With ‘Baywatch’ bending genre, it’s hard to define its success as a summer blockbuster. So let’s compare it across all three genres it tries to be.
The most noteworthy thing about Baywatch is how it crosses different genres. One minute you think you’re watching an action-adventure, the next a raunchy comedy, and the next minute it goes back to its source material roots and acts as a drama. Critics have found this to be messy, and audiences didn’t respond any more favorably, as the movie opened to $23M during Memorial Day weekend. As of now, Baywatch is at $72M worldwide, with two-thirds of that earned domestically. That’s only $2M more than its budget.
A film’s success is determined not only by its reviews, but by its profit. So, how does Baywatch rank against other movies similar to it? It is important to keep in mind that because Baywatch is rated R, its totals will be different than a PG-13 release due to its limited audience. Because of this, I will only compare it to other R-rated movies across each genre.
First, let’s weigh Baywatch against other R-rated comedies, as this is the genre Paramount advertised the movie as. The biggest R-rated comedy is The Hangover: Part 2, which earned $254M over its run and was also a Memorial Day opening. Other high-grossing comedies include There’s Something About Mary, Pretty Woman, Ted, and Wedding Crashers, all of them exceeding $175M. In terms of R-rated comedies, Baywatch is slacking.
Even for its own studio, Baywatch is disappointing, because Paramount is home to Beverly Hills Cop, the seventh highest R-rated box office total in history (third when adjusted for inflation). Paramount is also home to the Jackass franchise, which means good and bad things. Jackass 3-D and Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa both earned over $100M overall, but the first two Jackass films earned under $75m.
All told, Baywatch is underperforming in the comedy genre.
How is Baywatch doing as an action film? Terribly. Even if it ends its run breaking $100M, it’s still ranked below films like Kingsman: The Secret Service, Wanted, The Revenant, and Watchmen. In comparison to other action comedies, it’s also behind Deadpool, 21 Jump Street, The Heat, and Tropic Thunder. The action genre is oversaturated with franchises and superhero movies that can quickly make a studio money, so Baywatch was doomed to fail in this category from the start.
But if it’s any consultation, it made more money than the first John Wick and is on track to make more than the second one.
Lastly, Baywatch as an R-rated drama: the film is performing best in this genre. Several dramas are still ranked higher than Baywatch, such as The Passion of Christ, Fifty Shades of Grey, American Sniper, and Gone Girl. Many big name hits have lower box office totals, such as Zero Dark Thirty, Flight, Saturday Night Fever, and Fury.
If Baywatch grosses more than $100M by the end of its theatrical release, it could be recognized as a high-grossing R-rated drama. However, this won’t happen, as Baywatch chose to be advertised as a an action-comedy film.
So, what does all of this mean? The original show was a drama. Yet the creative team tried to make the movie a comedy. But to properly be a Baywatch film, there needed to be drama. So, Baywatch should have been a drama if it wanted to be successful. It would allow the film to qualify as a box office success and possibly get more positive reviews from critics.