‘Ticket to Paradise’ Box Office Shows the Romantic Comedy Isn’t Dead

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If you want to breathe new life into the romantic comedy genre, this helps breathe old life into it.

At least that seems to be the lesson of Julia Roberts-George Clooney’s “Ticket to Paradise,” which opened to $16.3 million at the domestic box office over the weekend, propelled to a second-place finish behind the super movie. -hero of Dwayne Johnson “Black Adam”. by the combined star power of seasoned rom-com veterans. Despite widespread predictions of the genre’s impending extinction on the big screen, the stronger-than-expected result showed that, for romantic comedy fans, paradise may not yet be quite lost.

When the first trailers for “Ticket to Paradise” appeared this summer, you could be forgiven for checking the timeline to see what year it was. Everything about the film — its postcard-perfect South Pacific setting, its breezy banter, the very presence of Roberts, 54, and Clooney, 61, as bickering divorced parents reunited by the marriage of their daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) – felt like a throwback to an earlier era when such romantic trinkets were a staple of cinema.

But even as today’s audiences find themselves inundated with romantic comedy options on the small screen, the nostalgic formula of “Ticket to Paradise” has proven an irresistible draw, especially for the older movie-going genre. who move away from the rooms.

Sixty-four percent of the opening weekend audience was over 35 and, although the reviews were decidedly mixed, audiences gave the film an A-minus CinemaScore. Overseas, the film has grossed over $80 million to date, making it the biggest romantic comedy to feature two leads over 50 since 2009’s “It’s Complicated.”

“‘Paradise’ is exactly what the domestic box office needed,” said Jim Orr, president of theatrical distribution for Universal Pictures, which released the film. “It’s a charming, engaging and heartwarming romantic comedy that succeeded in bringing adults in large numbers to see the incredible chemistry between Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Almost two-thirds of our audience were over 35, which isn’t the easiest demographic to get that kind of number in. You combine that with the very strong audience reaction score and it all points to a very long and successful run at the domestic box office.

The film’s strong opening contrasts sharply with the dismal $4.8 million debut of Universal’s previous rom-com, “Bros,” which hit theaters less than a month ago. This film centered on two homosexuals, played by Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane.

Following this disappointing opening, Eichner – who also co-wrote the film – suggested closed audiences were to blame. “It’s just the world we live in, unfortunately,” Eichner tweeted. “Even with rave reviews, great scores for Rotten Tomatoes, an A CinemaScore, etc., straight guys, especially in some parts of the country, just haven’t shown up for Bros.”

Orr dismissed comparisons between “Ticket to Paradise” and “Bros,” pointing out that the two movies — one an airy PG-13 confection, the other a more provocative and infinitely steamier R-rated flick — are starkly different. . “I wouldn’t like to compare and contrast ‘Bros,'” Orr said. “It’s apples and oranges.”

According to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, the key factor behind the two pictures’ varying fortunes may come down to movie star power.

Julia Roberts, right, and Kaitlyn Dever in “Ticket to Paradise.”

(Vince Valitutti/Universal Pictures)

“‘Bros’ didn’t have anything close to that star power,” Dergarabedian said, pointing to the springtime Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum romantic adventure “The Lost City” as another comeback film spurred on by the success of its A-list stars – grossing $105 million in North America and $191 million worldwide. “There are so many rom-coms available on the small screen that unless you have that star power to grab an audience’s attention, you’ll be hard-pressed to get traction with a rom-com on the current market.

Indeed, Roberts and Clooney, who showed off their sparkling spread off-screen throughout the months-long marketing campaign for “Ticket to Paradise,” have a deep well of goodwill to be exploited with the public, both individually and in pairs.

While “Ticket to Paradise” marks their first romantic comedy together, their five on-screen collaborations — which also include “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Money Monster” — have collectively earned over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

Yet between the glut of content readily available via streaming, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on cinema, and broader societal shifts in attitudes toward courtship and marriage, today’s multiplex remains far less hospitable to the once reliable rom-com genre than it was.

Even with its healthy start, “Ticket to Paradise” still lags behind the rom-com blockbusters that Roberts and Clooney have steadily made over the past few decades. Roberts’ 1999 film “Runaway Bride,” for example, opened to $35 million — or more than $62 million in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars. Opening weekend “Ticket to Paradise” doesn’t even make it into the top 50 domestic releases for the romantic comedy genre, according to data compiled by Box Office Mojo. (It should be noted that the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time remains 2002’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which grossed over $368 million worldwide despite having no A-list stars.)

In a scene from “Ticket to Paradise,” one of the film’s younger characters sarcastically comments on Clooney’s drunken moves on the dance floor, calling them “dinosaur moves,” a conscious nod to the fact that People magazine’s two-time “Sexiest Man Alive” – which, like Roberts, has evolved in recent years into more mature, character-driven projects — is now squarely in the AARP demographic.

But while “Ticket to Paradise” may look like a dinosaur itself, its box office performance so far suggests the asteroid has yet to entirely wipe out the big-screen romantic comedy.

“This movie is like a comfortable shoe,” Dergarabedian said. “It definitely feels old-fashioned in a way, but it actually works in the film’s favor. With everything going on in the world, going to see ‘Ticket to Paradise’ is a way for people to have a fun and evasive in the cinema, which is very different from watching this kind of film at home. Let’s see where they are in a month domestically. But I think it will have long-term playability.

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