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