At a time when demand for diversity in Hollywood has reached a fever pitch, Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler made box office history this past weekend. They became the first black directors to release films with $100 million-plus budgets that finished in the top two spots at the weekend box office, as “Black Panther” and “A Wrinkle in Time” combined to make $74 million.
But while DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s novel has that achievement under its belt, “A Wrinkle in Time” is still facing an uphill battle for box office success. It only made $33 million in its opening weekend against a $103 million budget, and has made just under $42 million worldwide with a slow overseas rollout still to come. If the film shows the same performance as “Tomorrowland,” another Disney release that opened to $33 million in 2015, it’s looking at a final total of only $200-250 million.
But there is one possible path to better numbers for “Wrinkle,” and that lies in the audience that DuVernay crafted her movie’s message for: the youth, and especially girls.
While overall reception to “Wrinkle in Time” has been mediocre with a 42 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and a B on CinemaScore, women under 25 polled by CinemaScore on opening night gave the film an A-. Meanwhile, on comScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, 79 percent of women under 25 polled gave the film a positive score. That demographic comprised 33 percent of the total audience, followed by 24 percent being women over 25.
Even if “Wrinkle In Time” isn’t getting the widespread interest and adoration from moviegoers as “Black Panther,” it still seems to have struck a chord with kids, which is what Disney hoped for when they put the film in this release slot. Though it’s sharing theater space with the still in-demand “Black Panther,” Disney put “Wrinkle” out in early March to draw in family audiences during spring break. The studio has been able to attract kids on school break quite well recently, with “Zootopia” and the “Beauty and the Beast” remake making a combined $845 million domestically from their March releases.
“With a film like [Wrinkle in Time’] we really wanted to take advantage of this spring break window, which rolls all the way through Easter,” said Disney distribution head Dave Hollis. “It’s a story with a really inspirational message and heroes that we believe kids can really connect with.”
If family and female audiences show up, “Wrinkle in Time” could hang tough on the charts like “The Greatest Showman” did in January. Fox’s circus musical was slow out of the gate going against recognized titles like “Star Wars” and “Jumanji,” but has been able to make more money domestically than “La La Land” thanks to strong word of mouth in later weeks.
“Sometimes a movie ends up surprising us by finding an audience even though it doesn’t have the pre-release buzz or the reviews behind it,” said comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian. “There’s been a lot of talk about movies having characters that all people can identity with, and ‘Wrinkle In Time’ might be able to strike a chord.”
But Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock is not optimistic about the film’s hopes. He notes that unlike “The Greatest Showman,” which could take advantage of renewed interest in musicals thanks to “La La Land” and “Hamilton,” “Wrinkle In Time” is a YA novel adaptation, a genre that has struggled lately at the box office.
“For a movie with this big a budget it needs to have a lot more interest to turn a profit,” Bock said. “And with ‘Sherlock Gnomes’ coming out next week, the really young kids are going to be more interested in that, and I don’t know if there’s going to be enough interest among older kids to sustain the film long-term.”
The target for “Wrinkle In Time” this weekend is $16 million, which would be roughly half of its opening total. If it can clear that mark, then it may be able to stick around for the long haul at movie theaters this Easter season.