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“Think Like A Man” Producer Will Packer Talks To S&A About The Film’s Strong Opening Weekend + “No Good Deed”

"Think Like A Man" Producer Will Packer Talks To S&A About The Film's Strong Opening Weekend + "No Good Deed"

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand somewhere, I’m sure that, by now, most of you have heard that the ensemble dramedy Think Like A Man, routed the competition, taking this weekend’s box office crown, raking in around $33 Million, based on industry estimates. I’m hearing that the actual figure could very well be higher once the official count is in, some time tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon, after I posted the entry alerting you to the film’s strong Friday opening, and projections for the weekend, I had the opportunity to talk briefly with the man behind the film – Mr Will Packer, who produced Think Like A Man via his Atlanta, GA-based Rainforest Films production company – a brand that continues to grow and impress with each outing. But more on that later.

My conversation with Will was obviously centered on the successful opening weekend release of Think Like A Man; as you will see below, I asked him specific questions about what this weekend’s numbers mean in the grand scheme of things, what their marketing strategyy was given the impressive audience turnout across the USA, the film’s crossover reach, expecations for next weekend, how studios determine the number of theaters to open a film in (given that, as previously emphasized, Think Like A Man opened on roughly 2000 screens, 1000 fewer screens than the film that opened at number 2), and finally, of course I couldn’t let him go without asking about his next project – the Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson thriller, No Good Deed, which has actually already begun production in Atlanta.

Dig in!

– What does this weekend’s box office win mean in the grander scheme of things? Why should we be excited about this? What does it mean for you and Rainforest films?

It’s huge. I don’t think the significance of opening with the number 1 movie in America can be overstated. This isn’t the number 1 lower-budgeted film, or the number 1 African American Film, or the number 1 film for a particular audience; It’s the number 1 movie in America, period; and if those numbers hold, then we’re going to be in a great position that shows the power of a smart strategic marketing plan that takes advantage of social media, networking, grassroots and a great campaign; because we were up against films that were significantly larger than us. However, the great equalizer is the level of grassroots, social media, Twitter, Facebook support that we got; and the audience is saying, we want to see more films like this. And I think that when audiences start to realize their power in Hollywood decision making, you will see more films like this made and become more successful.

Talk about the marketing strategy for the film; I spoke to Jeff Clanagan of CodeBlack Entertainment last week about the strong opening for his film, Woman Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day, and the marketing strategy for that film; and he said almost exactly what you said – essentially, a heavy emphasis on a social media-driven, grassroots effort. So is that ultimately where it is for films like this? Because I’m assuming the studio isn’t spending a lot of money on TV ads, billboards and traditional forms of marketing.

We definitely had traditional marketing which was strong; we definitely had a lot of presence; we did a lot of advertising, for instance on the NBA games, and shows like Basketball Wives, for example; I like to call that the “aerial attack;” but you also need to have a “ground attack” to compliment it, and our ground game is really, really strong. Our cast got out there and really, really pushed it; like tonight [Saturday night], I’ve got almost every member from the film’s cast going out to theaters and surprising the fans, thanking them for coming out, and for their support. Those are the types of things that you can’t really quantify, that create genuine buzz and appreciation for a project in a way that traditional advertising just can’t. There’s a ton of traditional advertising out there, but you have to do something more to make your project stand out, and that’s what we try to do.

– One of the questions that was raised in the press before the film’s release was whether it would reach non-black audiences; can you share any figures on whether that happened, from what you’ve seen so far?

All the Hollywood studios do exit polling to determine what the audience was that came out to see a particular film, but those numbers aren’t yet available. What I do know is that a lot of people came out to support the film; it doesn’t matter whether they were white, black, green or brown; what matters is that they came out to support, and I feel really good about that.

– What are your expectations for next weekend? Or are you just not even looking that far ahead, and instead enjoying this moment?

