Deadpool breaks box-office records

LOS ANGELES • Welcome to the A-list, Deadpool.

In a triumph of audacious marketing, risky film-making and cost consciousness, 20th Century Fox's Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds in a career-defining role (at last), broke box-office records over the weekend, taking in about US$135 million (S$189 million) from North American theatres.

Audiences, apparently hungering for the originality promised by Fox's unusual advertising campaign, powered the movie to the biggest domestic opening on record for an R-rated movie. The previous record-holder was The Matrix Reloaded, with a US$118.3-million haul in 2003, after adjusting for inflation. Deadpool also beat the US$85.2-million February record set last year by Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Comedic, violent and sexually charged, Deadpool stars Reynolds as the title character, a Marvel Comics anti-hero with freakish self-healing powers. The movie openly mocks Marvel films and finds the actor doing unconventional things for this genre, such as talking directly to the camera.

The success of Deadpool could put pressure on other studios to spend less. Fox made the film for just US$58 million.

Rather than playing it safe, Fox's subversive campaign included billboards depicting the red-suited Deadpool holding handguns in provocative positions; an extremely raunchy online trailer; and having Reynolds live-tweet an episode of The Bachelor in character.

And there were the ingenious billboards advertising the movie with pictures of a skull emoji, a poop emoji and and a capital letter "L". (Dead- poo -L. Get it?)

The campaign succeeded in attracting what has become Hollywood's hardest-to-reach audience: young men. Fox said 60 per cent of the audience was male.

Deadpool could do for Reynolds what Iron Man did for a struggling Robert Downey Jr in 2008. Till now, Reynolds has struggled to find his footing in Hollywood. He notably suffered a misfire in 2009 by playing a sanitised version of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Fox also had the No. 2 movie for the weekend, Kung Fu Panda 3, which took in US$19.7 million. Third place went to How To Be Single, with US$18.8 million.

NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'Deadpool breaks box-office records'. Print Edition | Subscribe