The debate about quantity over quality has been raging within the film industry since Hollywood realized they could stick "2," "3," or "4" to the end of a movie title and make a quick buck off a half-baked idea. Of course, it isn't just sequels that have been accused of peddling insubstantial ideas for profit; arguably the biggest offender this summer is an "original" movie. The current box office takings see two critically celebrated cinematic titans – Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk and ass-kicking action flick Atomic Blonde – going up against an actual movie about emojis, and astonishingly, the emojis have stood their ground.
While the box office is a fickle mistress, ruled by the ebbs and flows of audience's fleeting fancies and industry hype, the Emoji Movie pulled a surprising $24.5 million on opening weekend. This solid performance came as a surprise to many, and The Emoji Movie was critically panned and received a literal 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (it has since clawed its way to 6%). Who knew box office death-by-Tomatometer could be avoided by just throwing money at a garbage idea? To, er, celebrate, here are six movies that the The Emoji Movie out-performed during its opening weekend.
Opening Weekend: $20 million
Edgar Wright's indie hit about a talented, music-obsessed getaway driver was a hit with critics and movie fans, but could not summon up enough hype to surpass the likes of Emoji Movie on its opening weekend. Described as "one of the most entertaining thrill rides of the year," #BabyDriver's $20 million is nothing to be sniffed at, as this indie has since clocked $140 million on a $34 million budget. A 95% Rotten Tomatoes score ain't bad either.
Ghost in the Shell
Opening Weekend: $19 million
Dogged by critics from the beginning thanks to Scarlett Johansson's casting, Ghost in the Shell could not be saved from the dark smudge of controversy, earning a poor $19 million in its opening weekend, and only just breaking even overall. That being said, the movie was well-received in Japan, and it's been argued that Ghost in the Shell is one of Hollywood's better adaptions of anime onto the big screen.
Opening Weekend: $19 million
Amy Schumer and Goldie Horn's mother/daughter kidnap comedy actually earned a huge chunk of its weekend box office in a single day. Dropping on the Mother's Day weekend, Snatched snatched 42% of its box office on that Sunday, likely saving many absent-minded daughters who totally forgot it was Mother's Day and checked to see what was on at the last minute. While I am only half-joking, the comedy appealed to women across the US, but ultimately captured less interest than an Emoji riding the Twitter bird did.
Opening Weekend: $18 million
It seemed fairly certain that #AtomicBlonde would be robbed of box office victory by Dunkirk, but Atomic Blonde wasn't even left sitting pretty at number two, thanks a smiling poop emoji. Starring Charlize Theron, Atomic Blonde is the perfect antidote to your post-Wonder Woman blues, yet it couldn't quite get those all-important butts in seats on opening weekend, despite generally favorable reviews. Charlize Theron, good. Sapphic romance, good. Incredible fight scenes to match any in the male-dominated spy genre, gooood.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Opening Weekend: $17 million
Poor #Valerian. Hopes were high for the sci-fi follow up to cult classic The Fifth Element that Luc Besson had pegged all his hopes upon. However, Valerian fell flat on its not-so-yellow face with critics and audiences, pulling a dismal $17 million while simultaneously being crushed under the weight of #Dunkirk. Maybe it was simply bad timing, but consensus suggests that Valerian sacrificed compelling storytelling for visuals. Whatever the reason, Valerian has a lot of work to do to claw back some of its $177 million budget. Ouch.
Opening Weekend: $9 million
The Circle, girl, what happened?! This movie earned $15 million less than the Emoji Movie, despite starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and being about the ever-exciting topic of internet security. The Circle came and went without much of a fuss after it was hammered by critics, who cited it as "obvious and incompetent." The movie has a slightly more favorable 15% on the Tomatometer, but you can be sure Emma Watson is thanking her lucky stars that Beauty and the Beast was a hit.
Of course, whether these movies are good or bad is completely subjective, but it's hard to argue with the critics about the relative value of The Emoji Movie. There's clearly an audience for this kind of movie, and as a result they will keep being made, making hardcore cinephiles horrified as a result. Yet despite its painful unoriginality and out-of-control product placement, The Emoji Movie has managed to surpass the critics' universal slaughter to cruise comfortably to a profit — so congrats on that, Emoji Movie team.