‘Ticket to Paradise’ box office shows the rom-com isn’t dead

If you’re looking to breathe new life into the romantic comedy genre, it helps to breathe some old life into it.

At least, that seems to be the lesson of Julia Roberts-George Clooney’s Ticket to Paradise, which opened at $16.3 million at the domestic box office this weekend and is second only to Dwayne Johnson’s superhero film Black Adam Space was catapulted” 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 romantic comedy fans’ paradise may not be entirely lost.

When the first trailers for “Ticket to Paradise” appeared this summer, you could be forgiven for checking the calendar to see what year it was. Everything about the film — its postcard-perfect South Pacific setting, its breezy banter, the mere presence of 54-year-old Roberts and 61-year-old Clooney as bickering divorced parents brought together by their daughter’s (Kaitlyn Dever) wedding — felt feels like a throwback to an earlier era when such romantic balls were a regular part of going to the cinema.

But even as today’s audiences are inundated with rom-com options on the small screen, Ticket to Paradise’s nostalgic formula proved an irresistible draw, particularly for the stray breed of older moviegoers who have moved away from the theaters.

64 percent of viewers over the opening weekend were over the age of 35, and although reviews were decidedly mixed, viewers gave the film a CinemaScore of A-minus. The film has grossed more than $80 million overseas to date, making it the biggest rom-com starring two 50+ stars since 2009’s It’s Complicated.

“‘Paradise’ is exactly what the domestic box office needed,” said Jim Orr, president of domestic theatrical distribution at Universal Pictures, which released the film. “It’s a charming, captivating, heartwarming romantic comedy that managed to draw adults in droves to see the incredible chemistry between Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Almost two-thirds of our audience was over 35, which isn’t the easiest demographic to pull off a number like that. Combine that with the really good audience reaction and it all points to a very long and successful run at the domestic box office.”

The film’s strong beginning stands in stark contrast to the dismal $4.8 million start for Universal’s previous rom-com Bros, which hit theaters less than a month ago. This film revolved around two gay men played by Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane.

After that disappointing opening, Eichner – who also co-wrote the film – suggested narrow-minded viewers were to blame. “Unfortunately, this is the world we live in,” Eichner tweeted. “Even with rave reviews, great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore, etc. straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t come to Bros.”

Orr dismissed comparisons between “Ticket to Paradise” and “Bros,” pointing out that the two films — one a breezy PG-13 confection, the other a more provocative and infinitely raunchy R-rated film — are vastly different. “I wouldn’t compare and contrast ‘bros,'” Orr said. “These are apples and pears.”

According to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, the key factor in the different fates of the two images could be due to the performance of the movie stars.

Two women hug "Entrance ticket to paradise."

Julia Roberts (right) and Kaitlyn Dever in Ticket to Paradise.

(Vince Valitutti / Universal Pictures)

“‘Bros’ didn’t have nearly as much star power,” Dergarabedian said, citing Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum’s spring romantic adventure “The Lost City” as another throwback film spurred to success by its A-list stars – grossing $105 million in North America and $191 million worldwide. “There’s so much romantic comedy on the small screen that unless you have that star horsepower to grab audiences’ attention, it’s going to be difficult for a rom-com to take off in today’s market.” “

Indeed, Roberts and Clooney, who showed their sparkling off-screen quick wits during the month-long “Ticket to Paradise” marketing campaign, have a deep well of goodwill to draw from in audiences, both individually and as a couple .

While Ticket to Paradise marks their first rom-com together, their five theatrical collaborations – which also include Ocean’s Eleven, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Ocean’s Twelve, and Money Monster – together have more than earned $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

Despite the wealth of content readily available via streaming, the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on cinema attendance, and broader societal shifts in attitudes toward advertising and marriage, today’s multiplex remains far less welcoming of the once-reliable rom-com -Genre than I was.

Despite its healthy start, “Ticket to Paradise” still falls short of the rom-com blockbusters that Roberts and Clooney have made regularly for the past few decades. For example, Roberts’ 1999 film Runaway Bride opened at $35 million — or more than $62 million in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars. According to data compiled by Box Office Mojo, the opening weekend of Ticket to Paradise doesn’t even crack the top 50 domestic debuts for the romantic comedy genre. (It’s worth noting that the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time remains 2002’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which grossed more than $368 million worldwide despite the lack of A-list stars.)

In a scene in “Ticket to Paradise,” one of the film’s younger characters scathingly comments on Clooney’s drunken dance-floor moves, calling them “dinosaur moves,” a knowing nod to the fact that two-time People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” — who dresses like Roberts has shifted to more mature and character-focused projects in recent years — now belongs squarely within the AARP demographic.

But while Ticket to Paradise may be something of a dinosaur itself, its box office success to date suggests the asteroid hasn’t completely wiped out the romantic comedy on the big screen just yet.

“This film is like a comfortable shoe,” said Dergarabedian. “In some ways it feels decidedly dated, but that really speaks to the film. With all that is going on in the world, attending Ticket to Paradise is a way for people to just have a fun, escapist experience at the cinema that is very different from watching this type of film at home differs. Let’s see where they are domestically in a month. But I think it will be playable in the long run.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-10-23/ticket-to-paradise-box-office-julia-roberts-george-clooney ‘Ticket to Paradise’ box office shows the rom-com isn’t dead

Sarah Ridley

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