When Thursday’s take comes in tomorrow, Universal’s Girls Trip will have crossed the $100M mark domestically, making it the first film to be produced (Will Packer, Malcolm D. Lee), directed (Malcolm D. Lee), written (Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver) and starring (Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Tiffany Haddish) African-Americans.
At a time when articles are being written on how this summer has been brutal for films with, according to Box Office Mojo, ticket sales are down 12% from last year, Girls Trip is one of the few bright spots. Not only did it defy expectations, having grossed $31M in its opening weekend but it held up over the following weeks.
It dropped 36% in its second weekend for a $20M take and has remained among the top five at the box office since then. This comes as other competing films that were released at the same time and afterwards such as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Atomic Blonde, The Dark Tower, and The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature failed to live up to their potential. Girls Trip and Warner Bros.’ Dunkirk as the only films released on the same date this year (July 21) to gross over $100M domestically. The last time two films did that was Passengers and the animated film Sing, which were released during Christmas week (Dec.21).
For director Malcolm D. Lee, after eight previous films, it’s his first trip to the century club, joining 11 other Black directors to do so domestically. He came close with 2013’s Best Man Holiday, which had a $30M opening but ended with a $70M total gross domestically. In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Lee expressed the same feeling when asked if he ever thought he would make the century club.
“Yeah. I thought it would be possible at some point in my career. There was talk that it could have happened with Best Man Holiday and I loved our release date, but we were sandwiched between Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in a very busy holiday season. I thought it could possibly happen there, but this is certainly the one that I thought could possibly happen. I’m grateful that the fans came out and supported it. They got me to the century club.”
It’s also the highest grossing comedy, R-rated at that, this year, surpassing the likes of CHiPs ($18M), Snatched ($45M), Baywatch ($58M), Rough Night ($22M) and The House ($25M). The last comedy to surpass the century mark was 2016’s Bad Moms, which grossed $113M and also featured Jada Pinkett-Smith.
With the exception of the underperforming Rough Night, Girls Trip continued the trend that Bad Moms, Ghostbusters (2016), Trainwreck, The Heat, Bridesmaids, and Sister Act established. Female-led comedic films can sell if given the right script, cast and marketing.
When you throw Hidden Figures in the mix, because it went wide on January 7th of this year and ended with an $169M domestic gross, films led by an African-American female cast have big draw potential that hasn’t been tapped into and Lee recognized that.
“I definitely think it was a combination of things. First of all, you’re dealing with an underserved audience that (producer) Will (Packer) and I and the studio (Universal) as well felt that this was a ‘Sex and the City’ for Black women. Quite honestly, the precursor to ‘Sex and the City’ was ‘Living Single’ and ‘Girlfriends.’ I think that it’s a movie that celebrated them at a place that felt like an event with the setting being at the Essence Festival.
I felt women were going to own this movie and claim it as their movie. There’s a powerful box office when you talk about black women. Yes, the movie crossed over. Girl Power, and Black Girl Magic and strong black women are all part of the zeitgeist right now; and on top of that, fortunately for us there were no comedies that really broke out before Girls Trip. It was one of those movies that worked on a number of levels and was really funny and audiences and critics alike agreed.”
With a current score of 88% (94 fresh, 13 rotten), Girls Trip was certified fresh from Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates reviews from hundreds of newspapers and websites across the country.
Despite the low returns from the Tom Cruise starred-film The Mummy, which has a $80M take domestically, Girls Trip has added to Universal Pictures’ phenomenal year the box office. This is the studio’s 5th film to hit the century mark domestically following M. Night Shyamalan’s Split ($138M), Jordan Peele’s record-making surprise hit Get Out ($175M), Fifty Shades Darker ($114), the ever-growing The Fate of the Furious ($225M domestically but $1.2 billion worldwide) and Despicable Me 3 ($248M and coming close to a billion dollars worldwide).
Peele’s Get Out, F. Gary Gray’s The Fate of the Furious, and Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip, marks the 1st time that three African-American directors have had $100M grossing films in one year, especially under one studio. In 2015, Gray’s Straight Outta Compton ($161M) and Ryan Coogler’s Creed ($109M) broke into that list for Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. respectively.
Interesting enough, this is producer Will Packer’s 2nd $100M grossing film as a producer. He was an executive producer on Straight Outta Compton. His first came with 2014’s Ride Along ($134M). He’s come close a couple of times with Ride Along 2 ($91M) and Think Like a Man ($91M). It’s worth noting that out of Packer’s 16 produced films, 8 have opened at #1 at the box office and 4 have come in 2nd place, including Girls Trip.
Having co-written Girls Trip with Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver is the 1st African-American female screenwriter to have a $100M film. She and Barris join that rare company of Black screenwriters (Scary Movie’s Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Creed’s Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, and Get Out’s Jordan Peele) as a part of that club.
With the continued success of Girls Trip, naturally there will be talk of a sequel. After all, Bad Moms is having a sequel released later this year, so why not put Girls Trip in the conversation. Lee knows the game well enough to have the right answer to that question.
“Of course, they always bring up sequels when a movie does well. They’ve been doing that since the beginning of my career. Best Man, Undercover Brother, and we even talked about Roll Bounce. Speaking of Roll Bounce, I remember Peter Rice, then President of Fox Searchlight Pictures, said to me on the set of that film that he thought it would be Fox Searchlight’s first $100M movie. So, when you asked earlier if I thought I would get there, the answer is yes, possibly. So, there’s always talk of a sequel but nothing is materialized as of yet.”
Here are the other African-American directors whose films grossed $100M domestically and the amount of days it took.
F. Gary Gray’s 2017 The Fate of the Furious (4 Days, $225M total domestic cume)
F. Gary Gray’s 2015 Straight Outta Compton (9 Days, $161M)
Tim Story’s 2005 Fantastic Four (10 days, $154M)
Tim Story’s 2007 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (12 days, $131M)
Keenan Ivory Wayans’s 2000 Scary Movie (14 days, $157M )
Jordan Peele’s 2017 Get Out (16 days, $175M)
John Singleton’s 2003 2 Fast 2 Furious (17 days, $127M)
Tim Story’s 2014 Ride Along (23 days, $134M)
Clark Johnson’s 2003 S.W.A.T (24 days, ($116M)
Ryan Coogler’s 2015 Creed (38 Days, $109M)
Lee Daniels with 2013 Lee Daniels’ The Butler (46 days, $116M)
Antoine Fuqua’s 2014 The Equalizer (66 days, $101M)
Peter Ramsey’s 2012 Rise of the Guardians (67 days, $103M)
F. Gary Gray’s 2003 The Italian Job (95 days, $106.1M)
Sidney Poitier’s 1980 Stir Crazy took in a domestic total $101.3M but there are no records that show how many days it took to reach that mark. It’s worth noting “Crazy” was the first time a film directed by an African-American earned more than $100 million.
Bronx based writer, Scorpio and pen collector Wilson Morales is the editor of Blackfilm.com and can be reached via his social media:
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