Blockbuster ‘Us’ Debut Shows the Power of Jordan Peele’s Brand

The $71 million debut of Jordan Peele’s “Us” did more than break box-office records for an original horror film, it established the writer-director as a moviemaking brand.

Forty percent of the “Us” audience said they saw the movie because Peele was the director, according to Comscore Inc. analyst Paul Dergarabedian. That’s surprising considering Peele only has one other feature film: 2017’s “Get Out,” which also outperformed expectations.

“This is almost unheard of and shows that after just two feature films, he’s already a superstar, above-the-marquee director,” Dergarabedian said in an email.

The movie, about a black family that encounters sinister doppelgangers while on vacation, also benefited from broad demographic appeal. Thirty-six percent of viewers were white, 30 percent were African-American, and 21 percent were Hispanic, Dergarabedian said. The Universal Pictures release opened as the No. 1 film in North America, unseating “Captain Marvel.”

Movie forecasters have tended to underestimate the commercial appeal of films with black casts. That was the case for “Get Out” and last year’s smash “Black Panther.” With “Us,” projections ranged from $51 million to $54 million.

Glowing Reviews

Both of Peele’s feature films drew near-universal praise from critics. “Us” was recommended by 94 percent of reviewers, according to Rotten Tomatoes, while “Get Out” had a score of 98 percent.

Well-reviewed horror movies are a rare find, Dergarabedian said. Another surprise: The demographic group that liked “Us” the most was women under 25, he said.

“For a horror movie, ‘Us’ is an overachiever,” he said. “The horror genre is often met by audiences (after their initial excitement wears off) with the realization that most films from the genre are sub-par.”

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