Anime against A24; or, The Box Office of Vibes

Indie film studio/distributor A24 turns 10 this year, so there’s been a whole bunch of retrospectives and lists and thoughts on what it all means. (One of my favorite sites, Vulture, has published at less four such parts in those last weeks.) I won’t argue that all of these lists drastically underestimate A24’s best picture, under the silver lakebut I want to emphasize one thing: despite all the talk about the success of A24, they are not really this successful, at least in the narrow, monetary sense.

This does not mean that A24 does not make interesting films or good films. Damn, my two favorite movies of the year so far—Everything everywhere all at once and Body Body Body—are A24 films. At least two A24 films—under the silver lake and The witch— would have made my best of the decade list if I had made one for the 2010s. Even when their images don’t entirely work, like movies like Lamb and The green knight didn’t entirely work, distributor versions usually get points with your humble narrator for, at least, being interesting.

But A24 has struggled to expand its brand beyond cool kids on the coasts and into the general public. I think about this graph of A24’s top-grossing domestic photos, which is a weird but true thing to type. But here’s some recent news that kind of crystallized how A24 outperforms its coverage: Dragon Ball Super: Super heroesOpening weekend gross would make it the 10th highest-grossing A24 film of all time.

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Indeed, the folks at Funimation and Crunchyroll have created their own little animated subculture of anime fans and, importantly, figured out how to activate them and get them to show up at the movies. Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie opened to $14.8 million and grossed nearly $30 million; demon slayer shocked the box office by opening at $21 million and grossing nearly $50 million in 2021. Dragon Ball Super: Broly made nearly $30 million in total in 2019, which would put it just ahead of best picture winner Moonlight for fifth place on this A24 list.

What I’m saying is not necessarily that Crunchyroll should get similar coverage, although I think it’s one of the most interesting and upbeat stories at the box office in an age filled with interesting stories and downbeat box office stories. What I mean is that despite all the great work A24 does and all the press they get, they still punch below their weight class in terms of real audience appeal. They haven’t yet seen success in the sense of, say, Miramax—the last independent distributor whose name is widely recognized and which aspires to awards—and I don’t really know why.

The vibrations are excellent. Why aren’t ticket sales so good?

This week I saw again Three thousand years of nostalgia, a story about stories that reminds us of the importance of stories as a means of ordering our existence. There is a thread in the film that I haven’t really deciphered – maybe I will do it elsewhere and elsewhere – which has to do with the passage of stories to science as a means of understanding life, and how science cannotreally explain the world to us. Or, at least, can’t give us the meaning we crave.

About ATMA this week we watched Dragon House and She-Hulk and tried to figure out what is worth your time. And on the members-only bonus episodewe discussed some more game of thronesand if it can be the kind of culturally unifying event we sorely miss these days.

Speaking of Dragon HouseHBO has already renewed for a second season Next news that 20 million people have watched the first between linear, streaming and on-demand viewing. That’s a very large number!

Nehme’s Farran Smith deep dive in the urban legend that has sprung up around John Wayne’s reaction to Sacheen Littlefeather’s speech at the 1973 Oscars is definitely worth watching. Did Duke have to be stopped by six security guards from doing violence to Littlefeather while she was giving her speech? All the signs say “Uh, no, almost certainly not”.

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I’m a bit fascinated by the all the drama surrounding don’t worry darlingfrom the supposed tension between director Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh to Shia LaBeouf’s receipts proving he wasn’t “fired” from the film for upsetting the vibes on set, as Wilde claimed.

It’s been a tough few months for free speech in America and abroad, so I hope you listen to my podcast with PEN America’s Summer Lopez on the attacks on freedom of expression, both literal and legal, currently underway.

MoviePass is back! What a stupid idea.

I threw this away for 30 minutes after writing my Three thousand years of nostalgia review last night and it really is a remarkably dynamic film. Just crackling with energy. That George Miller knows how to make a film!

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