Fans are liking her interviews, sense of style, and those crazy eyes she wore on Colbert this past Monday.” Peele at 2.4M followers on Twitter and Instagram has the second-best following among those attached to the movie.

While Us was a three month campaign, RelishMix praises the push in the last two weeks “using SXSW’s premiere as a jumping-off point. Usually, campaigns will benefit from early awareness, followed by little fun reminders through the opening.  But, with horror, the movies usually debut a trailer and simply conduct a blitz within the last several weeks prior to premiere – and Us is a good example of this kind of tactical plan paying off. In the past week, the campaign has added YouTube clips with substantial views from radio, Stephen Colbert, GMA, Ellen, the Wall Street Journal, Fandango – a true smorgasbord of coverage to ensure not only horror Fans are engaged, but general thriller moviegoers, too.”

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Keep your eyes Jordan Peeled. #UsMovie 📷: @nickbarose #WatchYourself @colbertlateshow

A post shared by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on

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Other super things this weekend: Warner Bros. held paid previews with Fandango of New Line/DC’s Shazam! yesterday and made $3.3M a record among the recent swatch of early paid preview partnerships (i.e. with Atom, Amazon). Shazam! made more than Aquaman‘s $2.9M. The pic doesn’t open until April 5.

In specialty land, A24’s Julianne Moore drama Gloria Bell, Sebastian Leilo’s remake of his 2013 Chilean movie about a free-spirited 50-something woman who indulges in night clubs, expanded from 39 locations to 654 earning $1.8M in weekend 3 for a running total of $2.5M. We hear that half the pic’s numbers were decent in the core of the larger markets but the deeper into these markets one looks, the figures get worse. Best runs are in NY, LA,  Dallas, San Francisco, DC, Tampa, Miami, San Diego, and Austin. Should the pic hang around in its core group of runs, Gloria Bell could get to $6M stateside per rival estimates. The pic does have a 94% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Bleecker Street/ShivHans’ pick-up of the former Weinstein Co. title Hotel Mumbai posted $86,4K in its NY and LA four theater launch for a $21,6K average. RT is 73% fresh. We hear that the cash was OK from Lincoln Square and Landmark LA runs, but so-so at the Angelika and ArcLight Hollywood.

 

WEEKEND B.O. FOR MARCH 22-24

thumb rank pic dis scrs(cg) fri sat sun 3-day total wk
1 Us Uni 3,741 $29M $25.4M $15.7M $70.2M $70.2M 1
2 Captain Marvel Dis 4,278 (-32) $9.2M $15.2M $10.5M $35M (-49%) $321.4M 3
3 Wonder Park Par 3,838 $2.1M $4M $2.8M $9M (-43%) $29.4M 2
4 Five Feet Apart  CBS/LG 2,866 (+63) $2.7M $3.6M  $2.3M $8.75M (-34%) $26.4M 2
5 …Dragon 3 DWA/Uni 3,347 (-380) $1.6M $2.8M $2M $6.5M (-30%) $145.7M 5
6 Madea Family Funeral LG 2,187 (-163) $1.1M $2M  $1.2M $4.5M (-43%) $65.9M 4
7 Gloria Bell A24 654 (+615) $526K $725K  $551K $1.8M (+395%) $2.5M 3
8 No Manches Frida 2 LG/Pant 472 $389K $696K $695K $1.78M (-54%) $6.6M 2
9 Lego Movie 2 WB 1,389 (-657) $275K $515K $335K $1.1M (-48%) $103.3M 7
10 Alita Fox 1,439 (-257) $278K $447K $290K $1M (-47%) $83.7M 6

 

SATURDAY AM WRITETHRU after Friday PM update with chart The Us Friday box office hit $29M, versus the $27M-$28M which was being spotted earlier that day. Industry estimates have Us at $68.5M over three days. Today will determine whether this pic stays on track or drops. To get to this level, the thinking is that Us has to shed -15% from Friday’s take, which includes last night’s awesome $7.4M previews.

