on March 25, Everything everywhere at once was shown on 10 screens in some major North American markets, where it performed spectacularly well, grossing over half a million dollars and grossing over $50,000 per screen. (For comparison, the box office champion of the same week, The Lost City, earned just over $7000 per screen.) This wasn’t particularly surprising. A wildly inventive family drama in the form of a multiverse-spanning action film full of bizarre ideas and excitingly staged martial arts action sequences, Everything everywhere at once had all the makings of an art house hit even before it hit theaters, garnering rave reviews and benefiting from an intriguing marketing campaign from distributor A24, who is no stranger to art house hits. It was also not surprising that as the circulation increased, the film would become more and more successful.
What is What is surprising is how much success it would find. The film will almost certainly surpass the $50 million mark this weekend, in a run that has yet to see a dramatic dip or even a definitive rejuvenation. As a matter of fact, Everything everywhere at once added cinemas last week as it fell just 6%. In short, it was extraordinarily well performed – and it’s not done.
How well? Scott Mendelson reporting for film and box office forbesputs that into perspective by noting that “when it hits the $52 million mark, it goes out of proportion House Gucci at the local box office. That means it will have made more than any of last year’s Oscars releases, except dune.” That means it’s flown past films by Paul Thomas Anderson, Guillermo del Toro, and Steven Spielberg, big (if admittedly underperforming) studio releases with big studio marketing campaigns that hit theaters in the middle of the movie-friendly holiday season.
So what defines success? Everything everywhere at once? It’s hard to pin down, and despite the benefits of good reviews and a savvy distributor, the film’s performance defies conventional wisdom. It is not part of a franchise. Star Michelle Yeoh first rose to fame in the Hong Kong film industry in the 80s and 90s. She is known and loved by many in the West thanks to films like Crouching tiger, hidden dragon and Crazy rich Asians, but her name isn’t a blockbuster. co-star Ke Huy Quan did appearing in some big hits but as a child star in the 80’s when he was in it Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies. Set in the personal parallel universes of Evelyn (Yeoh), a laundromat owner in a strained marriage who has trouble bonding with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), the story defies easy description. The tone shifts from darkly comedic to unabashedly sentimental (touching every point in between). The previous feature film, co-directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, a team known collectively as the “Daniels”, Swiss army man, was warmly received but did not make her a household name. And although Everything everywhere at once is immensely entertaining but also challenging, maintaining a frenetic pace throughout much of its 139-minute running time. “It’s certainly not a movie,” says Mendelson, “that’s meant to be watched while you’re doing chores or playing games on your phone.”
It’s also a very personal film, despite scenes involving sentient rocks and wild martial arts sequences. Kwan has described the film as both an attempt to understand and forgive his parents and a key to recognizing his previously undiagnosed ADHD. The gap in understanding between first- and second-generation Asian Americans is central to her narrative. Dashing from place to place, tone to tone, and dimension to dimension is a reflection of ADHD. “I’m hoping that this film could be part of that kind of awareness, the movement of awareness around that particular mental illness or disability,” Kwan said recently The edge.
How Everything, Everywhere at Once became a Juggernaut
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