Can ‘Hustlers’ Become STX’s Biggest Box Office Hit to Date?

After strong Toronto reviews, Lorene Scafaria’s crime film will try to stand out in a crowded fall movie market

"Hustlers" / STX

After a big start to 2019 with “The Upside,” STX has faced months of headlines regarding their financial future. But after their newest film, “Hustlers,” premiered in Toronto to rave reviews this past weekend, the studio might see its fortune turn around with what could be its biggest box office hit to date.

Right now, the top film on STX’s all-time box office charts is the 2016 comedy “Bad Moms,” which opened in late July to $23.8 million and legged out to a $113 million domestic run. Independent trackers have “Hustlers” beating out that opening weekend with a $25-28 million launch from 3,250 screens, with STX projecting a start on the lower end of that range. The film has a $20 million budget.

The big challenge for “Hustlers” will be attracting millennial audiences, particularly women, as “It: Chapter Two” enters its second weekend. The WB horror film is expected to stay No. 1 this weekend, and the worst-case scenario for “Hustlers” is that strong reviews and word of mouth aren’t enough to win over younger audiences more interested in a sequel to a popular hit.

But “Hustlers” does have another advantage besides solid Toronto reviews: a cast with a strong social media presence. STX isn’t able to pony up the huge marketing budgets of its legacy studio brethren, so it makes up for it by assembling lead stars and an ensemble cast that can promote its films to millions of followers.

This was a factor in the success of “The Upside,” STX’s first-ever No. 1 release, as lead star Kevin Hart heavily promoted the film on social media and helped increase interest among younger moviegoers, while co-star Bryan Cranston helped sell the film to older ones. “The Upside” grossed $108 million domestically, taking advantage of a sparse early-year slate.

In lieu of Hart, “Hustlers” has a loaded cast of women led by Jennifer Lopez and featuring stars popular on social media like Lizzo and Cardi B, both of whom have been at work hyping up the film. To have the same endurance at the box office that “Bad Moms” and “The Upside” had, “Hustlers” will have to bring fans of these women into theaters early to build up word of mouth that can last even against a crowded October slate.

“The good news for STX is that ‘It: Chapter Two’ has been less driven by female demographics than other horror films,” Box office analyst Shawn Robbins told TheWrap. “The films in the coming weeks are also mainly aimed for men like ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ and ‘Joker,’ so there’s room for ‘Hustlers’ to stand out.”

While “It” has proven that a big hit can come out in September, it still remains to be seen whether there are enough people interested in going to the movies in this post-summer season to support multiple successes. STX will be hoping that one of their most critically acclaimed films to date can prove that.

Based on the New York Magazine article “The Hustlers at Scores,” “Hustlers” tells the true story of a group of strippers led by single mother Dorothy (Constance Wu) and pole-dancing veteran Ramona (Lopez) who decide to seduce and steal from Wall Street’s sleaziest men after the 2008 financial collapse. Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B also star in the film, which is directed and written by Lorene Scafaria. Lopez produced the film with Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jessica Elbaum and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Also releasing this weekend is Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch,” the film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a young man named Theo (Ansel Elgort) who lost his mother in a museum bombing when he was 13 and falls into a world of crime.

Directed by John Crowley, “The Goldfinch” premiered in Toronto this past weekend with the hopes of potential awards buzz. But unlike “Hustlers,” critics have mostly panned the film with a 26% score on Rotten Tomatoes. As a result, moviegoer interest hasn’t risen over the past few days and projections are currently set at a $9-10 million opening.