'The Meg' Is a Surprise Box-Office Monster

‘The Meg’ Is a Surprise Box-Office Monster

Warner Bros. backed “The Meg” with a campy marketing campaign, a strategy that can be risky.CreditWarner Bros. Pictures

LOS ANGELES — Going into the weekend, “The Meg” looked like a big, fat belly flop for Warner Bros.

Surveys indicated minimal interest in the killer shark movie, which cost at least $200 million to make and market. Rival studios snickered that Warner’s new marketing chief had made a rookie mistake in backing “The Meg” with a campy ad campaign: Make a joke of your own noncomedic movie, the Hollywood conventional wisdom holds, and ticket buyers will stay home.

Guess who is getting the last laugh? “The Meg,” a brassy, brainless, computer-generated mishmash, took in $44.5 million at North American theaters — roughly 120 percent more than most analysts had expected. “The Meg” collected an additional $97 million overseas, with China contributing half of that total.

“The Meg” was co-financed and co-produced by Gravity Pictures, a Chinese company, and designed to sell tickets in China. The movie co-stars a Chinese actress, Li Bingbing, and the 70-foot shark at its center threatens a crowded Chinese beach in one action sequence. “The Meg” stars Jason Statham and was directed by Jon Turteltaub, whose last big-budget movie was the 2010 flop “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

Spike Lee directed Topher Grace and Adam Driver on the set of “BlacKkKlansman.”CreditDavid Lee/Focus Features

“The Meg” represents an important success for Blair Rich, who took over as Warner’s president of worldwide marketing in April amid a broader management shake-up at the studio, which is now owned by AT&T and has struggled with whipsawing box-office results in recent years. Ms. Rich and her team took a risk in advertising “The Meg” as a joke — winking at potential ticket buyers with a campy trailer starring a Yorkie with a pink bow and featuring silly music. Its tagline: “Pleased to Eat You.”

[Our critic thought “The Meg” was no “Sharknado.” Read her review.]

Second place for the weekend in the United States and Canada went to “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (Paramount), which took in about $20 million, for a new global total of $438 million, according to comScore, which compiles box-office data. “Christopher Robin” (Disney) was third, collecting an estimated $12.4 million, for a new global total of $62.1 million.

Arriving in fourth place was “Slender Man” (Sony), a poorly reviewed horror movie that cost about $10 million to make and sold $11.3 million in tickets.

Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” (Focus Features) was fifth. Opening-weekend ticket sales for the euphorically reviewed film, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in May, totaled roughly $10.8 million — the best result for a film by Mr. Lee in more than a decade. “BlacKkKlansman,” backed by Blumhouse Productions, was booked into 1,512 theaters. To compare, “The Meg” played in 4,118.

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