Why OCEAN’S 8 Is A Hit And SOLO Isn’t, Despite Box Office Numbers That Say The Opposite (ANALYSIS)

Oceans_Solo

One film can open to over $100 million and be the #1 movie for two weeks running yet be considered a disaster, while another can open to $41 million and be considered a hit.

The difference between the two isn’t relative: it’s budget.

When it’s all said and done, Solo will have made more money and been seen by more people than Ocean’s 8 – and enjoyed a higher Rotten Tomato critic score average than the heist comedy, too – but it’s the female franchise reboot that’s more likely to garner sequels.

Why? Because it cost $70 million to make compared to Solo’s $250 million (and that’s before marketing costs).

Consequently, the box office media analysis of Ocean’s 8 deems it “a victory” with “a solid debut”. These are the same pundits that have just finished a two-week run of think-piecing all of the reasons why Solo is an abject failure, despite significantly higher receipts and better audience Cinemascore than what Ocean’s 8 grifted.

By every audience metric, Solo is the bigger success.

Pointing this out isn’t to diminish Ocean’s 8 and how well it’s been received. It’s a point made to gain some perspective on how we think about box office beyond traditional patterns that lack nuance.

The box office conversation needs to evolve and, in baseball parlance, be moneyballed. In other words, there’s a need to dig deeper than the typical binary results so as to create a more accurate picture and, possibly, a better product moving forward.

For example, compare Solo also to this spring’s breakout A Quiet Place, the horror thriller that went on to gross around $185 million on a budget of $17 million. It’s hailed as one of the year’s biggest blockbuster sensations, as something that tapped into the cultural zeitgeist, even while the Han origin – which will finish with more money and ticket sales – has Lucasfilm in the midst of some serious soul-searching.

Judging the hard box office numbers in a vacuum, Solo‘s getting a short shrift, but in the budgetary context there’s a more complex “teachable moment” to be had with Solo than the knee-jerk pile that’s been going on.

Bottom line: if budgets were unknown, we’d be having a very different conversation. 

Yet even with the budgets being publicized, some would argue that Solo‘s purported lack of success should be blamed on a studio that couldn’t manage its finances and production properly, not on ticket sales or actual audience reactions that are comparable to or even better than these other unqualified hits.

That would be the basis for a more intelligent conversation.

If media and box office pundits were more interested in thoughtful analysis than in crafting hyperbolic narratives that tear down easy targets, what we’d end up seeing are more reasoned takes of what Solo reveals to us, including the fact that Lucasfilm is actually sitting on a potential gold mine of mid-range budgeted Star Wars stories, especially if they’re launched within release windows that don’t come in the wake of two giant Marvel tentpoles.

Most importantly, don’t let the Hollywood trades and blogosphere echo chamber convince you into thinking that the movie you and many of your friends just saw and thoroughly enjoyed is somehow a dud. It’s not. The studio simply spent too many resources delivering it to you, and that’s on them.

4 thoughts on “Why OCEAN’S 8 Is A Hit And SOLO Isn’t, Despite Box Office Numbers That Say The Opposite (ANALYSIS)

  1. It’s not just that the two films have different budgets. Both films are spin-offs of existing franchises, so each film’s box-office performance will look good or bad depending on how it compares to the box-office performances of the other films within its franchise. And as it happens, Solo will likely have the worst box-office performance of any live-action Star Wars movie in almost 40 years (and that’s before adjusting for inflation!), whereas Ocean’s 8 just had the best opening weekend of its own franchise (though that’s before you take into account a decade-plus of inflation plus the fact that the earlier films didn’t have Thursday-night previews boosting their opening-weekend numbers; still, even with all of that taken into account, Ocean’s 8 opened in the same basic range as the first three films — and without any of the stars of those films, to boot!).

    1. Comparing within a franchise is certainly also a factor in how a franchise movie is judged an analyzed, no doubt, and that’s entirely fair, but comparing to how other movies generally perform is also fair, which brings me back to my fundamental point that there needs to be a wider, more complex, aka “moneyballed” analysis than just one perspective or another. Indeed, I think Ocean’s 8 is actually a great example of what I’m trying to get at. Adjusted for inflation it’s not as “successful” as the original Ocean’s trilogy, but the success of it *right now* still communicates valuable lessons (particularly as it relates to franchises), primarily that a familiar property with star power (even if it’s not the original stars) done on a mid-range budget is a good formula for success.

      1. Sure.

        Incidentally, I think another factor is how a film compares to other films featuring the same actors.

        Solo doesn’t really have any movie stars except for Woody Harrelson, and he’s in a supporting role here (just as he was in the Hunger Games and Apes movies), so it’s hard to make that sort of comparison. (Though it bears mentioning that Solo will fall well, well behind all four Hunger Games movies in North America, and it will probably fall behind War for the Planet of the Apes worldwide, too.)

        But in Ocean’s 8’s case? That film had the second-best opening of any live-action Sandra Bullock movie (behind the special-effects extravaganza Gravity — which, interestingly, paired her with her Ocean’s “brother” George Clooney!), and it had the best opening of any live-action Cate Blanchett film that wasn’t an effects-heavy fantasy involving Hobbits, superheroes, Disney princesses or Indiana Jones.

        So, Ocean’s 8 looks good in those terms, too.

        1. As I mentioned in my review of OCEAN’S 8 (in which my primary gripe was Gary Ross’s bland, generic directorial workmanship), I’d love to see OCEAN’S 9 directed by George Clooney and also have them snag Julia Roberts to come back as Tess to team up (or clash) with her sister-in-law Debbie.

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