Why is there some concern that Us might decline greater than 15% today? Because the exit polls aren’t at the level of Get Out, which earned an A- CinemaScore. As we said all along, Us is a different type of social horror pic thanGet Out, and audiences are polarized by the ending, evident in the pic’s B CinemaScore and an overall 3 1/2 stars and 78% on PostTrak. Note Bs are common on CinemaScore, and don’t necessarily indicate misfortune for a horror movie’s B.O. prospects. Also understand, Get Out set the bar really high, so everyone is heading into Us with enormous expectations. Females under 25 (who are now fourth-best demo showing up at 18%) gave the pic its highest definite recommend of 70% and positive score at 81%. That’s in addition to African-Americans, who embraced the pic with a 67% definite recommend and an 80% positive score.

Make no mistake: The Us opening represents several highs, even if it curls back to $60M, i.e. it’s the best opening ever for an original horror movie (besting A Quiet Place‘s $50.2M), highest opening for an original R-rated opening ever (beating Ted‘s $54.4M), the second-highest grossing opening of the year to date after Captain Marvel ($153.4M) and a record for an original live-action title opening in March.

Going further, Us is shaping up to be the third-best horror opening of all-time at the B.O. after It ($123.4M) and Halloween ($76.2M), and ahead of World War Z ($66.4M). Us further underscores Universal’s commitment to winning with a diverse slate, fueled by bold and original cinematic voices. After the success of Get Out, there was no way that Uni was going to let Jordan Peele walk off the lot, and they locked his Monkeypaw Productions into a first-look deal.

While Get Out made a profit of $124.8M off a $4.5M production costUs is higher at just over $20M. If Uni has kept their P&A at around $77M, all should be well for Us profiting at least $100M-plus after all ancillaries, assuming a similar global B.O. of $255M.

Other exclamation points for Uni this weekend: Us continues to exhibit the studio’s strong strategic dating. To date this year, Uni can brag that they have the second-best opening so far at the domestic B.O. with Peele’s latest; the third-best with DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($55M); and the fourth-best domestic opening with Glass ($40.3M).

Updated demo turnout for Us is men and females over 25, each at 31%, followed by males under 25 at 19%. Caucasians rep 35% of the crowd, followed by African-Americans at 32%, then Hispanic (22%) and Asian 7%.  Overall, 50/50 male-female and 62% over 25, with the single largest quad being 25-34 at 38%.

Us played best on the coasts, but was obviously very solid across the board. Most of the top 10 runs were from NY & LA, while the other two came from Atlanta.

 

BOX OFFICE FOR MARCH 22-24

thumb rank film dis. screens (chg) friday 3-day total wk
1 Us Uni 3,741 $29M $68.5M $68.5M 1
2 Captain Marvel Dis 4,278 (-32) $9.1M (-52%) $34.5M (-49%)  $320.9M 3
3 Five Feet Apart CBS/LG 2,866 (+63) $2.7M (-49%) $9M
(-31%)
$26.7M 2
4 Wonder Park Par 3,838 $2.1M (-61%) $7.9M
(-50%)
$28.3M 2
5 …Dragon 3 DWA/Uni 3,347 (-380) $1.6M (-35%) $6.8M
(-27%)
$145.9M 5
6 A Madea Funeral LG 2,187 (-163) $1.1M (-45%) $4.3M
(-44%)
$65.7M 4
7 Gloria Bell A24 654 (+615) $525K (+396%) $1.76M (+384%) $2.4M 3
8 No Manches Frida 2 LG/Pant 472 $389K (-70%) $1.61M (-57%)  $6.4M 2
9 Lego Movie 2 WB 1,389 (-657) $275K (-52%) $1.1M (-48%) $103.3M 7
10 Alita Fox 1,439 (-257) $275K (-48%) $1M (-47%) $83.7M 6

FRIDAY MIDDAY UPDATE: In early midday estimates — and know these can fluctuate by tonight –Jordan Peele’s Us is looking at a $27M-$28M Friday and an enormous opening weekend between $64M-$68M. This is betting that Saturday only eases around -16% for a $23.5M take. We’ll see if that holds up, but nonetheless, this is huge start for a horror pic in March, the last being The Ring Two at $35M.  Previous big horror debuts from last year A Quiet Place and The Nun respectively pulled in $50.2M and $53.8M. Should Us regress to high $50Ms or low $60Ms — still a phenom start for a genre pic, especially this one which tracking pegged at $45M.

