Following its success with the highest grossing R-rated comedy of the year, “Bad Moms,” young studio STX Entertainment will mark its eighth theatrical release this weekend with the well-reviewed coming-of-age dramedy “The Edge of Seventeen.”
Just more than two years since the young media company launched, with a television division, growing investments in virtual reality, a merchandizing team, and, of course, its film unit. As of now, STX is currently No. 8 in terms of box office market share — just behind Lionsgate.
That’s not bad for a fledgling film unit that has only released five titles so far this year. (That’s 17 less than Lionsgate.) If we were the grading types, we’d give it a B+.
“The Edge of Seventeen” stars Hailee Steinfeld as a curmudgeonly high schooler with a sharp wit, and also features Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick. It has a stellar 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — with critics making comparisons to John Hughes classics “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles.”
Modestly budgeted at $9 million, the movie is expected to open to $10 million this weekend. Those are far from “Fantastic Beast” numbers — the Warner Bros. tentpole is expected to open higher than $70 million — but it’s another sign of vitality for the young studio.
STX didn’t have as much luck with the Matthew McConaughey Civil War movie “Free State of Jones.” Made for a reported $50 million, the summer release earned less than $24 million and wound up losing money (though STX’s own risk came in lower than $10 million, as it was offset by other outside investors).
“Bad Moms” STX looks to be bouncing back, thanks to critical praise and reasonably good projections for “The Edge of Seventeen,” plus the success of “Bad Moms,” which has earned nearly $180 million worldwide.
Its film division is led by Adam Fogelson, who told TheWrap the company is sticking with its original strategy of making mid-budget movies with big-name talent.
“We are focused on star-driven movies we think are great within their genre… films we believe we can sell with a completely sound and fiscally responsible business plan,” he said.
Early successes include the mystery thriller “The Gift,” one of best-reviewed movies of its genre of 2015. Both “The Gift” and this year’s scary movie “The Boy” came in on the high end of box office compared with similar movies of their kind. And “Bad Moms” was the first R-rated comedy to get an A CinemaScore — graded by opening-night audiences — since the original “Hangover” movie.
Fogelson said “Bad Moms” exemplifies the STX model and is “the prototype for the films we have going forward.”
STX is tripling down on the success of “Bad Moms,” by greenlighting a spinoff movie currently titled “Bad Dads,” with plans for many more spinoffs. There’s also a soon-to-be announced reality TV show inspired by the film, and also a product line. (Remember the bit about the mom bra? It is among the many aspects of the female-driven comedy that have inspired the company’s merchandizing unit).
Starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn and Christina Appelgate, “Bad Moms” catered to “the vastly underserved female audience,” said Exhibitor Relations senior analyst Jeff Bock. “Which is why ‘Bad Dads’ is such a head scratcher.”
“Producing a sequel and expanding the brand is one thing, but rushing a spin-off could do more damage to the brand than good,” he told TheWrap. “Especially if the focus is now on males, which most comedies already cater to,” he added.
TheWrap has learned that “Dads,” along with the whole suite of “Bad Moms”-inspired offerings will in fact be geared to its original core audience of women.
“We are enormously proud of what we have accomplished in a very short period of time,” added Fogelson. Before moving to STX, he greenlit Universal hits including, “Ted,” “Bridesmaids,” and “Identity Thief.”
Up next from STX on Dec. 16 is the young adult sci-fi drama “The Space Between Us,” starring Asa Butterfield. Then there’s the horror movie “Bye Bye Man,” coming out in January.
Also upcoming is a Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan action thriller “The Foreigner,” and the Aaron Sorkin drama “Molly’s Game,” starring Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba and Kevin Costner . STX is also partnering with Amazon Studios on “American Express,” an action comedy featuring Thandie Newton, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, and Joel Edgerton (whose brother Nash will direct.)
STX has a future slate of movies in development that includes a wide array of genres — though they are heavy on action and comedy.
The studio gained international distribution rights to the Martin Scorsese drama “The Irishman,” slated for 2018 — a prestige play which could also parlay into some solid box office. (Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” earned nearly $400 million worldwide).
STX is also working on the Action drama “Den of Thieves,” which re-teams star Gerard Butler with his “London Has Fallen” writer Christian Gudegast, who is also directing). “London is Falling” made 68 percent of its nearly $200 million grosses overseas — mostly in China. STX is looking to replicate that success.
A Sylvester Stallone action movie called “Godforsaken” is also in the works, as well as a Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman comedy, “Significant Other.” “Sing Street” and “Once” director John Carney will direct Will Ferrell and Josh Gad in a comedy about the making of the 1970 Russ Meyer cult classic film “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” Music will be a centerpiece, but it won’t be a musical.
The studio also plans a crime comedy starring Jamie Foxx; the romantic comedy “Septillion to One”; and a horror movie, another action thriller and also an untitled Adam Sandler animated feature — plus an “Ugly Dolls” animated film.
“I think STX has a solid strategy: Dip your toes in every genre, keep overhead low and stay diversified,” said Bock. “Prestige films, like Scorsese’s, will undoubtedly keep luring top tier-talent to the fledgling studio.”
But he added: “$100 million hits pay the bills and pave the way to longevity. ‘Bad Moms’ can’t be a one-off for the studio. It needs to be a consistent and achievable that outcome with regularity.”
“The Edge of Seventeen” probably won’t be hugely profitable, he said. But that’s okay.
“Unfortunately it will be completely lost in the media blitzkrieg of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ this weekend,” he said. “Still, it’s nice to see this type of film being given a studio’s full support.”