Edgar Wright had proven himself a versatile, hard-working director with his genre-defying Cornetto Trilogy and the breathtaking spectacle that was Scott Pilgrim, even if that film's greatness wasn't universally recognized until after it had already crashed-and-burned at the box office. He had originally planned to direct Ant-Man, a film with which he had been involved for many years of pre-production, but creative differences with the folks at Marvel caused him to drop out of the picture, a move which shocked the industry. While that's a long, sordid tale, this story isn't about what Wright didn't do; it's about what he did do, and he moved past Ant-Man to try his hand at a completely original action thriller, Baby Driver.
Originally scheduled for August 2017, the film was bumped up to June after successful test screenings, including a widely-publicized showing at the South by Southwest festival. It was a risky move; August is traditionally a safe time to release unorthodox would-be blockbusters Sylvester Stallone's R-rated Expendables films both saw considerable success in the month, as did off-kilter superhero-adjacent franchise fare like Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad. June is way more competitive, and there was certainly a fear that Baby Driver would be eaten alive by the likes of Transformers, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, also from Sony Pictures.
However, the move ultimately proved to be the right decision, and Baby Driver opened with $29.5 million over its first five days (it opened on a Wednesday, rather than the more traditional Friday). After only six days in release, it had already topped the final gross of Wright's previous highest-grossing film, Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Its total box office gross as of July 18th was $75.9 million domestically, and $99.1 million worldwide.
Keeping Costs Down
For some movies, a gross of $75 million after three weekends would be nothing short of disastrous. Transformers: The Last Knight is a domestic bomb with a gross of $114 million domestically, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is barely scraping by with its higher-than-expected (but still not nearly high enough) take of $170 million, a middling result for the $230 million production. Both of those flicks are counting on international performance to break even and eventually turn a profit... For the record, Pirates is doing far better on that front, with a current global total of $751 million. Meanwhile, Transformers currently sits at $517 million, a franchise low by a wide margin. It still has a few markets left in which it can make up some ground, but Michael Bay's latest will be lucky to crack $650 million once all is said and done.
Anyway, Baby Driver doesn't have that problem, because its budget is not an astronomical $250 million or anything even remotely close. Baby Driver, a grounded crime thriller with light-footed dialogue and a reliance on stunt driving over CGI spectacle, was produced on a reported budget of just $34 million. It has almost certainly made back both that production budget and the costs of marketing and distribution, and is turning a profit for Sony.
Hit or Miss?
Baby Driver has yet to open in many international markets, but it's already a success at the domestic box office alone. If it becomes an honest-to-goodness worldwide smash hit, then all the better. But even if it fails to make an impact globally, Sony still has a solid hit on their hands.
Sony Pictures made all the correct moves when it came to this project. They hired a hip director with a distinct style and they didn't try to force him into their box; they let him make his movie, and his movie happened to be a R-rated action flick with black comedy, larger-than-life characters, and some of the best music video sequences ever captured on film. In exchange, they kept their risk low by keeping the budget in check; even if Baby Driver had bombed hard, the damage to Sony wouldn't have threatened the livelihood of the studio or anything so dramatic.
As it stands, Baby Driver is a solid, mid-level hit. By the time the dust clears, the movie will likely clear $100 million at the North American box office, and if the global markets follow suit, we could be looking at an equally strong worldwide showing. Ultimately, Baby Driver is well on its way towards making a nice big pile of money for Sony. It's not going to be a mega blockbuster like Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it doesn't need to be. Sony is a studio in need of more mid-level hits, and, based on their immediate desire to pursue a sequel to the surprise sleeper hit of the summer, they are clearly more than satisfied with Baby Driver's performance.
- Baby Driver (2017) release date: Jun 28, 2017