Girls Trip has scored a win this weekend, taking second-place at the box office and landing the biggest opening weekend for any live-action comedy thus far in 2017. Girls Trip came in behind Dunkirk, a World War II thriller by Christopher Nolan, which earned $50.5 milion.
What makes that particularly interesting is that Girls Trip managed it without appealing to white men.
According to the Toronto Sun, Girls Trip, a buddy comedy film from Universal starring Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah, pulled in an audience that was 79 percent female and 59 percent black. Half of the viewers were under 30. Also significantly, viewers gave the film an A+ CinemaScore, which no other major release in 2017 earned, suggesting that Girls Trip will have significant longevity at the box office. Dunkirk, by comparison, came in at A-. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Wonder Woman, all major box office successes this year, all earned As.
Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for comScore, called Girls Trip “a perfectly counter-programmed box office surprise.” He said that the movie broke the “R-rated comedy curse” plaguing 2017, citing flops like Baywatch, Snatched, and Rough Night. Universal said that Girls Trip resonated with audiences. Universal’s president of domestic distribution, Nick Carpou, added that he didn’t feel that audiences had lost their taste for comedy, they were just, in his opinion, “waiting for something funny to come along.”
“One of the great things about this comedy is that it’s really funny.”
Girls Trip, according to Complex, is about a group of former college girlfriends meeting up for the first time in five years, heading to New Orleans for the Essence Festival, an annual music festival primarily celebrating African-American music. Haddish plays Dina, a wild party girl. Along for the trip are Ryan (Regina Hall), a workaholic self-help author, Sasha (Queen Latifah), a gossip blogger, and Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), a prudish mother-of-two. Hilarity, as they say, ensues.
Producer Will Packer called the film a Hangover for black women, saying that he came up with the idea when attending Essence in 2013 with his wife. Packer says that Girls Trip faced a lot of obstacles in Hollywood, as a story about women of color.
“There were a lot of roadblocks and a lot of pitching and convincing, because we were asking people to invest tens of millions of dollars into a project that hadn’t ever been done before.”
That said, Packer has an impressive resume, including Moonlight, which won three Oscars and was nominated for five more earlier in the year. He brought on comedy veteran Malcolm D. Lee as director. The pair then brought on Black-ish’s Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver as writers.
All agreed that authenticity was important; Girls Trip had to be more than another raunchy comedy.
“Black women have an added layer of respectability politics that white writers don’t have to worry about,” said Oliver. “I have a raunchy sensibility… [but] in the back of my mind, I did sometimes say I think this is funny, but will it make black women look bad?”
“But we have the right to be as crazy and as wild as white characters get to be.”
And in spite of the concerns, Packer’s idea paid off. Girls Trip might just be the most successful comedy of 2017, and there’s a lot of hope riding on Girls Trip‘s success. But the film has already surpassed its $27.7 million budget, opening more than $5 million ahead of forecasts, and Packer is optimistic that it will continue to surpass expectations. He hopes that the success of Girls Trip will leave behind a model that other filmmakers can point to when pitching similar movies — with similar casts — in the future.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images]