With Jordan Peele’s “Us,” Hollywood’s too-rare bet on original film has more than paid off

“Us” is a win for originality in Hollywood.
“Us” is a win for originality in Hollywood.
Image: Universal via EPK
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Jordan Peele’s horror film Us landed in US theaters this weekend. It’s already a hit.

The eerie film, about a family whose pleasant beach vacation takes a turn when they are stalked by dangerous doppelgängers, marked the biggest debut for an original horror film, bringing in an estimated $70 million at the North American box office during its opening weekend. The film crushed the $50 million opening-weekend haul of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place from 2018. It, based on the Stephen King novel, still holds the biggest weekend for a horror film overall.

Us’s smashing debut isn’t just a win for originality in the horror genre, but in Hollywood overall. Us has the second-biggest opening of the year, after Captain Marvel. The horror film even outperformed the North American openings of superhero movies like 2015’s Ant-Man, adjusted for inflation, which cost about six times as much as Us to make, as well as last year’s Aquaman. It goes to show that with the right director and idea, an original movie can be as successful as a franchise film.

Expectations were high for Us, following Peele’s 2017 social-horror hit Get Out, which won the Oscar for best original screenplay and was nominated for the ceremony’s top award, Best Picture. Audiences flocked to US theaters this weekend to see what else the uncanny mind of Peele had in store for them. Us is nothing like Get Out; it’s a true horror title that is entirely its own. But that is part of what critics and audiences lauded about the film, after it made its world premiere at SXSW earlier this month.

Us cost an estimated $20 million to produce—about $15 million more than Get Out—which afforded a talented cast led by Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Elisabeth Moss, as well as some popular songs you’ll probably never think about the same way again after hearing them in Us. The studio usually takes about 30% to 70% of the ticket sales from a film. Let’s split the difference here and call it 50%. That’d be about $35 million—more than enough to cover the production costs as well as a healthy marketing campaign.

It’s likely already paid off for studios Universal and Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions. And the theatrical run for Us has only just begun. Get Out, which opened with $33 million in 2017went on to generate more than $176 million domestically and another $79 million abroad.