For a film that scored only $7.5 million at the box office this weekend, mother! sure is generating a lot of buzz. Indeed, those who did venture to the theaters to see Darren Aronofsky’s latest headtrip likely came away with questions and a vast array of emotions. Some are downright angry at the film, and it joined a niche club of movies to land an F CinemaScore, which is a metric that basically measures how well a film’s marketing matched up to the movie people went out to see on opening weekend.
But while reactions are split and incredibly heated, one party that has absolutely no regrets is Paramount Pictures, which produced and marketed the $30 million thriller. On the heels of split critical reaction and some angry audience-goers, the studio released the following statement (via Indiewire) from Paramount’s worldwide president of marketing and distribution Megan Colligan:
“This movie is very audacious and brave. You are talking about a director at the top of his game, and an actress at the top of her game. They made a movie that was intended to be bold. Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell. This is our version. We don’t want all movies to be safe. And it’s okay if some people don’t like it.”
This is kind of fantastic. Whether you love or hate mother!, you can’t deny the boldness and ambition of a major studio like Paramount not only making this movie, but releasing it wide on opening weekend on over 2,300 screens. Even Black Swan, which is downright straightforward by comparison, got a limited release and slow expansion. But Paramount went all-in on mother!, no doubt buoyed by Jennifer Lawrence’s starpower but still taking a risky gamble nonetheless.
Some may be upset that the marketing promised a horror film in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby while the actual movie is anything but. It’s horrifying, but not necessarily a horror film. But to those detractors I’d say, how else do you market a film told entirely in allegory, where the characters are all stand-ins for larger themes and metaphors? The horror approach got people to see the movie who may have been put off by the metaphorical aspect, and for better or worse, they experienced it cold.
And all things considered, while a $7.5 million opening weekend isn’t huge, that’s still not a complete bomb given the $30 million budget. Moreover, Paramount just added what’s destined to be a cult classic to its library. Again, whether you loved or hated mother!, you can’t deny this is a film people are going to be talking about and studying for years to come.
Hopefully this is a sign of more bold moves from Paramount, which is the only major studio without a superhero property. They’ve been banking on Transformers movies for years, but this summer’s The Last Knight marked a huge dropoff in box office. They do still have a strong Mission: Impossible franchise, but it’s nice to see them taking chances on movies like mother! rather than doubling down on the tried and true.
Indeed, following Jim Gianopulos’ hiring as the new head of the studio this summer, some interesting moves have been made. They signed David Fincher to direct World War Z 2, which is a huge get, and the Cloverfield universe seems to be continuing on. So here’s hoping the studio isn’t discouraged by mother!’s box office and keeps making challenging films, proving that Netflix and Amazon aren’t the only places making bold choices, and preserving the theatrical experience for all kinds of films.