Nope Scores Highest Box Office Opening For An Original Movie Since Jordan Peele's Last Movie

Jordan Peele's done it again: his latest horror movie "Nope" debuted in theaters this weekend, and its opening box office haul is the highest of any original film since Peele's last impressive project, 2019's "Us." 

"Nope' brought in $44 million this weekend, and with a $68 million budget that means it's on track to at least break even when factoring in the cost of marketing. Though it debuted in a handful of other countries this week, the film's release date was pushed back to mid-August in many parts of the world, including major markets like the U.K., France, South Korea, and Australia. Peele's films have so far made the lion's share of their money (around 70% for both "Us" and "Get Out") at the domestic box office. Both of those movies also had later releases overseas, and it's possible that this staggered approach is hurting their international box office potential.

Like "Us" and "Get Out," "Nope" is an original story written, directed, and co-produced by Peele through his studio, MonkeyPaw Productions. The movie's premise was left relatively vague by the trailers, which teased a story about ranchers and also aliens. Original screenplays are always more of a gamble for Hollywood studios: that's part of the reason why it feels like so many big-budget productions are adaptations of existing intellectual properties. Peele's horror films are often completely original standalone stories, which is part of the appeal, but also part of the risk. 

"Nope" is a pretty modest-budget sci-fi horror film — the kind of independent, mid-range project that is rapidly disappearing. With movie budgets (including Peele's) getting bigger and bigger all the time, the viability of original stories created for the screen is looking more and more bleak. Thankfully, a few major players are fighting to keep the mid-budget original movie alive.

Are the days of indie films over? Nope!

Peele's latest offering "Nope" performed strongly enough this weekend to give me hope. The entertainment landscape has shifted significantly thanks to the pandemic, and some of the old rules don't apply; "Everything Everywhere All At Once," the multiversal fever dream directed by the Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) and distributed by A24, enjoyed a long theater run, thanks largely to word-of-mouth and positive reviews. This is a positive sign for the industry: bloated budgets limits creative potential, whereas the freedom to create something altogether new can lead to inventive, groundbreaking storytelling. "Nope" was more expensive than many of the horror offerings produced by A24, but it looks like the film will be profitable after its theatrical run.

As reported by The Wrap, "'Nope' has earned the highest opening weekend for a film with an original screenplay since Peele's last film, 'Us,' which earned a $71 million launch in April 2019. As the article points out, "Nope" even surpassed the debut of Quentin Tarantino's last film, "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood." There was a time when Tarantino was considered one of, if not the, most bankable directors of original movies; I think it's safe to say that Peele is comfortably in that position now.