In another encouraging sign for older audiences (and not just “young men”) returning to theaters, Sony and 3000’s Where the Crawdads Sing opened to a rock-solid $17 million domestic debut. Considering the Daisy Edgar-Jones vehicle, based on Delia Owens’ blockbuster (12 million copies sold) novel, cost just $24 million to produce, this is a big win for Sony and for the notion of non-franchise, adult-skewing, female-targeted studio programmers having a future in theatrical release.
The film, produced by Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neudstadter and featuring a new song from Taylor Swift, is the first and only “big” movie this summer aimed at adult women (an embarrassing bit of trivia). We can expect solid legs for this old-school potboiler/melodrama. The film, about a young woman raising herself in the marshlands after being left alone with her abusive father, is a stand-alone, character-focused “movie” aimed at adults sans any franchise aspirations.
That used to be something we took for granted, at least more so than we do now after two years of various female-led and female-targeted movies of all shapes and sizes (Mulan, Happiest Season, The Mitchells Vs. the Machines, etc.) being sent to streaming platforms while studios waited out Covid for their bigger “white guy’s journey” tentpoles (Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, No Time to Die, etc.). The movie is shockingly straightforward, and I’ll concede only modest entertainment value amid its southern romance melodrama.
However, it’s well-acted, handsomely staged and features interesting actors playing somewhat interesting characters in a single film sans any cinematic universe aspirations. Warts and all, I’d rather enjoy (or not enjoy) the likes of Passengers, The Book of Henry, Green Book or Where the Crawdad Sings on their own merits than pretend to be excited for Alien 7, a live-action Hercules or The Princess Diaries 3.
Paramount’s winning streak came to an expected end with Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank. As noted yesterday, the film was initially titled Blazing Samurai. This (surprisingly faithful) animated remake of Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles couches its racism metaphorically (cats being prejudiced toward dogs). It keeps the 1974 classic’s essential moral about how rich “cats” use racism to convince poorer “cats” to ignore the clear and present danger to their survival.
I saw Blazing Saddles when I was seven, perhaps because my parents saw how much I had enjoyed Spaceballs. It was A) the first time I heard the “n-word” and B) an early lesson in how institutional racism can be weaponized against victims of racism and other racists. They also took me to see Malcolm X on opening night when I was 12. So yes, my folks were cool or levelheaded enough to know that anti-racist art shouldn’t be seen as inflammatory.
Paws of Fury cost $45 million but was acquired by Paramount for around $10 million. Perhaps due to wanting to hide the connection to the now, uh “controversial” Cleavon Little/Gene Wilder comedy (because clearly, a movie co-written by Richard Pryor was secretly pro-racism), the trailers undersold both the clever wordplay and creative animation. It peaks in the first 20 minutes, and the “story” leads to a downturn in comedy, but it’s a painless and pleasant sit if you have kids who want to go or catch it on Paramount+ in a couple of months.
Contractual obligations aside, I’m guessing this went to theaters precisely because Paramount understands that a theatrical release will juice its streaming prospects when the time comes. So, a $6.25 million weekend is “fine, I guess.” Meanwhile, Focus Features’ Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris opened in 980 theaters. The Leslie Manville/Isabelle Huppert historical dramedy, based upon Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel, earned $1.9 million in its opening weekend.
That’s an indifferent $1,939 per-theater average, meaning those who want to see this one in theaters (I’ve heard good things and will play catch up on Monday or Tuesday) will have a few weeks to do so before it lives its primary life on VOD and Peacock. The documentary Gabby Giffords: Won’t Back Down will earn $75,000 in 302 theaters this weekend. That this documentary needs to exist 11 years after she was shot during a campaign appearance in 2011 shows how little things have changed for gun control. Hey, The Dark Knight Rises turns ten on Tuesday…