We're only six weeks into the new year, and so far, marketing hits are few.
Yet we can look back so far and see that a movie released on January 6 has become a major hit, grossing almost $100 million and prompting a wave of op-ed reactions.
M3GAN -- a comedic horror thriller directed by James Wan and written by Aleka Cooper -- has so far grossed $88 million, making it the top-grossing film released in 2023. To an extent, that's because of the winking nature of the film’s premise.
"'M3gan' knows it's ridiculous,” wrote a reviewer for RogerEbert.com. “It fills a kiddie pool with ridiculousness and splashes around in it.”
That campiness seems perfect for a January horror release. If it was about a slasher in the woods, then "M3GAN" would have already faded into obscurity. But the film touches upon two major themes in 2023 America: artificial intelligence (AI) and gayness.
The former seems uniquely well-timed. The story of M3GAN comes just on the heels of ChatGPT, a “Google killer” that is indeed freaking Google out. M3GAN also comes as some 63% of U.S. citizens are familiar with Amazon's Alexa.
At the same time, newspaper op eds have picked up that M3GAN is a movie that has a gay sensibility. As one moviegoer tweeted: “After seeing it in a theater full of queer folks we can all agree this movie is for us.”
Not surprisingly, there is a M3GAN sequel planned, and likely knockoffs are to follow. So let's look at why this film is successful.
It's topical -- playing on our fears of AI, which presents a sort of “Jaws” template -- but it also appeals to a niche audience, which is never overtly referred to in its marketing.
Those two attributes make M3GAN the ideal film for 2023 -- and something new to focus on after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.