How Channing Tatum’s ‘Dog’ Became a Box Office Hit

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When Channing Tatum was promoting his latest film “Dog,” he asked himself the same question over and over again: does the main character survive until the end credits?

“People were saying I wouldn’t see this movie unless I knew the dog lives,” Tatum laughs. “‘Marley and I’ has affected everyone so much. Everyone suffers from it. They’re not going to see a movie about dogs unless they’re sure this thing doesn’t die.

Tatum was initially unsure if he should reveal the outcome of the film – which debuted last month, in which he stars and co-directs with producing partner Reid Carolin – about a US Army Ranger who went on a road trip with a Belgian Malinois. “I was so against telling people the ending of my movie, but apparently it works,” he says. “I think I’m going to tell everyone the end of my movies now.”

While the omicron variant swept the country earlier this year, casting doubt on whether audiences would return to theaters, “Dog” was one of 2022’s biggest indie hits. to make at the start of the pandemic, has so far grossed $54.5 million at the domestic box office in five weeks. That’s more tickets sold than “House of Gucci” and many Oscar contenders last fall.

The film’s appeal rests entirely on Tatum’s shoulders and proved that the 41-year-old actor is still a movie star who can pack seats in multiplex theaters (he had taken a nearly four-year hiatus from movie theaters). headlining films, as he recently explained in a Variety cover story). And Tatum will be back in the studio this weekend with “The Lost City,” a romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock that’s expected to be a hit for Paramount Pictures.

“Dog” was released in MGM Studios theaters on February 18 and thanks to positive word of mouth it has continued to last. According to box office receipts, the film outperformed in states such as Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee. These moviegoers were drawn to the film’s message about military service, it seems. And then there is the pet. “We haven’t lost sight of the fact that everyone adopted a dog during the pandemic,” says the film’s producer, Peter Kiernan. “It’s a collection of themes that appeal to a wide audience.”

While “Dog” had an exclusive theatrical release, MGM decided to bring it into homes on Premium Video on Demand for $20 just 17 days after its debut. Once that happened, “Dog” hit No. 1 on the VOD charts last week as it continues to do business in theaters.

Reid and Carolin, who made “Dog” through their production company, Free Association, spoke to Variety on the success of their first directorial effort. They told us about London, where they’re filming “Magic Mike’s Land Dance,” written by Carolin (he had recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was in quarantine).

How did you feel seeing “Dog” doing so well at the box office?

Channing Tatum: I think we’re a little out of our minds. We’re making movies in the dark right now. Everything is changing, between normal society with COVID and the industry with all the streamers. We put our heads down and made a little movie and were lucky people really reacted to it.

Caroline Reid: I will add that everyone is very quick to write the epitaph of independent films in theaters and small films. I feel really good that a movie like ours worked because it continues to be a statement that movies like this can go and play on the big screen across the country.

What was it about “Dog” that resonated with audiences?

Tate: I’ll let you take that one, Reid.

Carolina: I think people wanted a warm hug. One of the things I hear regularly is that a lot of people expected you to have a movie about dogs, and they got something extra that they didn’t expect. I think it helped us with word of mouth. We have been very successful in the Midwest and Southern markets. For some reason, it resonated there. He plays in small and medium towns in America. It was on premium demand last week. They said it was coastal. The ribs still look at us.

Were you worried that the release of “Dog” in streaming would harm his theatrical activity?

Carolina: It was a tough call, to make the 17-day streaming window. But what it shows is that there are people who want to see the movie in theaters, and there are people who want to see the movie in PVOD and they’re not cannibalizing each other. Last week some of our weekdays were better than our weekdays the week before. This is partly due to the extra marketing push that has come with PVOD. You can do real business on PVOD. I think what’s more difficult is if you want to release a movie for free on a streaming service and go to the cinema at the same time.

Tate: I wish I knew why we could have done the movie without COVID. I’m glad we finished the movie. We put our own salaries for this film. For us, having made our first film at that time was so chaotic, it was pure chaos.

Carolina: I think the industry is split into a fork. There are people who do the streaming model, which is about getting as much money as possible. And I think for theatrical releases, there will be increased pressure. We learned this pattern working with Steven Soderbergh on “Magic Mike”. You reduce the cost of the film as much as possible without sacrificing quality. The cast and crew basically put their initial salaries in exchange for backend.

Will there be a “Dog” franchise?

Tate: I would do another “Dog” movie if we had to completely change what it is in terms of horror or something. I’m going to do it in terms of something completely different. I want to create a trend: if you do, I don’t know, “Gremlins”, and you do “Gremlins 2”, it must be a romantic comedy. And then “Gremlins 3” has to be a superhero movie.

I would watch that.

Tate: Don’t threaten us.

Carolina: We love a terrible idea.

Channing, what are your thoughts on the health of theaters this spring ahead of the release of “The Lost City,” which received strong reviews from SXSW?

Tate: To be completely honest, I don’t read the follow-up. It’s not my thing. I don’t think it does good things for my brain – personally, creatively. About “The Lost City” there have been more people talking to me about it, or sending me DMs about it. It seems to be the tone of the movie that people are reacting to. They miss the wide film.

How was the filming of “Magic Mike 3”?

Tate: Things are going well. Without this COVID pop-up [a handful of members on the crew have tested positive], we probably would have been in better shape than we were for the other movies. I really believe in creativity when it comes to dance. I think we have a really strong story that will reinvent and deepen what “Magic Mike” can represent.

Carolina: From what I’ve seen, even though I’ve been in quarantine for the past few days, the dances are just on a whole new level.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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