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I was looking forward to next weekend; because as a producer I was looking forward to next weekend, last weekend. That’s just how I operate. You keep focused on the prize, and then you look and ask questions like, ok so it was successful, can we hold, how well can we do, what’s next week’s competition; but it’s not something I want to talk about; yet, strategically, you need to be aware of what you’re going to do opening week, and what you’re going to do to sustain it the following weekends. But for the most part, movies after opening weekend are all about how strong the word of mouth is; advertising is all geared towards opening weekend; but how well the film performs after this weekend, will be about whether people enjoyed the film or not.

– The film opened on some 2,000 screens; can you give us a brief education on how studios determine how many screens to open a film on?

A lot goes into that; they try to figure out what they think the audience for a film is going to be, and where the screens need to be to capture that audience. Studios are very careful to try to do just enough by way of advertising and distribution to capture an audience without over-spending. And yes, I’m involved in those conversations, on how many screens the film needs to have. We ended up having about 2000 screens which was over 1000 less than The Lucky Ones, which also opened up this weekend; but our per screenaverage was so much higher, which is why it looks like we’ll be coming in at number 1.

– And finally, I know that your next project is gearing up in Atlanta, with Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson – both you’re working with again; anything you can share with us on what to expect from the film, and when we can expect to see it in theaters?

I’m actually calling you from the set of that movie right now; and yes, that’s the next one. As a producer, it don’t stop, as they say. I’ve got one film opening this weekend, and now I’m in production on my next one; it’s a cycle, and I’m blessed to be able to be active as a producer. I don’t have a release date yet; I just want to first get through this current release [Think Like A Man], and then get through this new production [No Good Deed], and then I’ll start looking at when’s the best time to release it; but yes, it’s a thriller with Idris and Taraji; it’s a script that I’m really proud of because it’s a film that wasn’t originally conceived with African American leads in mind; and I like the fact that it’s a universal film; but I wanted to put the best talent in front of the camera for this movie, and those 2 people happened to be idris and Taraji, who happened to be black. This will help us in building as well if, or rather, when it’s successful.

And so there you have it! Some very useful information there I’d say; and I thank Will Packer (and his publicist) for the time.

I should note that, despite the fact that critics were split down the middle on the film, this is the 4th Rainforest Films production to open at the number 1 slot domestically, on the opening weekends of each of those 4 films –  Stomp The Yard opened at $21 million and ended up with a $61 million box office take; Obsessed shocked the world and opened at $28 million, and went onto make close to $70 million; Takers opened at just over $20 million, and grossed almost $60 million; and now Think Like A Man exceeds all expectations and rakes it $33 million; It’s hard to argue with those stats, especially when you consider the age and size of the company.

Keep in mind that the production budget for Think Like A Man was in the $12 to $15 million range.

If the film has legs, as the saying goes – meaning if word of mouth is strong, going into next weekend, producer Packer and company might see it eventually become their highest grossing film to date.

We’ll be watching… 

This Article is related to: Features


Comments

Simone

I not surprise by 1st place, the film received one of the most buzz marketing around the web and some Tv, they interested people to come on theater an see the movie, i read comment about the movie in France medias, i'm very outrageous, they that don't understand why this unknown movie like they call "Thing Like A Man" made 33 million, they said the movie has no star, the only one is Chris Brown, in clearly, kevin Hart, Taraji P Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabriel Union, and the other in cast have no name in cinema, they have just forgotten that is not their first movie, they are completely ignorant, they write wrong things and it very difficult for black people that we are, who live in France to support that, it's very caricatured, if they could have a racist word they wouldn't hesitate to use it , the mainstream media in France, don't know nothing about the black culture, they always use stereotype to talk about black people, when you read the paper about the movie, they don't know who is Steve Harvey, sometime, they only say he a radio host. They don't clearly explain what the movie talk about. They also said it's a hard blow for Hunger Games, because, the movie lost her first place, he's now on the third place, they just forgot that Hunger has made more than 500 million dollars since he was released on theater. We must understand that an African American isn't allowed to beat Hunger Games, i ask myself, who has written this rule, please, if some know, say me. They no black cinema in France, they just know a few African American movie star like, Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Samuel Jackson, Eddy Murphy, Denzel Washington, Hale Berry, they don't have obligation to talk about black culture, they are a lack of subject about black on the media. No release date for the movie in France, i just wait that the movie come on DVD in the USA and i buy one like i used to do. I will never stop support black movies, please don’t stops give us the news, we need you Shadow and Act.

