The Big Short, Adam McKay’s comedy-nightmare concerning the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis, passed a pretty significant test over the weekend. Playing on eight screens (in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago), the film earned an incredible $720,000 in its first weekend- that represents a per-screen average take of $90,000 (the second best average of the year following Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs‘ opening weekend back in October).
The early box office success seems almost as improbable as a serious-minded movie concerning the stock market arriving from the director of two Anchorman films and Step Brothers (McKay’s other forays in the film). Part of the success certainly comes on the back of strong early reviews- A.O. Scott opined in The New York Times that the film, “will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood.”
The all-star ensemble cast of Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Christian Bale (The Fighter), Brad Pitt (By the Sea) and Ryan Gosling (Crazy Stupid Love) couldn’t have hurt either. Neither could have the early awards momentum the film has received. The Screen Actors Guild nominated the film for Best Ensemble and Best Supporting Actor (for Bale) while the Golden Globes gave the film four nominations including Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) and a pair of acting nominations for Bale and Carell.
Still, there had to have been at least reservations early on considering over the films’ marketability considering recent films centered around the financial crisis including the Oscar nominated Margin Call and The Company Men hardly made much of a dent at all. And those reservations may loom still as The Big Short starts to expand- Steve Jobs, as a recent prime example, expressed the dangers of putting too much stock in strong numbers on the limited side.
For now at least, Paramount (The Big Short‘s distributor) can celebrate a strong debut. This is a strong start for a movie that was a late addition to the 2015 schedule (Paramount originally planned an early spring 2016 release). The Big Short will next expand nationally on December 23rd, reaching about 2,000 theaters.