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As it turned out, Going in Style served as a reminder of the buying power of baby boomers.
Heading into this past weekend, prereleasing tracking predicted that director Zach Braff’s heist comedy Going in Style, a remake of the 1979 film that caters to a decidedly older audience, would be lucky to gross $8 million in its North American box-office debut.
The movie — starring Morgan Freeman, 79; Alan Arkin, 83; and Michael Caine, 84 — surprised in almost matching family film Smurfs: The Lost Village when launching to $12.5 million for New Line and Village Roadshow. The secret? More than 70 percent of the audience was over the age of 50, an ignored demo. (Put another way, just 5 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25.)
The story, about a trio of former factory workers who decide to rob a bank after losing their pensions, captivated older demos in America’s heartland in particular, in addition to snowbird-favored cities in Florida and Arizona.
While a $12.5 million opening wouldn’t normally prompt studio executives to organize a champagne toast, Going in Style reminded Hollywood why “older” audiences shouldn’t be ignored in the great age of superhero showdowns and other mega-event pics.
“With the industry on the verge of entering the heavily youth-centric summer movie season, Going in Style was a nice gift to the over-50 crowd who often feel left out of the Hollywood box-office equation,” says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore. “Perhaps over time this enthusiastic group of oft-marginalized moviegoers will see Hollywood creating more films like this and follow up on the success of other such films like Last Vegas and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
In 2012, Fox Searchlight’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel struck gold, grossing $137 million worldwide against a $10 million budget. The film’s ensemble cast included Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy. (The 2015 sequel didn’t fare as well, topping out at $86 million.)
In 2013, CBS Films’ Last Vegas, starring Freeman alongside Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline, was likewise a hit, earning $134 million against a $28 million budget.
The advantage of such titles is that they can enjoy stronger multiples of their opening weekend than tentpoles that burn out quickly, because older moviegoers aren’t as inclined to rush out on opening weekend and thus subsequent weekends can continue to do business.
In addition to featuring aging protagonists, Going in Style, with its tale of regular folk battling corporate greed, may have also tapped into uncertainties about the future amid a new administration in Washington.
Usually, the top-grossing theaters for a film are in New York City, specifically the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square, and Los Angeles.
Not so in the case of Going in Style. The Moore Warren Theatre in Oklahoma City was No. 1 over opening weekend ($19,086), followed by Harkins‘ Superstition Springs Theatre in Phoenix ($16,450); a Warren Cinema in Wichita, Kan. ($14,848); the Old Mill Playhouse in Orlando, Fla. ($14,225); and the Harkins Arrowhead 18 in Phoenix ($13,885).
The gross for the AMC Empire 25, the busiest cinema in the country, was $12,215 in comparison.
It isn’t uncommon to feature a younger actor in the hope of broadening the audience to some degree. Marigold Hotel, for example, also starred Dev Patel, while The Intern (2015) paired Anne Hathaway with De Niro.
Going in Style, produced by Donald De Line, mirrored Last Vegas in sticking to an older cast (the youngest supporting lead was Matt Dillon, who is 53). Ann-Margret, 75, also stars.
“We targeted an audience that is underserved with a film that appeals to their sensibilities,” says Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution for New Line’s parent studio, Warner Bros.
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