ʻThe Emoji Movieʼ Starts Strong as ʻDunkirkʼ Stays at No. 1

El Dorado News-Times - - Fun & Games -

LOS AN­GE­LES — The dis­con­nect be­tween Hol­ly­wood's taste and that of the masses has rarely been more sharply drawn as it was over the week­end, as the stylish "Atomic Blonde" sput­tered and "The Emoji Movie" pushed past hor­ri­fied crit­ics to be­come a box of­fice suc­cess.

The No. 1 movie in North Amer­ica was again Christo­pher Nolan's so­phis­ti­cated "Dunkirk" (Warner Bros.), which col­lected an es­ti­mated $28.1 mil­lion, for a two-week do­mes­tic to­tal of $102.8 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to comS­core. "Dunkirk" has ben­e­fited from strong turnout at Imax the­aters and other cine­mas of­fer­ing premium-priced, large-for­mat screen­ings.

But "The Emoji Movie" (Sony) was an un­ex­pect­edly close sec­ond. To dou­ble takes in Hol­ly­wood, that an­i­mated film took in about $25.7 mil­lion. Sony is now on a box of­fice roll fol­low­ing stel­lar re­sults ear­lier this sum­mer for "Baby Driver" and "Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing." (The next hur­dle for the stu­dio: "The Dark Tower," which ar­rives on Fri­day.)

Sony spent about $50 mil­lion to make "The Emoji Movie." Most an­i­mated movies cost at least $85 mil­lion.

Crit­ics hated "The Emoji Movie," which had an 8 per­cent pos­i­tive score on Rot­ten To­ma­toes, the re­view-ag­gre­ga­tion site, as of Sun­day. The movie is about an emoji named Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) who lives in a teenager's phone and is con­sid­ered a glitch be­cause of his ver­sa­tile emo­tional abil­i­ties. He sets out to be­come a sim­ple "meh" emoji like his par­ents.

Ri­val stu­dios have spent the sum­mer mock­ing Sony for back­ing "The Emoji Movie" with a full-throated mar­ket­ing cam­paign, in­clud­ing a stunt at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in­volv­ing a para­sail­ing ac­tor, con­fetti and peo­ple in emoji cos­tumes. Surely, sniffed the film elite, Sony was delu­sional if it thought it could make some­thing out of such dreck.

But never un­der­es­ti­mate two things — the taste of the Amer­i­can pub­lic, to para­phrase H.L. Mencken, and the nag fac­tor. Sony plas­tered a hand­ful of cities with "Emoji Movie" posters and bill­boards start­ing in May, much ear­lier than is typ­i­cal, to po­si­tion the film as a sum­mer event and get chil­dren to start pes­ter­ing their par­ents to go see it. Sony also spent months dis­patch­ing ac­tors in emoji cos­tumes.

"We fo­cused on giv­ing th­ese char­ac­ters a per­son­al­ity -- make them go from an emoji to some­thing di­men­sion­al­ized you want to go on a jour­ney with," Josh Green­stein, Sony's pres­i­dent of world­wide mar­ket­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion, said by phone Sun­day.

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