‘Nope’ Will Be #1 This Weekend; 5 Reasons Hollywood Must Take Heed

After enjoying critical and commercial success in TV comedy via his hit series, Key & Peele, Jordan Peele surprised the world by sharing his inner-Rod Serling with 2017’s Oscar-winning smash, Get Out, a $4.5M budgeted horror film that ultimately raked in nearly $260M in worldwide grosses.

Us, Peele’s 2019 follow-up film (with a $20M budget), opened as the highest grossing horror title of all time at $70M; it too built to almost the identical number in worldwide box-office, $260M.

This weekend, Peele serves up his most recent effort, Nope (with a reported budget of $68M) a film with buzz and critical reception higher than Us, but slightly lower than Get Out (Nope is currently trending at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes; with a 77 rating on Metacritic) – – stoking expectations that Nope may exceed the rather modestly predicted $50M opening weekend estimates.

In a rather ho-hum summer of studio releases so far (with the exception of Top Gun: Maverick and Minions: the Rise of Gru), Universal (the studio releasing Nope) is pinning high hopes on Peele’s mash-up of science fiction and horror, all set against a Western-flavored locale.

The question isn’t “if” Nope will dominate this weekend, but by how much?

Here are 5 reasons none of us should take Nope, its filmmaker or its cast for granted:

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a.) Horror (even hybrid-horror) Works

Jason Blum, the modern-day impresario responsible for horror successes going all the way back to Paranormal Activity on through to Ethan Hawke’s recent hit, The Black Phone (Blum’s also Peele’s producer on both Get Out and Us with dozens of hits in-between) reminds us that “at the right budgets, the horror genre is the sturdiest, most reliable and safest bet” any studio can make. He should know; he’s had approximately 60 films released in the genre, with an average budget of $6M per film, generating over $4.6B in box-office revenues.

b.) Audiences Flock to Auteur (aka “stand-out”) Filmmakers

Peele’s success with Get Out seemed to come out of nowhere, but Jason Blum certainly knew of Peele’s potential, bet on him, championed the film and the rest is history. A24 has done the same with filmmakers like The Daniels (Everything, Everywhere, All At Once) and Ari Aster (Midsommar; Hereditary) and the audience – – either via clever social media marketing or simply through the most reliable of all marketing tools, word of mouth – – susses out high quality, bracingly original filmmaking and rewards all of it with handsome box-office support.

c.) Originality Can Still Succeed

So far, Peele has created one original film after another, simply based on his own creativity and imagination. Like Quentin Tarantino, Peele never turns to “existing I.P. or pre-sold titles/franchises” as the basis for his cinematic output. Oddly enough, his one “failure” since striking out on his own was with a two-season re-boot of The Twilight Zone. On some level, Peele must now realize that “keeping it original” is what the audience not only needs, but demands of him. As studios move zombie-like, continuing to cookie-cut old, stale franchises with countless iterations and spin-offs of characters we’ve known not just for decades, but entire lifetimes, it’s encouraging to see that originality can still make a serious impact. Let’s not forget, the most successful film of all time, Avatar, is based simply on a James Cameron idea, not a best-selling fantasy-adventure novel.

d.) Black Casts Matter

Whether it’s Hitchcock, Spielberg, Kubrick or Cameron, past filmmakers have sought to burnish their genre successes by working with Hollywood’s biggest names, and the overwhelming majority of those movie stars were white. As an A-list filmmaker, Peele could’ve played it safely by abandoning his community of black artists to turn instead to working with better-known, usually white talent. To Peele’s credit, he continues to celebrate and discover a wide bench of talent, not only from the African American community, but from the Asian American and Latinx world as well. Peele helped Daniel Kaluuya become a star via his lead role in Get Out, and Kaluuya has gone on to Oscar fame via his portrayal of Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. Peele’s leadership in this realm will help prove to skeptical Hollywood decision-makers (once again) that films featuring non-white casts can not only work here in the U.S., but around the world.

e.) Here Lies True Creativity and Innovation

The horror/thriller genre has been the playground of some of the most important, genre-bending, edge-of-your-seat creativity in the history of cinema. Whether it’s Hitchcock or Peele; Speilberg or Kubrick; Shyamalan or Aster; Cameron or Scorsese; The Daniels or Demme; del Toro or Polanski (and countless, deserving others) – – the world of thrills, supernatural terror and skin-tingling fantasy has been the foundation stone for some of the greatest visual storytelling in the history of the medium.

It’s astonishing that more “scary movies” aren’t being made, given the filmmaker’s opportunity and expectation to exert pure creativity onto something fresh with a built-in, eager audience seemingly always there to support such effort.

For too long, studios have looked down their noses at horror/thriller films, as though this content is somehow beneath their marketing and distribution teams’ elite efforts, unless, of course it’s Halloween, Friday the 13th or the end of July in the dog days of summer.

No genre – – literally not comedy, drama, biography or musicals – – has inspired such a tidal wave of talent and ensured such consistent, reliable box-office success.

Should Jason Blum, M. Night Shyamalan and Jordan Peele alone have the corner on this remarkable market?

I’d offer studio heads, film schools and aspiring filmmakers this simple reply:

Nope!

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