Here’s the other brag for Us’ opening — it’s a March record for an original live-action pic not based on previous established form of IP (like a comic book, or Disney animated film).

No. 2 is Disney’s Captain Marvel with $8.5M-$9M today, and a $31.7M third weekend, -53% with a running total by Sunday of $318.1M. Today gets her to just over $294M; she’ll cross the three century mark on Saturday, her 16th day of release.

CBS/Lionsgate’s Five Feet Apart is eyeing second weekend between $7.5M, -43% with a 10-day of $25.2M.

Wonder Park from Paramount looks like a $7.1M second weekend, -55% for $27.6M running total.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, writethru Friday AM: Universal is calling the Thursday night for Jordan Peele’s Us at $7.4M. That beats the preview nights of The Nun ($5.4M), A Quiet Place ($4.3M), and it’s ahead of the midnight previews of Paranormal Activity 2 ($6.3M, 31% of its $20.1M Friday for a $40.6M three-day). Us’ Thursday figure is also $300K shy of Halloween‘s $7.7M preview (that repped 23% of its $33M Friday for a $76.2M opening weekend).

Even though these aren’t the comps, Peele has to be proud that Us beats the preview nights of some Marvel movies such as Thor: Dark World ($7.1M) and Ant-Man ($6.4M). That’s a big deal for a horror movie.

Us goes wide at 3,741 theaters today. Pre-week tracking was at $45M, with others thinking the pic goes over $50M.

Early ComScore/Screen Engine PostTrak numbers from last night show those under 25 giving Us its best score at 85%; they turned up at 37%. Those over 25 came out at 63%. Demo turnout in order: M25+ (32%), F25+ (31%), M25- (20%), and F25- (17%). Current definite recommend is 58%. Caucasian turned up at 39%, African Americans at 30% (they enjoyed Us at 80% positive), Hispanics at 19% (82% positive) and Asian at 7%. Hispanics and females under 25 also gave Us its biggest recommend respectively at 71% and 67%.

Captain Marvel

Last night among regular pics in release, Captain Marvelnatch, led all movies with an estimated $4.2M, -8% from Wednesday with a running total of $286.4M. She is expected to calm -40% in weekend 3, easily shooting past $300M.

CBS Films/Lionsgate’s Five Feet Apart ended its first week with an estimated $17.7M for a Thursday of $990K, even with Wednesday.

1st update, Thursday 7:39PM: Our box office intel says that Jordan Peele’s Us from Universal/Monkeypaw Productions is on track for a $4M-plus Thursday night, possibly even $5M off showtimes that began at 7PM.

These numbers could always fluctuate, and even if Us drops below $4M, it’s still a great result, easily putting away the $1.8M Thursday night preview for Peele’s Oscar-winning feature directorial debut Get Out back in February 2017.

Does Us make all of its cash upfront will be the question everyone will be asking until Saturday night. It’s a different type of horror film than Get Out in its storytelling and themes. One thing is for certain, the pic is working off the great momentum of its blockbuster Oscar-winning predecessor, Get Out. That pic wasn’t front-loaded like the typical horror movie. Get Out’s Thursday repped only 17% of the pic’s first day Friday which is amazing: That means 83% of the pic’s first day came from Friday ticket sales. There was also enormous walk-up business for Get Out. In the case of Us, advance ticket sales are hot with Fandango reporting that they’re ahead of Get Out and A Quiet Place at the same point in their sales cycles.

Currently, Us’ Thursday is floating in the realm of A Quiet Place ($4.3M, which repped 23% of its $18.8M Friday with a $50.2M opening) and The Nun ($5.4M, 25% of its $22M Friday, for a $53.8M opening). Pre-weekend tracking was at $45M for Us with some figuring it will scream past $50M-plus.

Similar to Get Out which went into its weekend with fantastic reviews, Us sits at 95% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. And for a horror film, that’s close to perfect. Get Out earned an A- CinemaScore which is rare for a horror film; they typically get Bs or Cs on those exit poll scales.

Sean McKittrick and Jason Blum also produced Us. We’ll have more updates for you as they come. Tonight’s estimates are from Deadline sources, not Universal.

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/03/us-jordan-peele-weekend-box-office-1202580617/