Small Movies, Big Profits: 2018 Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament

WB/Universal/Paramount

When Deadline runs its Most Valuable Blockbuster film profitability countdown each year, readers often ask about certain wildly profitable films that didn’t crack our top list. So we’ve once again had five overachievers (pics with production budgets under $40 million) broken down by the experts.

With the Disney-Fox merger now sealed, and event movies more prevalent, there are those low- to mid-budgeted films that can win out at the box office. Here’s proof of that from 2018.

THE FILM

THE NUN

New Line/Warner Bros

Total Profit: $155M

The Nun

The success of this Corin Hardy-directed horror film is a throwback to when popcorn films were able to succeed thanks to a strong brand and with great timing on the calendar, despite bad reviews. The tale — about a priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows who are sent to Romania to investigate the death of a young nun, and must battle a demonic nun — is a further extension of The Conjuring universe, complete with the genre Good Housekeeping stamp of producer James Wan, who has a co-story by credit here. The names Wan and Conjuring were good enough to send the masses to the movie; they didn’t care about the 26% Rotten Tomatoes score or the C CinemaScore. Instead, moviegoers made The Nun, produced for $22M net before P&A, the biggest domestic opening ever in The Conjuring universe with $53.8 million stateside and $133.1M worldwide, and globally the top-grossing Conjuring title of all time with $365.6M. The Nun launched in the post-Labor Day period on the calendar, a slot Warners christened last year as the new blockbuster launchpad for genre films with Stephen King’s It ($123.4M U.S./Canada opening). Three times will certainly be a charm for the Burbank, CA lot this year when it opens It: Chapter 2 in the same period. Last year, another Conjuring movie made our cash cow list here: Annabelle: Creation.

THE BOX SCORE

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE FILM

HALLOWEEN

Miramax/Blumhouse/Universal

Total Profit: $128.5M

Halloween

It looked like the craze for rebooting vintage horror films had died in the wake of such misfires as Blair Witch, Jigsaw and Rings. But when it came to making the 11th sequel in a 40-year-old franchise, the entire development was anything but mailed in. Halloween‘s return to the screen began with former Miramax execs Zanne Devine and David Thwaites, who snapped up the IP after its option with The Weinstein Company/Dimension expired. The Halloween rights were co-owned by Malek Akkad (whose father, Syrian filmmaker Moustapha Akkad, produced all eight movies), and if Miramax was going to regain distribution rights to another Michael Myers movieit was important to get Malek’s blessing. He was frustrated there hadn’t been a great Halloween sequel and Devine suggested they work with Blumhouse, which knows a thing or two about horror movies that work in this day and age. An axiom for Jason Blum is to always have an IP’s creator involved in a project, so he reached out to Halloween architect John Carpenter. Similar to making Get Out with Jordan Peele, Blum tapped dark comedy guys David Gorden Green and his creativepartner Danny McBride to bring some tricks and treats back into the mix. When it came to getting Jamie Lee Curtis to return as Laurie Strode, we heard that Jake Gyllenhaal, Curtis’ godson, was instrumental in putting in good word about Green, having worked with him on Stronger. Curtis became intrigued by Gordon and McBride’s pitch, which revolved around three generations of women, accentuated female empowerment, and explored the idea of a survivor’s trauma 40 years later. The package sold itself after a fireworks midnight Toronto Film Festival premiere. Halloween turned in the franchise’s best-ever domestic opening ($76.2M), final U.S./Canada result ($159.3M) and global tally ($253.7M). Just like Warners showed big business could be had during a historically dull date at the box office (post-Labor Day), Universal proved there’s a load of cash during the third weekend of October (so much that Disney decided to movie Maleficent: Mistress of Evil to that spot). Net production cost was $10M, with just over $75M in global P&A.

THE BOX SCORE

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE FILM

Crazy Rich Asians

Warner Bros

Total Profit: $120.8M

Crazy Rich Asians

Color Force producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson always saw universal appeal in Kevin Kwan’s book in its story of an earnest, hardworking girl, Rachel (Constance Wu), with the most sincere intentions of impressing the wealthy family of her potential fiance Nick Young (Henry Golding) — specifically the strict matriarch, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), who is nearly impossible to win over. Jacobson and Simpson won the rights and teamed with John Penotti’s Ivanhoe, which financed development as well as 25% of the $30 million production cost. As they searched for directors, it was Jon M. Chu, a helmer of Justin Bieber concert films, Step Up sequels and G.I. Joe Retaliation, who responded passionately to the immigrant parent story, envisioning the project with the glamour of Hollywood romantic comedies of the 1950s and 1940s and a contemporary spin. In deciding to take on Crazy Rich Asians, Chu said at CAA’s Amplify conference last June, “I didn’t just have a voice, but a message, I have this power to change…when was the last time you saw an Asian male romantic lead? The lead is the one who struggles and overcomes obstacles. The last time an Asian dude kissed a woman was in Harold & Kumar.“ There was a fierce war down to the wire between Warner Bros and Netflix to make the movie, the latter pitching its everywhere global access to 130 million subscribers. For Chu and Kwan, it was always about bringing a greater spotlight and voice to Asians on the big screen. In marketing the film, Warner Bros made sure the pic’s key audience felt ownership of the movie, screening to them as early as six months in advance. The demographic turned out in bulk at an unprecedented 44%, per ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, far outstripping their attendance at such movies as 2017’s The Foreigner (18.4%), 2016’s Warcraft (11.9%) and 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (14%). Warners also zeroed in on women, date-night couples, and Hispanic, African American and LGBTQ moviegoers; the sell here was that Crazy Rich Asians was more than a niche film, but something larger. Although the movie found a mass audience in the U.S., the pic tanked in China with $1.65M. The country has its own homegrown romantic comedies, and moviegoers there weren’t interested in a Westernized one — not to mention the Hollywood genre doesn’t fare well in the Middle Kingdom where the appetite is for big-screen action pics or sci-fi titles like Aquaman ($298.3M) and Bumblebee ($170.8M). China took its time dating this August 15 U.S. release for the end of November. Crazy Rich Asians, made for a combined production cost and global P&A spend of $102.2M, made $238.5M at the worldwide box office. Next up: After Chu finishes production on the feature adaptation of Broadway musical In the Heights, he will turn his gaze on directing the second and third installments of Kwan’s trilogy, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems.

