EXCLUSIVE: Disney franchises like Avengers: Endgame and Aladdin have feasibly conquered the summer box office, leaving a string of recent female comedies — Long Shot, The Hustle and Booksmart — as collateral damage. However, Amazon Studios is hoping that its $13 million Sundance acquisition Late Night becomes an anomaly and not part of the trend.
Rather then going wide as planned this weekend, Amazon opted to ratchet up word of mouth for the Mindy Kaling-starring Working Girl-inspired comedy, changing gears last week for a limited launch on Friday at the Angelika and AMC Lincoln Square in New York, and The Landmark and Hollywood Arclight in Los Angeles. It’s a partial page out of the distribution book for Amazon’s summer 2017 comedy The Big Sick, another hefty Sundance pickup at $12M, which platformed for three weeks into the Independence Day holiday period before busting wide in its fourth weekend (mid-July) to $7.5M at 2,597 theaters on its way to a $42.8M final domestic take (a 5.7x multiple off its wide opening). It scored an Oscar nom for original screenplay and two SAG noms, for Best Ensemble and Holly Hunter as supporting actress. Lionsgate released The Big Sick on behalf of Amazon before the studio brought its distribution ops in-house
Currently, tracking has Late Night, the comedy that Kaling also wrote and produced, in the mid-single digits for the weekend of June 14-16 against Sony’s Men in Black: International and New Line’s Shaft. (Focus Features’ Cannes Film Festival opener The Dead Don’t Die will debut in roughly 500 theaters that weekend.)
Says Matt Newman, Co-Head of Movies, Amazon Studios about the release date change strategy, “We looked at other marketing beats that would build additional word of mouth to ensure that women in groups watch Late Night.”
Fueled by her work on NBC’s The Office and Fox’s The Mindy Project, Kaling indeed has a passionate and loyal fan base. Anecdotally, we witnessed this first hand at a Deadline Emmy season screening in June 2014 for The Mindy Project at the Landmark Cinema on Pico Boulevard. There were well over 1,2000 RSVPs to the event, and the turnout was, no joke, akin to Ariana Grande showing up at the mall. No skin off the nose of those who didn’t get into the screening as they got a better deal: Kaling went down the line and took selfies with them.
The Late Night star will be doing a Q&A this Saturday following the movie’s 7 PM show at the Arclight Dome with the pic’s director Nisha Ganatra, and castmembers Ike Barinholtz, Reid Scott and Paul Walter Hauser. Kaling and cast will be showing up again Sunday at the Landmark following the 2 PM and 2:30 PM shows.
It’s an understatement to say Kaling is a role model to women (see tweet below), and Amazon has been keen to leverage that wattage. Many fans on social media are already calling out Late Night as an anthem for women of color. The film’s plot centers on Kaling as Molly Patel, an aspiring TV comedy writer who lands the gig of a lifetime on the writing staff of a broadcast network’s late-night talk show. However, she’s up against the show’s all-male staff and its aging host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), whose comedy is outdated and in need of a polish. Patel and Newbury find mentoring in each other as they both aim to break their glass ceilings.
For starters, Kaling counts 11.9 million followers on Twitter, a number that overpowers the reach of The Hustle‘s Rebel Wilson (2.86M), Gal Gadot (2.16M) and Long Shot‘s Charlize Theron (658K). And, like Dwayne Johnson, Kaling is working nonstop to promote Late Night on her handles. Kaling’s has 16.8M followers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, a figure that bests Theron’s 11.6M by 45%, Wilson’s 9.26M by 81% and is 10% short of Anne Hathaway’s total 18.7M social footprint on Facebook and Instagram (the latter portal reps 77% of The Hustle star’s social media following). Entertainment industry social media analyst firm RelishMix reports that Kaling’s social media reach reps 33% of Late Night‘s 51.1M social media universe.
Last Wednesday, Amazon launched a “Co-Worker’s Late Night Out” screening program, further propped by Kaling on social. Amazon organized regional screenings in the top 25 markets where audiences were encouraged to bring their co-workers to the movie. Each market hosted a special themed “eventized” screening with a happy hour and special cocktail menu prior to the screening of the film, and cupcakes were given out to theatergoers emulating one of Molly’s actions in the pic. (On her first day of work, Molly brings cupcakes to the chauvinistic male writers’ room in an effort to win them over.) The cupcakes at Late Night previews were sourced from local bakeries/shops owned by female business owners. Lyft was a partner on the event, offering tickets and discounted rides to customers at participating theaters in key markets including NY, LA, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Nashville and San Diego.
Additionally, there were more than 300 theaters nationwide that held packed sneak peeks at AMC, Regal, Marcus, Harkins and various independents. Kaling did a livestream Q&A at participating theaters, but she also recapped her activity around #LateNightOut in a Twitter official moment. For these in-market screenings, #LateNightOut was reportedly the trending hashtag on Twitter last Wednesday, which fueled a 2810% increase in the conversation around Late Night vs the prior week’s average according to social analytics platform ListenFirst Media. Notables celebs like Seth Rogen, Olivia Wilde, Jameela Jamil and Reese Witherspoon have been championing Late Night on their social handles.
Sneaks in New York and LA continue throughout this week with additional screenings in the top 40 markets:
One of the most popular video clips in the film’s social campaign has been Kaling and Late Night co-star Thompson’s explanation of post British phrases on the Vanity Fair channel, clocking near a half-million views. However, Kaling’s appearance Monday on Ellen has already pulled in close to 1M views on her Instagram.
Overall, RelishMix reports that Late Night’s social media universe is beating Booksmart‘s 43.7M, in addition to that pic’s overall YouTube views, 19.8M to 17M. Also Late Night boasts the most Twitter followers at 12.8M next to those of Long Shot (10.8M), The Hustle (5.3M) and Booksmart (3.4M).
Says Newman, “When we bought this movie at Sundance, we walked out super ready to share this movie as widely with audiences, and that’s still our intention today.”