‘A Man Called Otto’ Surpasses Expectations at the Box Office

A nearly extinct species of theatrical movie — a conventional drama aimed at older ticket buyers in the middle of the country — sent a reminder to Hollywood over the weekend: If you build it (properly), they will come.

A Man Called Otto,” starring Tom Hanks as a cranky widower, will collect roughly $15 million over the four-day holiday weekend in the United States, for a total of $21 million since opening in limited release on Dec. 20, according to Comscore. That kind of sturdy debut has recently escaped pedigreed dramas like “Babylon,” “She Said,” “Amsterdam,” “Till” and “The Fabelmans,” leading to worries about the viability of dramas in theaters.

For the most part, these films have been aimed at audiences on the coasts. “A Man Called Otto,” however, was marketed toward heartland audiences. Crowds came out in places like Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver and Salt Lake City, box office analysts said. None of the top 75 theaters for the film were located in Los Angeles or New York, which is very unusual.

Ticket sales were “particularly vibrant in small-town theaters,” according to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which released the PG-13 film. About 60 percent of ticket buyers were female, and 46 percent of attendees were over the age of 55, Sony said. “A Man Called Otto” received warm reviews (68 percent positive, according to Rotten Tomatoes), with the obviousness of the plot the primary complaint. But ticket buyers loved it, as evidenced by a 96 percent positive audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The audience for original adult films will absolutely return to theaters, if we don’t forget them,” Tom Rothman, the chairman of the Sony Motion Picture Group, said in an email. “And if you are able to strike a chord in Middle America, it can be especially strong.” Going into the weekend, analysts had predicted that “A Man Called Otto” would take in about $10 million, or 50 percent less than the actual result.

“A Man Called Otto” cost about $50 million to make (not including marketing expenses), with financing shared by TSG Entertainment and SF Studios, a Swedish film and television company. A remake of a Swedish film and based on a best-selling novel, “A Man Called Otto” is the heartstring-tugging story of a depressed widower who finds himself in an unusual friendship with a new neighbor. Hanks co-stars with Mariana Treviño and a cat named Smeagol. The movie was directed by Marc Forster, who is known for “Finding Neverland” and “Quantum of Solace.”

The top movies at the North American box office over the weekend were wide-release holdovers. In first place, “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) collected about $38.5 million between Friday and Monday, for a five-week total of $563 million ($1.9 billion worldwide). “M3gan,” a horror comedy from Universal, ranked second, with estimated ticket sales of $21.2 million, for a two-week total of $60 million ($91 million worldwide).

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