The Boss Baby was able to overthrow the Disney epic Beauty and the Beast and got the number 1 spot this weekend with an estimated $49 million. The Boss Baby vastly over preformed pre-release industry expectations. Beauty and the Beast waltzed out of the number 1 spot with $47.5 million. Ghost in the Shell brought in an estimated $19 million, which is below industry expectations. Perhaps they need to adjust their expectations, because stars are no longer reliable at the box office.
The audience was 61% male and 39% female. When compared to Scarlett Johansson’s previous post-Marvel solo gig, Lucy, which debuted a $43.8 million, that film had a 50% female audience. What could be surmised from this detail is that Ghost in the Shell may not have been advertised to female audiences, images of the sexualized ScarJo may have deterred female filmgoers or perhaps women cared more about the whitewashing, but that is all speculation at this point. The ethnicity demographic breakdown has yet to be released.
“Lucy was also an R-rated feature compared to Ghost in the Shell’s PG-13 adding to a case that could be made suggesting the action genre may not have to depend as much on the more audience-friendly PG-13 rating. Recent films such as Lucy, Deadpool; John Wick and it’s sequel and Logan (just to name a few) have proven there are more than enough moviegoers ready to fill the seats for well made, R-rated genre actioners. As a matter of comparison, not only will it be interesting to track the final results for Ghost in the Shell opposite Johansson’s Lucy, but as well to the upcoming release of Atomic Blonde, a hard-R actioner led by Charlize Theron that has already wowed festival audiences and the CinemaCon crowd this past week ahead of its late July release.”
Ghost in the Shell’s international box office was not impressive either. From 50 international markets it pulled in an estimated $40.1 million. The film has yet to open in Japan and China. Japan will be interesting, through out the controversy many touted that the people of Japan did not care about the whitewashing, let’s see how that translate into the box office. Ghost in the Shell is a Japanese property; it was created in Japan, by Japanese people, and for a Japanese audience. Much of the new film keeps that origin intact, perhaps the people of Japan will come out to support their beloved franchise.
The worldwide total is currently at $59.1 million; Ghost in the Shell must make double, preferably triple, its budget and more to be considered a success. The budget, not including ad spending or the press tour, is at $110 million.
Let us take a look at the previous controversial film The Great Wall, lead by Hollywood leading man Matt Damon. In it’s opening weekend it was beat by The Lego Batman Movie and Fifty Shades Darker, which were in their second week. The Great Wall brought in an estimated $21 million. This film was also majority male, 59% male and 41% female. The film was made on a $150 million budget and it currently garnered $330 million worldwide. Although it made back it’s budget, it did not make enough to satisfy investors.
Power Rangers had the worst drop in the top 10, but it served as an important lesson. The film opened with $40 million. The film, compared to Ghost in the Shell appears both trivial and childish, however, this diverse cast of unknowns and untested talent brought in a bigger opening. Had the film not had any diversity, it would surly have not materialized at the box office. The film had positive buzz about the diversity, 4 of the 5 characters were not Caucasian, one character was on the spectrum, one character is queer, and all characters were not racially stereotyped and were well received by audiences and critics. Now, had the film been based on property that appealed to a wider demographic, like Ghost in the Shell, the box office numbers would have surly been stellar. What ruined Ghost in the Shell was the whitewashing. The film by all accounts is an enjoyable action flick, faithful to the original in some regards, and perhaps dumbed down slightly for western audiences. This film should have been a success: a strong and complicated female lead, a diverse supporting cast, beautiful cinematography, and competent directing. However, had the main character been cast with an Asian actress, or perhaps an actress of another race, the film would not be shrouded with controversy, and audiences would have showed up to the theatres. There should be no doubt in anyones mind that the whitewashing is what lead to this films demise.
Both Power Rangers and Ghost in the Shell have yet to release in their country of origin, it will be interesting to see what film gets the attention of the Japanese people, it will also be interesting to see what film China’s box office will boost. Ghost will have a month head start in China, and a couple months in Japan.
What’s done is done. Paramount and Scarlett Johansson must accept this situation, and perhaps be wiser in the future. Whitewashing or white saviours will no longer be tolerated at the box office. Films that attempt to be more inclusive and diverse tend to get a boost at the box office. In the future studios should look to LucasFilms (Rogue One) or Universal (Fast and the Furious) and attempt to lean on diversity to guarantee big box office numbers. The greater number of people represented will increase the audience numbers. More representation = positive buzz = more money.
For more on the affects of whitewashing please read Asian-Americans Exist!