THE BOX SCORE

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE FILM

A QUIET PLACE

Paramount

Total Profit: $93M

A Quiet Place

Platinum Dunes producers Andrew Form, Brad Fuller and Michael Bay wasted no time in getting Bryan Woods and Scott Beck’s horror thriller script A Quiet Place through the Paramount pipeline. The pic was announced in the early spring of 2017 and would hit theaters roughly a year later, on April 6. The hook? There were only a few pages of dialogue in a script driven by silence and sound design, inspired by the farmland atmosphere of the scribes’ Iowa upbringing. Krasinski was already starring in the Platinum Dunes/Amazon series Jack Ryan, and though he wanted to direct more, horror wasn’t his thing. That changed after he heard the pitch to A Quiet Place, which is about a family who can’t make any noise and you have to figure out why. “It was the best metaphor to parenthood,” said Krasinski during Deadline’s The Contenders London event. As parents to a 3-week-old, that storyline hit a nerve with Krasinski and his wife/A Quiet Place star Emily Blunt. Similar to the way that sketch writer and performer Jordan Peele shot out of a cannon with his socially conscious horror pic Get Out, A Quiet Place propelled The Office alum Krasinski to another stratosphere in town as a four-quad filmmaker after directing such indies as Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and The Hollars. A Quiet Place was made for a thrifty $17M before global P&A of $86M. Word of mouth exploded on the film following its world premiere at SXSW last year, and the pic wound up deafening its mid-$20M U.S./Canada opening projection with a $50.2M start; the pic eventually grossed $188M domestic and $340.9M worldwide. Paramount studio boss Jim Gianopulos promptly announced a sequel to the pic during last year’s CinemaCon, 19 days after A Quiet Place opened. Deadline recently exclusively announced that Krasinski and Blunt were coming back.

THE BOX SCORE

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE FILM

GREEN BOOK

Universal/Participant Media/Amblin

Total Profit: $39.5M

Green Book

At the start of the fall film festival season, it seemed as though A Star Is Born and Roma were the awards buzz titles, but this underdog title from Universal made its mark when it took the top audience prize at Toronto. Green Book began with co-screenwriter and producer Nick Vallelonga, whose father Tony “Lip” Vallelonga was a chauffeur and bodyguard to classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley during Shirley’s tour through the South in the 1960s. The two, though opposites, formed a sublime working relationship that extended beyond their differences in background and upbringing; Shirley a cultured educated musical savant, Tony a street-wise guy with an appetite. Shirley granted permission to Vallelonga to adapt the duo’s story following the musician’s death, and Brian Hayes Currie worked with Vallelonga on the script. The two took the screenplay to Dumb and Dumber director Peter Farrelly, who saw a moving, Odd Couple-like story. Focus Features was originally going to make the project but passed. Participant would finance the movie for $23M, but Farrelly knew Participant had a theatrical output deal with Focus. He believed that Steven Spielberg would likely enjoy the film, and that Spielberg’s DreamWorks had influence at Universal. So, the director phoned his agent Richard Lovett at CAA — Lovett also reps Spielberg. The two-time Oscar-winning director flipped for the film (Farrelly said Spielberg told him it was “his favorite buddy movie since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid“). Despite the pic’s unique title — which refers to a travel guide Africans Americans used to find safe hotels in the Jim Crow South — and the fact it was a dramedy, Uni went wide at 1,063 theaters in the pic’s sixth day release over Thanksgiving after a 25-theater limited run, earning just $7.8M in its first 10 days. Many believed the film would have benefited from a multi-week platform rollout. Still, Green Book hung around on the big screen throughout awards season, landing five Oscar noms and winning three including Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) and Original Screenplay. Both the Academy and audiences enjoyed the pic’s themes of respecting and working with others, no matter our differences — a profound message in these divided Trump times. In North America, where Universal handles the film, Green Book continues to experience the highest post-Academy Awards bump since 2011 Best Picture winner The King’s Speech. It currently counts a domestic B.O. of $84.6M, and $304.2M worldwide — $70.3M alone minted in China. Uni gets an estimated distribution fee of $15M, with Amblin and Lionsgate taking foreign for $40M.

THE BOX SCORE

Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/04/best-movie-profit-2018-green-book-halloween-a-quiet-place-the-nun-crazy-rich-asians-1202589429/