With “Baby Driver,” Hollywood’s all-too-rare bet on an original film is already paying off

A different kind of summer movie.
A different kind of summer movie.
Image: TriStar Pictures/MRC
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With new Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes, and Transformers movies hitting theaters this summer, all of which were adapted from previous sources, Hollywood has proven itself pretty averse to originality.

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is one of the few movies coming out this season that isn’t part of an existing franchise, based on a book or TV show, or inspired by true events. And, thankfully for creative risk-taking, it’s already paid for itself.

The flick from the British director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz opened second behind Despicable Me 3 at the domestic box-office this weekend and fourth globally, with an estimated $36.8 million worldwide from June 28-July 2, according to comScore. That’s more than the $15-20 million the studio and analysts had expected. And it’s more than the $34 million it reportedly cost to make the movie, after rebates.

Baby Driver has been hailed by both fans and critics alike since its debut at South by Southwest in March. It has a stellar 97% fresh critics-rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 91% of viewers on the site enjoyed it. “Featuring a bold and unique directorial point of view from auteur Edgar Wright,” said comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, “the terrific cast including Ansel Elgort as ‘Baby,’ Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Elia Gonzalez clearly thrive within the glow of the cinematic magic being created and the results are amazing.”

The five-day holiday weekend in the US, where Baby Driver made 80% of its money this past week, isn’t over until Tuesday, either. The movie could overthrow Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to become Wright’s highest grossing title in the country, when the holiday is done. Globally, Hot Fuzz is the Wright’s biggest movie.

Baby Driver is his first since the British filmmaker dropped out of making Marvel’s Ant-Man in 2014 over creative differences. It’s a co-production from Sony’s TriStar Pictures and the independent film and TV studio Media Rights Capital (MRC).

Not only does the heist-opera, written and directed by Wright, have an utterly fun and original screenplay that finds a young getaway driver (Elgort), who drives to his own epic soundtrack, roped into an ill-fated heist. It was conceived as a standalone movie. In that sense, Wright did something that’s increasingly rare in film; he made one movie, as best as he could, rather than using it to set up a larger franchise.

Baby Driver could prove the case for more original movies in Hollywood, as Jordan Peele’s satirical horror flick Get Out helped do earlier this year at the same time as Netflix is becoming a home for original ideas. It could also persuade more major studios to place bets on titles that don’t have the franchise potential of the superhero genre, but can still turn a healthy profit.

(Of course, never say never to a Baby Driver sequel. Top Gun is getting a follow up, more than 30 years after its debut.)