Uncle Drew debuted at number four in the domestic box office, bringing in an estimated $15.5 million. This niche basketball comedy fared surprisingly well for a new franchise, earning nearly twice that of Warner Bros.’ star-studded Oceans 8 for the week.
There are a lot of firsts about Uncle Drew that made it a financial risk for studios to produce. For one, the character, portrayed by NBA Kyrie Irving was born out of an ad campaign for Pepsi Max in 2012. While many of Pepsi’s spots have gone viral, there is never a guarantee that enthusiasm will translate into movie tickets.
Secondly, most of the main characters in Uncle Drew are basketball stars—not movie stars—with the exception of Shaquille O’Neal who at the very least, has some on-set experience. Lastly, the upbeat comedy is a first for PepsiCo’s Creators League Studios.
“There’s no precedent,” Karie Bible, box office analyst and film historian at Exhibitor Relations, told AListDaily. “We can’t compare it to Pepsi’s last movie or the last Uncle Drew movie or the last film from Kyrie Irving.”
Marketing for the film was targeted to its core audience—basketball fans—and while campaigns were limited to NBA playoff games, trailers and a Snapchat filter, Bible felt it was more than appropriate for a film of this size.
“They really marketed it well,” she commented. “A lot of time marketing is blamed for whenever a movie doesn’t succeed. They did a good job marketing it digitally to sports fans. It obviously wasn’t a huge blockbuster but Uncle Drew‘s box office is decent for sure.”
Lionsgate and Pepsi have two other things on their side—the Fourth of July holiday and an “A” rating on Cinema Score.
“It should carry on and make money over the Fourth of July weekend,” said Bible. “Good for [Lionsgate] for taking a risk. You’ve gotta pin a medal on a studio for that these days. It doesn’t happen too often.”