Tirf Alexius

Truly insightful interview. It's promising to see films of this nature have stellar opening weekends. I'm amped!

DGB360

This was great info on what happens behind the scenes of film making. The film industry is A TOUGH BUSINESS. Great to see young men getting thru rough waters and producing good films. Keep me posted.

bondgirl

Good interview, but I would've loved to hear Will's thoughts on the international marketing strategy, if there is one.

CareyCarey

Be still and know that I am God. I will use you and abuse you, yet, more importantly I will strive to keep you misinformed and uneducated to the ways of my business concerns. I will whitewash your brain and bambozzle you, yet you will still envy me ~ The White Man, aka The Boogie Man. Listen folks, I am trying to drive home a point. Quick… think fast… of all of Spike Lee's black cast films… which ones turned the most "profit". Times up… Do The Right Thing and School Daze. Now, Spike Lee is arguably the best and most significant black filmmaker that we've had the privilege to experience. However, although he tackled most of the pertinant issues of black life, it's important to note that his films with a humorous flare were the only ones which could be defined as a financial success. In fact, many lost money. Here's the basic point… white folks have never been interested in seeing movies with a predominant black cast and there are only so many black dollars. Within those black dollars, history tells us there's a genre that black folks tends to gravatate to. Now check this, of Spike's black cast films, he never made more the 50 million. But wait, his largest budget, Malcolm X's was 33 million, it grossed only 48 million. Mo Better Blues: 10 mil got 16 mil. Clockers: 25 mil got 13 mil! Bambozzled: Budget 10 mil, gross 2 million! I am suggesting that success is spelled in many ways and white folk's model of success has never been the road to travel. Again, as Spike's journey illustrates, there's only so many black dollars, and how they spend those dollars is well documented.

Donella

How very wonderful. I'm thrilled for both Rainforest and Codeblack. I believe a great deal of attention has been paid to how President Barack Obama's advance team dominated the political landscape leading up to 2008 and how Tyler Perry's managed to thrive in the movie industry. I love a good ground game. Great interview.

richard

Great interview Tambay, if you have a follow up conversation you should find out what their P&A cost was. I know the grass roots campaign is important but people should know they probably spent at least 20 million on TV ads, radio spots, billboards, etc. So eventhough grassroots is important, the millions of impressions comes from a fairly large spend by the studio. Either way, kudos to all involved.

Gary C.

It's a comedy. It shouldn't be a huge surprise that it's the number one movie. I applaud Rain Forest for it's marketing campaign but I'll see it as a cap in our filmmaking feather when a black drama of signifigance substance (Non Perry relationship drama) routinely challenges for number one box office positioning. A non threatening, non socially inspiring black comedy has less obstacles to climb in hollywood to be successful.

Dankwa Brooks

I totally agree with everything IllThoughts said. I've enjoyed Rainforest's films for the most part and am interested to see what's next from them.

Tepnlex

I was in Lee Hall in 1996 when the brother premiered Chocolate City at FAMU. God bless him, and his hustle. One brother I definitely tip my cap to, in this industry.
Now, wash your hands next time, homeboy!

Adam Scott Thompson

The movie far exceeded my expectations. That said, I'm in agreement with Illthoughts. They'll never let us have free reign of all the genres until we prove 1) that we can be about horror, sci-fi, western, experimental, etc. and 2) that we'd actually show up to see ourselves playing John Carter of Mars or the last black man on earth (sci-fi/experimental, and not a bad premise at that).

illthoughts

I went to see it. It was entertaining but I'm waiting for us to open up our creativity with different
films. I want some sci-fi, thrillers, action, historical and political movies too. I can't wait to see No Good Deeds.

Nicole

Great interview. I'm happy for Will and the entire cast. I can't wait to see No Good Deed.

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