A lot of people LOVE Booksmart. But a lot of the headlines about Booksmart this week are about its box office, including this one at The Hollywood Reporter about how Booksmart “gambles with wide release and stumbles”.
Booksmart came out of SXSW with a lot of buzz. It currently sits at 97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. They decided to build on that with a Memorial Day release, going up against Aladdin. Aladdin opened over $112 million, Booksmart opened with $8.7 million over the four-day weekend and, right now, is sitting at just under $10 million, which actually isn’t bad for an indie movie, but by wide release standards, that’s considered “underperforming”.
Many, many celebrities, including Taylor Swift, Ryan Reynolds, Mindy Kaling, Natalie Portman, Chrissy Teigen, Busy Philipps, Gal Gadot, and more have been rallying behind Booksmart on social media, urging their followers to go see it. Director Olivia Wilde has been tweeting about it too:
Anyone out there saving @Booksmart for another day, consider making that day TODAY. We are getting creamed by the big dogs out there and need your support. Don’t give studios an excuse not to green-light movies made by and about women. 💪❤️💪— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) May 25, 2019
And she’s acknowledged that the decision to go with a wide release, even though they may not have hit their target, was a “big gamble”:
A wide release for a small film is def a major gamble. I’m lucky my first movie is in any theater at all! Also proud a movie like this can be seen by the entire country at once. We made @Booksmart for everyone. 🐼— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) May 27, 2019
Right now, they’re hoping for positive word of mouth to sustain the movie in its second weekend so that theatre owners will keep it on screens. Again, people really, really LOVE Booksmart. It’s already been said that it’s the teen movie of a generation, an instant classic, a movie that will hold up, that will be rewatched over and over again, and remembered fondly.
Still Booksmart’s “disappointing” box office has a lot of people in the industry talking about how to best market smaller budget, non-tentpoles against big budget blockbusters. Per Variety:
Analysts suggest that strategy, rather than a nationwide debut, might have helped “Booksmart” fare better among moviegoers and stay above the fray as box office competition continues to heat up during the summer. A platform release, in which studios open a film in a handful of venues and slowly expand the theater count, allows a movie to build an audience and raise awareness.
So, from a Show Your Work perspective, was this bad work?
I mean, sure, you could say they should have read the landscape better. You could say that when they took a risk against Aladdin, that even though they were betting on counterprogramming, they didn’t fully appreciate that their audiences overlapped; that they shouldn’t have been so aggressive, waited to build on strong reception in fewer audiences before expanding, like Lady Bird. Because now that this has happened, one of the major consequences might be that those who don’t think movies like Booksmart can make it in the big leagues are only going to double down on their obtuseness. Which, of course, is the “you ruined it for everyone!” blame game.
First of all, f-ck that, and second, my take is that, sometimes, showing your work is taking a big ass f-cking swing. Which is what they did with Booksmart. Taking a big swing on a project you’re hesitant about is one thing. But if you don’t take a big swing on work you believe in, work that is vital, work that is passionate, well then what else is there to take a big swing on?
People are talking about Booksmart’s big swing like it’s homerun or bust. Like their big swing resulted in a strikeout. This is not a f-cking strikeout. Please don’t buy into the narrative out there that it’s a strikeout. At worst, it’s a single. In reality, it’s probably closer to a double – which means they’re on base, in scoring position. Booksmart is critically acclaimed. More important, it’s immediately become special to people, many, many, many people who’ll be sharing it for many, many years.
Would they do it all over again if they could? If they knew going in what would happen. I hope so. I hope, a few months from now, no matter what happens in the weeks to come, if/when someone asks Olivia Wilde if she would want Booksmart to open in wide release now that she’s seen the results, her answer will be, f-ck yes, I would do it all the same, I would take the big swing.
Let Olivia Wilde and Booksmart’s big swing be a big inspiration – to GO FOR IT, because why not take a big swing when you’re swinging in support of your best work? Don’t be afraid to take those big swings!
Yours in gossip,