Star power and social media savvy propelled “No Good Deed” to the top of the box office this weekend.
The $13 million film nearly doubled its production budget in its first three days of release, pulling in an impressive $24.5 million. The home invasion thriller was able to trump box office predictions because Sony and Screen Gems, the companies behind the film, expertly deployed Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson on Twitter to hawk the story of a district attorney menaced by a killer.
“You have two terrific actors who have followings and this weekend showed their collective star power is very powerful,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak.
Both actors will likely see their stars rise as a result. Elba has had showy supporting roles in “Thor” and “Prometheus,” but hasn’t carried a film to these kind of heights on his own shoulders since 2009’s “Obsessed.” He retains a passionate following from his days playing a drug kingpin on HBO’s “The Wire.”
Henson has an Oscar nomination on her curriculum vitae thanks to 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and was part of the “Think Like a Man” ensemble, but hasn’t been front-and-center in a promotional campaign like she was here.
“I wouldn’t call them full on movie stars in their own right,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and analyst with BoxOffice.com. “They’re not bankable on their own terms, but this could certainly change that. Sometimes all it takes is one film.”
The concept of movie stardom has taken its knocks in recent years, as Hollywood has tried and failed to launch a new generation of A-listers to rival the Tom Cruises and Julia Roberts of an earlier era. The old days where an actor’s name above the title was enough to guarantee a big opening weekend have vanished. However, pairing the right actor with the right vehicle can still reap dividends, as evidenced by Liam Neeson’s success playing avenging angels and Melissa McCarthy’s track record with R-rated comedies.
“Taraji and Idris are terrific actors and they both so own their roles in this film,” said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures’ president of worldwide distribution. “In spots and trailers, they delivered such a great intensity. It’s a terrific opening.”
Sony didn’t rely on star power alone to sell “No Good Deed.” It also orchestrated a clever social media campaign that unspooled across Twitter and Instagram.
On Twitter, the studio put a fresh spin on the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, presenting users with a set of challenges that dared them to outwit a murderer. For fans of Instagram, Sony created an interactive experience made up of images and videos that teased out parts of the film’s plot. That’s cheaper and potentially more potent than a costly television campaign.
“In this new world we live in, you want to be aggressive, and there are more means to do that and interact directly with fans than ever before,” said Contrino.