‘The Fall Guy’ Is Trying to Become a Box Office Hit the Way Hollywood Films Used To

Last summer, Universal was able to turn a three-hour film about nuclear weapons into a global cinematic event thanks to the drawing power of Christopher Nolan. As summer 2024 begins, can it do the same with “The Fall Guy” and the star power of Ryan Gosling?

The Comcast studio is certainly showing it believes that it can with how much is being invested in this 87North action romcom directed by David Leitch and also starring Emily Blunt. Filled with car chases, explosions and fight scenes, “The Fall Guy” is a film that puts every dollar of its reported $125 million budget onscreen.

Universal has also put in a full-scale marketing campaign to raise awareness for the film, which is taking the May release slot usually held by Marvel Studios but which was abandoned this year due to strike-releated production delays.

But so far, the box office tracking is suggesting that all that marketing isn’t doing much to attract audiences at a higher level than what 87North action films usually earn. Current projections have the film earning an opening weekend of around $30 million, which is what Leitch’s last film, “Bullet Train,” opened to in August 2022.

Some rival studios believe “The Fall Guy” can stretch out to an opening in the $35-40 million range, but that still leaves the film needing to earn substantial returns from overseas markets and to leg out well in the coming weeks against the likes of “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” and “Furiosa.”

What’s noteworthy about “The Fall Guy” is that while it is not strictly speaking an original film, it is selling itself through its lead actors, the way Hollywood used to before IP became king. “The Fall Guy” is based on a 1980s TV series starring Lee Majors, but that’s not exactly adaptational material on the level of “Barbie” or “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

No, Universal is putting so much money on this film on the hope that Gosling, still riding high from his performance as Ken last summer, has built up enough of a following that audiences will turn out to see him in another comedic role. The film’s premiere at SXSW has also helped to bolster pre-release buzz, as critics have largely praised the film as a fun, entertaining summer flick with an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Universal is also hoping that Gosling will draw in female audiences over the age of 25 at levels higher than Leitch’s past films, which historically have skewed male. While the new Luca Guadagnino film “Challengers” is making its own attempt to leg out with Gen Z audiences, there’s still room for “The Fall Guy” to carve out its own audience niche.

But there is also the possibility of “The Fall Guy” suffering a similar fate that befell Paramount’s “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” last summer. That film got glowing reviews from critics and audiences alike, but stood no chance against Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which became the must-see four-quadrant film of the spring and smothered any attempt for its competition’s word-of-mouth to flourish.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” won’t hit the global box office heights of “Mario,” but it is getting heavy Imax support and has the sort of breathtaking visuals and epic storytelling that people want in a summer blockbuster…not to mention the advantage of being part of a famous IP that has been in theaters since 1968.

That means we won’t know until next weekend whether “The Fall Guy” will have excited enough moviegoers to give it enough fuel to get out of the red, or if it will fail to make a big bang at the box office.

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