It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Just as cash-strapped STX removed OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE from the release schedule, United Artists (UA) scored a huge win at the box office with DOG.
When STX was created in 2014, its goal was to make mid-budget, star-driven films. As the big studios focused more and more on superheroes and world-building, smaller films were getting squeezed out. STX was there to fill the void. For a moment, it worked. BAD MOMS and its sequel A BAD MOM’S CHRISTMAS were highly profitable and in 2019, STX masterfully marketed the Jennifer Lopez hit HUSTLERS.
Unfortunately, the hits stopped coming just as the pandemic arrived and STX now finds itself selling off its assets.
Meanwhile, while STX looks for a suitor, UA is having a moment in the same mid-budget, star-driven space. Yes, UA was behind the big-budget Bond movie NO TIME TO DIE, but over the past 12 months, it has given us DOG, HOUSE OF GUCCI, RESPECT, WRATH OF MAN, LICORICE PIZZA and the upcoming CYRANO.
UA also managed to nab eight Academy Award nominations this year, more than Paramount, Sony, Searchlight, Focus, Lionsgate and Amazon. Not bad at all.
On The Quorum, most of the UA films live in what we call the “original” group. This group includes movies based on original or not well-known IP with production budgets under $100M. It also includes biopics. Since May, 2021 there have been 11 “original” films released exclusively to theaters. The four with the largest openings are all UA titles.
Granted, these are not especially huge opening numbers. They fall well short of the $24M opening for STX’s BAD MOMS or the $33M opening for HUSTLERS. But these are pandemic-era numbers. And while it’s too soon to say for sure, there is reason to believe that DOG could have nice legs at the box office.
Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why UA films were tops among the group. Here are the awareness numbers at release for each of the 11 titles. DOG, HOUSE OF GUCCI and RESPECT – the three highest grossers – are the only films to reach 40% awareness.
It’s a similar story on the interest side. The four UA movies were the only ones with an interest score at or above 5.5. In other words, UA has done a remarkable job not just letting people know these movies exist but also getting them excited about seeing them.
Unfortunately, it looks like a modest debut is in store for UA’s next film, CYRANO. Awareness is at 32, though the real pain point is interest. With an interest score of 4.4, it is easily the lowest of the other original titles.
For CYRANO, however, the measures of success extend beyond the box office. The film is an Oscar nominee (Costume Design) and a two-time Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture and Best Actor (Pete Dinklage). In other words, this is a title that any studio would be proud to have in their library.