"I believed this movie was a risk, and a risk with a lot of potential upside, but as long as we were taking that potential risk, let's build the movie so that the plot creates its own person-to-person marketing campaign," Peele said.
In another unusual tactic, Blum pushed for a premiere at Sundance, believing that a positive early response from critics would propel the movie at the box office. That idea could have backfired severely, because Universal had already set the film up for a wide release that was just weeks away. If the movie bombed with reviewers, there would be no time to change release plans.
"It was a risky thing to do because it's much harder to open to a general audience if you flop at Sundance," Blum said. "But it was a calculated risk. I thought it was unique enough and compelling enough that it would appeal to a festival audience."
That gamble paid off, too, with the movie earning a rare 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, giving the studio an early confidence boost.
"Get Out's" commercial fortunes were another sign that the movie was more than just a typical horror film. It opened with a solid $33 million and ranked No. 1 at the domestic box office. The next weekend, the movie collected an additional $28 million, a mere 15 percent decline from the prior week. Horror movies, as a rule, drop at least 50 percent in the second week after they open.
To build interest, the studio made sure to market the film to black moviegoers. The first trailer launched during the 2016 BET Hip Hop Awards, and Chance the Rapper hosted an early Q&A screening to promote the film and bought tickets for people in Chicago. "Get Out's" debut audience was 39 percent black, 36 percent white and 17 percent Latino.
A year later, "Get Out" is again in a familiar underdog position. In the race to the March 4 awards presentation, "Get Out" and Universal are facing heavy competition from 20th Century Fox's specialty film unit Fox Searchlight, which released two of the front-runners in the race -- Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."
In order for "Get Out" to beat the odds again, the studio and filmmakers need to convince voters that this is the movie people will remember when they think about cinema in 2017.
"The movie keeps presenting itself in different ways that prove its relevancy," Langley said. "That critical mass is reached where it becomes something beyond a film. It becomes a cultural phenomenon, and that's what we've been experiencing since we released it."
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