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What Hollywood Can Learn from ‘M3GAN’

Thriller's huge opening offers (temporary) balm for industry's box office woes

“M3GAN” didn’t just over-perform at the box office last weekend.

The PG:13 thriller embarrassed a string of Oscar-bait movies in the process.

The film earned $30.4 million, blowing away even the most optimistic projections. Compare that to the opening weekends for “She Said” ($2.2 million), “Bones and All” ($2.2 million) and “Babylon” ($3.6 million), all touted as awards-season fodder last year.

M3GAN - official trailer 2

M3GAN” follows a robotics guru (Allison Williams) who pairs her latest creation with her adopted daughter. The pre-teen just lost her parents, and Williams’ character hopes a robot friend will help the girl grieve.

Be careful what you wish for…

Why did “M3GAN” succeed while so many late 2022 films failed? Let’s look into the film’s launch and learn what lessons Hollywood should heed moving forward.

Do Social Media Right

The robot’s signature dance made a splash on social media weeks before the film opened. That media campaign took an original feature and made it a must-see event.

The film’s Twitter account has more than 52K followers, an impressive number for a project with no I.P. ties. The film’s Instagram flock is double that amount.

A quick look at the Tweets in question show plenty of social media savvy, plus a dollop of humor. It’s no longer enough to post a few P.R. friendly Tweets. Marketers must be smarter, and more original, to get our attention.

Stars Don’t Matter … The Pitch Does

Last year’s biggest box office surprise owed everything to its gimmick – a creepy smile afflicting the victims of the film’s evil spirt. That visual left an impression on movie goers, making “Smile” a shocking success.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Smile Movie (@smilemovie)

“M3GAN” offered a similarly slick twist. What if an A.I.-powered toy became both self-aware and dangerous? 

Williams knows her way around the horror genre, witness her strong performance in “Get Out.” Still, audiences didn’t flock to “M3GAN” to see her. It’s the gimmick that mattered most.

Stars are often interchangeable in horror films, and that’s a noteworthy wrinkle for an industry eager to cut corners whenever possible.

Escapism Rules

Audiences crave fun in the depressing Age of Biden. Rolling blackouts. Empty store shelves. High gas prices. Soaring inflation. And there’s little hope the second two years of Biden’s term will be any better.

Plus, half the country is under a Cancel Culture-style attack by Big Tech and the U.S. Government. Who wants to watch an “eat your vegetable” movie at the moment?

“M3GAN” promised a good, old-fashioned thrill ride, and it delivered. It’s no wonder the box office lit up upon her arrival.

Mix the Old and New

The recent, deplorable “Child’s Play” reboot tried to update the 1988 original with a high-tech twist. It failed.

Miserably.

“M3GAN” does the opposite. Yes, the villain here is a toy that springs to life, a la Chucky. That’s something that speaks to us, both then and now.

The twist, though, is how the robot plugs into our modern life. The notion of a robotic toy isn’t just a film fantasy. It’s inching closer to reality.

And, along with it, our collective fears that artificial intelligence may go too far, too fast, and we won’t be able to corral the consequences.

 “M3GAN” expertly taps into that creeping fear in ways the “Child’s Play” remake couldn’t match.

Compare it to last year’s indie smash “Terrifier 2.” The movie mixed ’80s-style slasher tropes with modern thrills and over-the-top gore. Old plus new equals a memorable experience.

Remember Why We Gather in the Dark

“The Fabelmans” is a smart, engaging film, but it’s one that can be seen on a TV screen without losing its emotional punch. Movies like “M3GAN,” by comparison, thrive in a communal setting. The thrills. The laughs. The socko ending with a populist twist you won’t see coming.

They all play like gangbusters in a movie house. In fact, they’re much better in a theater.

Not every movie can duplicate that sensation. The best dramas can’t pack the punch of a well-constructed horror movie. Still, studios should consider ways that evoke primal emotions, the kind that can be shared in a crowded setting.

5 Comments

  1. These horror stories like Megan has better written stories than the dramas we are trying to avoid. That’s sad. Megan is even about women so “yeah diversity” despite diversity for its own sake. Maybe they should dump “The Message”. Woke is not a substitute for plot. Plot is needed.

  2. So many good-to-great horror films as hits in the past year: Smile, Barbarian, The Black Phone and Megan. And many many more that have popped up on Shudder like Watcher and the devastating Speak No Evil. The genre has flourished.

  3. I saw this movie over the weekend. So nice to be able to sit through an entire movie without being lectured about white privilege or trans rights.

    1. Idk they could made it more interesting if she had been a black doll Shaniqua, hopefully there will be a sequel…

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