15 hours after a featurette proclaiming Jordan Peele’s Nope to be a “cinematic event,” we got a real-deal theatrical trailer that sells the film as, to quite Steven Yeun, an “absolute spectacle.” What do people still see in theaters? Event films that promise cinematic spectacle. While Nope doesn’t have marquee characters and, talent notwithstanding, neither Keke Palmer nor Daniel Kaluuya are butts-in-seats draws. It does have a genuine marquee director in Jordan Peele, whose last movie broke the opening day record ($28 million on Friday) for a live-action original. Presuming the movie gets decent reviews, that’s four out of five elements (good reviews, a marquee director, an all-star cast, a strong high-concept and the promise of cinematic escapism) for a successful studio programmer.
This second trailer is mostly what we saw at CinemaCon in late April, offering apparent confirmation that the film is about aliens/ufos and that our brother/sister duo are going to essentially cosplay as storm-chasers. The tone is aggressively bouncy and light, promising both R-rated violence (RIP, Keith David) and pulpy thrills and chills. If Get Out was a “social thriller” and Us was more supernatural horror, I might guess that Nope is Peele’s chance to make something closer to an adventure film. I’m not thrilled that the film seems to be set in the house for the confrontational third act, but A) the movie is the movie and B) maybe I’m being hoodwinked. Granted, the marketing for Us and Nope were honest.
As I noted yesterday, the notion that we’re being hoodwinked in terms of what the movie is about could be an example of online discourse being mistaken for general audience sentiment. Us was exactly the movie being advertised, namely a horror film about a family being menaced by murderous doppelgangers. Moreover, it’s incredibly challenging to get audiences to show up for an original, even with a marquee director (Peele, Tarantino, Nolan, Shyamalan, etc.) at the helm. You can’t really risk turning off those still willing to chance it by lying to them about what the movie is about. Cult fandom aside, I imagine Unbreakable would have been better received at audiences known that M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense follow-up was a superhero origin story.
This discussion is mostly academic considering the straight-out-of-the-gate success that will likely greet Nope. Get Out opened with $33 million and legged out to $176 million domestic and $255 million worldwide on a $5 million budget in early 2017. Us opened with $71 million (second only to Avatar’s $77 million launch among opening weekends for live-action originals) and earned $175 million/$255 million on a $25 million budget in early 2019. Even a “disappointing” $160 million worldwide cume would be four times a theoretical (shooting with IMAX cameras is expense) $40 million budget in raw theatrical alone. It’s still all-but-guaranteed to be Hollywood’s biggest live-action original for 2022 if not, depending on how well Disney’s Strange World performs in November, the biggest original period.