Is there anything more pleasing than an underdog success story?
Or in The Meg’s case, an undershark one?
The Jason Statham-led film pits his action hero, and a team of scientists, against a thought-to-be-extinct, 75-foot long shark called the Megalodon, and thanks to a savvy social media campaign by Warner Bros it’s managed to exceed box office analysts’ expectations.
The Meg was pegged for a $20 million domestic opening weekend but instead made $45.4 million plus $101.5 million internationally, to give it a global opening weekend box office total of $146.9 million.
Warner Bros’ other big 2018 releases, Ready Player One and Ocean’s 8, made a slightly less of an opening weekend impact by earning $41.7 million and $41.6 million respectively, despite the long-running international furore surrounding both during the lead up to each film’s release.
So how did a B-Movie about a prehistoric shark manage to become the studio’s most successful opener of 2018 so far?
By leaning into its own ridiculousness.
Instead of promoting The Meg like it was another one of Statham’s brooding action movies, like Mechanic: Ressurection, Wild Card or Safe, Warner Bros reinforced its horror-comedy theme and utilised social media to sell it to a wider audience through clever videos, gifs, and posters.
“If we had gone the serious shark movie route, it would have come off as a less-than-Jurassic World, it wouldn’t have been distinct,” Warner Bros global marketing boss Blair Rich told Deadline. “What’s happening is phenomenal in the audience response. We signaled to them the tone was an invitation to have a good time.”
The first trailer isn’t filled with Statham doing typical action-hero things but brings a healthy dose of comedic relief from former The Office US star Rainn Wilson, a Yorkshire Terrier trying to outrun the megalodon and by juxtaposing Bobby Darin’s lighthearted song “Beyond the Sea” over the Meg’s ominous presence.
By ramping up these memeable moments, Warner Bros were able to reach a more diverse audience than the typical young male demographic that is the usual target for Statham’s films. The #SavePippin campaign appealed to dog lovers while another hilarious video was dedicated to whale fans (see below).
The Meg is also a welcome break for cinema goers looking for an action-adventure outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe or reboot/remake factory, like Skyscraper, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson might have wanted to use the shark film’s marketing approach for his latest release.
The film, which many have dubbed a Die Hard remake, has all the narrative hallmarks of a B-Movie, as well a shed load of intentional (and unintentional) comedic moments that could have been hammed up during the film’s promotional campaign, but Johnson took himself rather seriously instead.
The film earned just $24.9 million during its opening weekend in the US and £1.83 million in the UK, which is dramatically lower than his last disaster movie Rampage, which earned £4.11 million in the UK and $35.7 million in the US just three months earlier.
Both Rampage and The Meg pit action heroes against giant and dangerous beasts so maybe Hollywood should be investing more money in these type of vehicles. TV movie Sharknado and the direct-to-video title Megashark Vs Giant Octopus have become cult B-Movie franchises that have flourished without the need for critical praise.
Even 47 Metres Down, starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt fighting for survival in a shark cage, went from ending up another VOD throwaway title to becoming a tidy little earner at the US domestic box office ($44.3 million actually) after Entertainment Studios worked out a reported seven-figure deal with Dimension Films to release it in cinemas.
“We’re not pretending this is the best film ever made, but it’s a fun summer thrill ride,” producer Wayne Marc Godfrey, managing director and co-founder of Fyzz Facility, told The Hollywood Reporter. “And everyone’s made money, everyone’s won. The conversation now starts about whether there’ll be another one.”
Jason Statham has already suggested there could be a sequel to The Meg, telling Entertainment Weekly: “If it makes money, there’s obviously an appetite to make more money. And if it doesn’t do well, they’ll soon sweep it under the carpet.
“But that’s the way Hollywood works,” he continues. “Everyone tries to make a good film and it lies in the hands of the audience. People are the ultimate decider, the audience is the decider of whether anything gets to be a sequel or not.”
So far, it looks like the audience might well be up for another bite.
The Meg is in cinemas now