Justice League, Daddy’s Home 2 or Wonder.
Those were the choices I gave my 10-year-old nephew last night. It was my night to babysit and we were heading to the movies. He could either see the new superhero movie, a bawdy family comedy, or a children’s novel adaptation which uses the story of a boy with facial deformities and his tough first year in school to teach its audience about the power of inclusion and kindness. My conscience hoped he’d pick the latter, but my more realistic expectation was for him to happily opt for the continued jumbled adventures of sad Batman, uncanny valley Superman and awesome Wonder Woman. He thought about it for a minute before decisively landing on Wonder. “It looks really, really good,” was his simple explanation.
He clearly knew something I didn’t because Wonder, which came off in the trailers as a standard Simon Birch-esque tribute to the human spirit, is astounding, both moving in its depiction of the central boy’s journey (Jacob Tremblay under a lot of prosthetcis) as well as its frequent shifts in points of view to acknowledge the plight of those around him, particularly his chronically overlooked older sister. USA Today’s film critic argued, “This could have been a schmaltzy tale. Instead, it’s a much-needed reminder that kindness exists in this fractured world,” and that’s about right.
The message has clearly spread because our screening was almost completely sold-out, packed to the brim with kids dutifully following the story and offering sporadic laughter, applause, and, of course, tears. There’s this one scene involving the pet…
Point being: Wonder is [sorry about this] wonderful.
And so is its box office. Expected to make a mere $9m-$14m over the weekend, estimates have it actually finishing with $28.3m, which might not seem like much in an age where superhero movies are seen as disappointments for only making $96m in three days. However, you have to remember the scale here. Wonder only cost around $20m to make, and arrives at a time when anything not put out by Disney seriously struggles to attract any real attention. Mid-to-lower-budget non-horror movies that actually make any noise at the box office are supposed to be a dying breed. Yet Wonder somehow came in 213% above expectations.
How’d they do that?
It can’t be as simple as a Twilight/Fault in Our Stars-esque “a lot of people love the book the movie is based on,” can it? That clearly factored in, but it can’t be all of it. After all, ridiculously small sample size and all that, but my nephew didn’t even know there was a book before the movie and he still wanted to see Wonder.
No, but he’d heard about the movie at his school. That’s because according to Deadline Wonder’s distributor, LionsGate, build its marketing campaign around schools and kid-friend companies:
Lionsgate developed and distributed a robust resource guide for third to sixth grade teachers to integrate the movie in their classrooms as a way to teach kindness and inclusion. Over 7,8K teachers have participated to date, including 10K student design projects submitted and 400 classrooms receiving the opportunity to see the movie first with a livestream Q&A with talent Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs, and IzabelaVidovic. GapKids was a major partner and ran a robust content program during back-to-school with custom spots featuring talent Tremblay and author RJ Palacio. Additional key partners, all had kindness or charitable brand overlays, included P&G’s Crest, Visa, HelloFresh, Roma Boots, and Funoogles. Also with each Wonder ticket purchased on Atom Tickets, the mobile app ticket seller is donating $1 to The Children’s Miracle Network Hospital for a maximum donation of $100K.
An additional social media challenge resulted in over 9.5M impressions and participation with film & celebrity talent. Entertainment social media analytics firm RelishMix is impressed by the 101M-plus social media universe built up for Wonder across Twitter, YouTube views, Instagram and Facebook. Since the teaser dropped in May there were 200M cross-platform video views.
As RelishMix observed, “The movie is speaking to parents who have children with any number of physical and/or developmental challenges…There is a lot of heartfelt discussion of how the video materials have been speaking to families and it’s legitimately touching.”
Now, Fandango is reporting larger-than-usual advanced group sales for future screenings of the film, likely due to the number of schools which are organizing field trips to see Wonder. So, while this weekend’s box office total is [again, so sorry about this] truly wonderful the film has the look of the first true sleeper hit of the holiday season.
Thanks, nephew. Thank you for not picking Justice League.