February 1, 2023

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How ‘Megan’ Movie Beats Box Office Expectations

4 min read

Universal and Blumhouse’s horror puppet thriller “M3GAN” beat expectations with its killer $30 million opening weekend, heating up a traditionally tepid time at the box office while confirming moviegoers’ obsession with horror films.

As January movies tend to be quiet, “M3GAN” also became the first release in more than a decade — since 2012’s “The Devil Inside” to $33.7 million — to open above $30 million in the first week of the new year. It’s the biggest debut for an original film since Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” another Universal title, debuted to $44 million last July.

None of these box office milestones come as a surprise to anyone who’s recently taken to Twitter or TikTok, where the manicured robotic doll — with its chaotic dance moves and pathetic one-liners — has become the instant camp icon of every marketing executive’s dreams. Legend has it that Chucky, Annabelle and The Boy were seen shaking after the first trailer for “M3GAN” debuted online.

To paraphrase Wendy Williams, “[M3GAN] He’s an icon, he’s a legend and he’s the moment.” Here, diversity Uncovers how the pocked-sized agent of chaos became the new box office girl.

A scream queen becomes a meme queen

It didn’t take long for the internet to fall in love with M3GAN, which seems designed for meme-status. Universal and Blumhouse continued to kill the marketing game, listing A troupe of dancing puppets At movie premieres and sporting events. And, seriously, whoever runs the @meetM3GAN Twitter account deserves a raise.

“Universal has done such a good job with marketing,” said Sean Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “‘M3GAN’ was already a viral hit after the initial trailer. That’s how you market to a younger audience now.”

To Hollywood’s chagrin, you can’t engineer a hit. (Though “M3GAN” makes a convincing argument to the contrary.) But innovative promotional campaigns can move the needle in terms of audience awareness and interest. Paramount had similar success with last year’s surprise hit “Smile,” hiring actors to flash creepy, unsettling smiles while sitting in the stands at televised baseball games.

Senior ComScore analyst Paul Dargarbedian added that “M3GAN” “resonated with the TikTok generation. It’s become meme-worthy, and that social resonance is key.”

“M3GAN” provides products

Beyond clever promotional tactics, M3GAN’s handlers stuck the landing by delivering a crowd-pleaser that resonated with critics (who awarded the film a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (who showed up during the opening weekend). That’s rare for horror, which isn’t a genre known for getting too many “fresh” ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Its asterisks may assuage any doubts that “M3GAN” is anything more than a well-timed GIF. Critics praised “M3GAN” for seamlessly mixing self-aware humor with chilling gore, with New York Times critic Jason Ginoman saying the movie is “smart enough to take itself too seriously.”

Horror’s scary-good streak continues

There’s nothing new to say about horror’s red-hot box office run, but it’s true that few genres have been as reliable during a pandemic. Recent spooky standouts, such as “Smile,” “Barbarian” and “The Menu,” have defied expectations of reasonable production budgets, meaning they don’t have to break box office records. In the case of “M3GAN,” its $12 million price tag means its backers will reap big rewards by the end of its box office run.

“Horror films show no slowdown at the box office,” David A. said Gross, who runs movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research “Young moviegoers want to see them with their friends, on the big screen, for maximum thrill.”

Counter-programming to win

It’s especially impressive that “M3GAN” managed to succeed against James Cameron’s enduring blockbuster “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which posted a whopping $42 million in its fourth weekend of release. The January 6-8 weekend marked the first time since last July that two movies managed to gross at least $30 million.

In a classic case of counter-programming, younger female viewers turned out in droves for “M3GAN” while older men and families continued to show up for “Avatar: Waterway.” In terms of opening crowds, 53% of ticket buyers for “M3GAN” were women and 44% were under 25, according to Universal. By comparison, “The Way of Water” skewed toward men (56% of the crowd), while general audiences accounted for 83% of first-weekend ticket sales.

“These movies were able to co-exist is what the movies are about,” Dargarbedian says. “Appealing to different demographics at the same time should be the result every weekend.”

For Hollywood and theater owners alike, this weekend’s strong turnout is an encouraging sign that 2023 will bring a much-needed shift in attendance. “It’s exactly the kind of start that was needed in January,” Robbins said.

All hail M3GAN.

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