Broadway’s version of Annie Oakley once said “anything you can do, I can do better,” and that apparently also goes for Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean in Ocean’s 8. Indeed, the reboot about skilled thieves looking good while committing their thievery just scored a franchise-best for the series, as Ocean’s 8 is estimated of opening at $41.5 million this weekend. This is about on par with industry estimates that pegged it as opening in the $40 million to $45 million, and more importantly it is higher than any of the openings of George Clooney’s boys’ club variation on the Ocean’s formula, which previously saw its biggest bow in Ocean’s Twelve at $39.6 million.
Admittedly that latter figure is from 2004 and didn’t have 14 years of inflation on its side, however Ocean’s 8’s opening is still a boon for Warner Bros., which has proven internet skepticism and vitriol wrong by reinventing a popular franchise with an ensemble of women leading the way. Additionally, it is more good news for WB, as the film while being relatively well reviewed also has what appears to be solid word of mouth, as CinemaScore has pegged the picture with a decent (if not overly enthusiastic) “B+.”
Ocean’s 8 is of course the Bullock-led and Gary Ross-directed spinoff to the previous Ocean’s Eleven trilogy that lasted from 2001 to 2007, and unto itself was a remake of 1960’s less than delightful Frank Sinatra-headed Rat Pack party. Indeed, the flexibility of the franchise and its history of reinvention likely helped Ross’ chances when he first pitched a movie about Danny Ocean’s sister to Steven Soderbergh about four years ago.
Notably the film has been compared, both by the industry and an increasingly vocal outrage culture among internet trolls, social media malcontents, and “incels,” as being similar to 2016’s Ghostbusters in that it was a reboot of a male-led franchise with a now largely female ensemble. In fact, Ghostbusters (2016) opened slightly higher than Ocean’s 8 with a $46 million bow. And yet, budgets and industry expectations/perceptions can be lethal in how a media narrative is written (and a profit is made). Ghostbusters had an at least $144 million budget after alleged tax incentives, as well as a large marketing budget. It was intended to be the start of a “shared universe” of Ghostbusters films for Sony Pictures. Conversely, Ocean’s 8 is more standalone, and director Gary Ross has publicly speculated at most about this becoming a trilogy.
With a $70 million budget, Ocean’s 8 opened at a number that is nearly half its budget, and it did so while reinventing a franchise that, unlike Ghostbusters, was always more adult-skewing, and thus doesn’t have an aggressive fan and geek culture ostensibly protecting the concept of a collective “childhood” (read: nostalgia). Also given the best Ocean’s movie (the first 2001 Soderbergh installment) is itself a remake allowed Ocean’s 8 more flexibility in the marketplace.
When it additionally opens the summer after the #MeToo movement, as opposed to the summer before Harvey Weinstein’s outing as a monster and “locker room talk” politics, Ocean’s 8 was able to rise above erroneous critiques and be its own successful thing. It also sought to pay homage and exist in the same universe as Soderbergh and Clooney’s Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, as opposed to outside of it.
Plus, while the film doesn’t break much new ground, it does offer a unique vantage on the franchise’s well-worn formula and features a delightfully hilarious movie-stealing performance by Anne Hathaway. That and a strong rollout by WB proved that Debbie Ocean’s team can do anything better than her brother’s crew too.