It's hard to believe, but the smash-hit Everything Everywhere All at Once opened on just 10 screens.
Word-of-mouth, excellent reviews, and an amazing advertising campaign really got this title flowing, helping the $ 15-million-budgeted movie to over $50-plus million at the box office... and counting. It also scored an incredibly high per-screen average of $50,000, an obscenely high number.
This is not only A24's biggest hit, but it absolutely contradicts all the studios who think tentpole movies are the only ones that matter. It shows a little movie with a diverse cast can find an audience if people are willing to go wide with it.
To put it into context, film journalist Scott Mendelson noted that “when it hits the $52 million mark it will outgross House of Gucci at the domestic box office. That means it will have made more than any of last year’s Oscar-season awards releases, except for Dune.”
So how did a movie like this find an audience? And what do people have to say about its staying power? The answer lies in what this film does differently.
What's the key to EEAAO's success?
The movie was built on a diverse cast and tells an extremely personal story about immigrants, heritage, and making your parents proud. It focuses on a small family, and uses recognizable faces but not necessarily stars.
Jamie Lee Curtis might be an average moviegoer's most famous face, but here she's an IRS employee and frumpy supervillain. Michelle Yeoh is another bigger star, and here they have pared her down to a housewife and small business owner dealing with a financial crisis. These subversions of normal types help breed interest. And the movie's trailer took that idea and flipped it, showing them both as action stars, which is a big multiverse twist in the movie. This blending of genres was exciting for audiences.
You also have to credit Daniels, the pair who directed and wrote this movie. For them, they wanted to tell a story that not only was specific to an immigrant family but also talked about universal struggles people deal with every day. This helped the movie gather a wider audience and benefit from word-of-mouth as soon as people left theaters. This is sort of what happened with a movie like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which brought in Greek people but which had familial specificities that brought in others. Everything drew viewers within the Asian American community, but everyone can see shades of their own family. It made you want to tell people to see this movie and to identify with its wisdom.
A24 saw this, and bravely expanded the theatrical run, not relegating it to streaming but taking it from 10 theaters to over 3,000 in a matter of months. And also expanding it across the globe.
People are hoping this is indicative of things to come. Studios have relied too long on tentpoles and have not put enough money into developing smaller ideas that can break out. Hopefully, this movie foreshadows a change that we can believe in. A change that shows Hollywood that slowly rolling out films is a smart idea. And that making five to 10 of these movies a year won't break the bank, and gives them the best scenario to make money alongside the $200 million movies.
Let me know what you think in the comments.