Two weeks before Avengers: Infinity War posted an all-time record opening of $257.6M last year, New Line had the Dwayne Johnson monster production Rampage, which they teed up before the mammoth Marvel beast and earned $101M.
But this year, with Easter being late and many rivals dodging the frame due to Avengers: Endgame, they rolled the dice on programming a $9M James Wan horror movie, The Curse of La Llorona, and beat the $15M-$17M domestic tracking with a $26.5M weekend win largely built on Hispanic audiences turning up at 49%. With a release in 71 territories, making it the No. 1 pic abroad and in Latin America, Llorona‘s global purse stands at $56.5M. Imax drove $3M of the pic’s global business, $2M of that being in the U.S. from 383 locations.
The South and Western regions of the US repped 73% of Llorona‘s domestic box office, on a weekend when Good Friday delivered three quarters of all schools off, with 17 of the top 20 locations being either in Los Angeles or Texas. The pic jump-started its buzz by premiering back on March 15 at SXSW. The takeaway here is how Warners zeroed-in on Latinx audiences and the under-35 set, who showed up at 64%, with a near even male-to-female ratio of 51% to 49%.
Warner Bros. studios marketing boss Blair Rich and her team leaned heavily into the Mexican folklore weeping-woman-who-preys-on-children myth. In addition to selling the pic on The Conjuring producers brand (even though the pic was not part of the Warren paranormal investigator franchise), with a wink at that series to stoke its fans (the pic co-stars Annabelle priest Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola), Warners branded their one sheets with the bold tag-line, “She Wants Your Children.” “One of the best things La Llorona has going for it is the simple suggestion or rumor that it might be related to the Conjuring universe,” said RelishMix ahead of the pic’s opening.
The campaign’s philosophy throughout its trailers and TV spots was, if you don’t know her name, if you don’t know the legend, you’ll never see her coming. Visual marketing materials set up the story as mothers vs. La Llorona in a desperate bid to save their children, upping the pic’s emotional stakes. The pic’s religious iconography and mysticism was leveraged as a means to root the film in authentic superstition, which was distinctly relatable to Latin American demos, while also making the premise more accessible to broader audiences. And talk about great timing: Bowing a genre pic with all its Catholic iconography over the holiest weekend of the year: the Easter frame.
One stunt for the pic entailed Warner Bros. dispatching spiritual healers (curanderos) to give audiences cleanings (aka “limpias”) before the pic’s screenings. At SXSW, the studio sent Cuban-born, Los Angeles-based healer Salvador Gata to bless an audience before the pic’s premiere at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas. There were photos posted on social media showing images of these healers performing spiritual cleansings in front of Llorona posters. The stunt drew criticism from Latin American scholars and healers.
RelishMix pointed out there were a number of YouTube influencer clips sponsored by Warner Bros., which drove interest for the film. “There are a lot of fans sharing stories of this legend and how it was an integral part of their childhood, with some being told by friends, others by their Grandma — the point is, it’s seen as a legend that just might be true,” said the entertainment social media analytics corp.
RelishMix considers Llorona‘s social media universe at over 137M very strong for a horror genre. Broken out, that’s 33.8M Facebook Fans, 14M Facebook video views, 9.2M Twitter Followers, 66.1M YouTube views and 14M Instagram followers. Video materials, both organic and bought, are at 44:1, well above the typical horror film’s 25:1 viral rate. Similarly, the average daily views for Llorona‘s top YouTube clips are coming in at 50.3K, once again exceeding the benchmark of 27.7K for the genre.
In addition, Llorona star Linda Cardellini was busy promoting the pic to her 355K followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Including Llorona, Wan has seen 12 of his 13 producing credits open to north of $20M. Michael Chaves, who directed Llorona, will continue on next to direct The Conjuring 3 for New Line. That pic is expected to open in 2020, possibly in the post Labor spot that Warner Bros. has made lucrative in recent years with It and The Nun.
Beamed Warner Bros. President of Domestic Distribution about Llorona‘s success this weekend, “Nobody goes farther than New Line, and our marketing team went right after the core audience and got it.”