‘Mean Girls’ Musical Triumphs at Box Office, With a TikTok Assist

The theatrical box office this holiday weekend was awash in “Mean Girls,” and TikTok may have been at least partly responsible for its domination.

The new PG-13 rated film, a musical rendition of the 2004 original starring Lindsay Lohan, with songs that turned the 2018 Broadway adaptation (and two national tours) into a resounding hit, grossed $28 million over the holiday weekend. The movie landed in first place, beating the Jason Statham action film “The Beekeeper,” which earned $16.8 million. (Paramount Pictures expects “Mean Girls” to reach $32 million once receipts from the federal holiday on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King’s Birthday are added.)

The news was a welcome reprieve for the theatrical box office, which did not benefit from a giant year-end blockbuster that often carries over into the new year. (Last year, during this weekend, “Avatar: The Way of Water” grossed an additional $40 million in its fifth weekend.) “Mean Girls” also offers confirmation that Paramount’s aggressive digital marketing strategies were successful.

The studio spent considerable effort using the original film, which grossed $130 million worldwide, as the best form of promotion for this new version.

On Oct. 3, known to fans as “Mean Girls Day,” Paramount used TikTok as a platform to introduce young audiences to the cult classic, a staple of tween sleepovers, by sharing 23 10-minute clips for a one-day marketing stunt on the social media site.

The effort, according to Marc Weinstock, Paramount’s worldwide president of marketing and distribution, generated 750,000 views of the entire film in its first 15 hours on the site, and added 100,000 followers to the new Mean Girls TikTok account, which now stands at 515,000 followers.

All this for a movie that the screenwriter, producer and star Tina Fey said felt as though “it’s been on TBS every day for 20 years.”

Of the TikTok effort, which bowed during the actors’ strike and compensated the film’s actors, Mr. Weinstock said, “We thought it would be very successful, but not as successful as it was.” He attributed a majority of the interest to users who had never seen the original movie despite its ubiquitous presence on television.

Directed by the husband-wife team Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., the 2024 iteration stars Reneé Rapp as the head “Plastic,” Regina George, and Angourie Rice as her frenemy Cady Heron, who falls under her spell. The film was originally slated for Paramount’s streaming service, but after positive test screenings during the summer the studio chose to take the film to theaters. (Paramount opted for a similar route with “Smile” in 2022, a meme-generating horror film that grossed $106 million domestically, and “80 for Brady,” which the studio released last February.)

The decision to put the movie in theaters added an estimated $20 million in marketing costs, primarily toward online promotions. In addition to promoting the film on TikTok, Paramount partnered with Uber to offer teen girls free rides to the movies; an Instagram takeover with Auliʻi Cravalho, the actress who reprises the role of Janis; special Snapchat lenses and filters; a YouTube video of the teen heartthrob Chris Briney playing with puppies; and crucially, trailer placement in front of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.”

“I feel like the team has had a very clear understanding of all the different types of audience they were trying to reach and where to find them,” Ms. Fey said. “My friend’s daughter received a notification from Uber last Wednesday saying teens get two free rides to ‘Mean Girls’ in theaters this weekend. And I thought, Wow, Paramount has been thorough.”

So thorough in fact that a majority of people who showed up to the theater were women ages 18 to 34. The movie didn’t reach many women older than that, including those who probably saw the film when they were young, a sign that the film might have room to grow.

“The over-45 crowd was only 7 percent. Only 10 percent was 35 to 44,” Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution, said. “So I think there’s an opportunity here for us to serve that older audience.”

Mr. Weinstock, for one, is certain a wide swath of ages will show up for the movie. “They’re fans of the franchise,” he said. “They’re seeing this and saying, ‘Oh, I love my ‘Mean Girls.’ This looks fetch.’”


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