Steven Soderbergh proved in 2012 that women hungered for a cinematic thirst trap.
Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike,” starring Channing Tatum and a crew of muscular co-stars, delivered the year’s most unlikely smash. The film’s overtly sexual energy gave women a chance to ogle some of Hollywood’s most attractive male stars.
“Magic Mike’s” minuscule budget – $7 million – made its box office success all the more eye-popping
“Magic Mike XXL,” a frisky title for the obligatory sequel, proved more shocking by underwhelming at the box office (numbers provided by (Box Office Mojo):
- “Magic Mike” (2012): $113 million domestic
- “Magic Mike XXL” (2015): $66 million
The third and likely final film in the series, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” began with more humble ambitions. Soderbergh, returning to the franchise he created, aimed the threequel for an HBO Max exclusive.
The studio behind the film had a change of heart, noting the hearty box office receipts for the original film. That, plus a plum release date for the film’s target audience – Super Bowl Sunday – primed the film for sizable success.
What happened next?
Magic Mike’s Last Dance took first place at the domestic weekend box office with ticket sales of $8.2 million – the lowest opening for a Magic Mike film, as 2012’s Magic Mike opened to $39 million and 2015’s Magic Mike XXL opened to $12.8. https://t.co/4uMQyWZLgP pic.twitter.com/tmZucWbF03
— IGN (@IGN) February 13, 2023
The film earned a modest $8 million in its opening frame, but with a sizable caveat. The threequel debuted in just 1,500 theaters, a little less than half what most mainstream movies enjoy.
The plan? Start small and let word of mouth power “Last Dance” past the competition. Except when the studio added roughly 1,500 more theaters over the weekend the film’s box office receipts shrank by 34 percent.
“Magic Mike” is the kind of story that doesn’t require a “universe” or series of tales. The first film scratched a cultural itch, giving women the chance to live out their fantasies from the confines of a movie house.
The sequel’s colorful title couldn’t distract from that reality.
The third film also went woke, delivering an empowering spin on the tried-and-true stripper formula. Even liberal film reviewers rejected the shift, a rare example of critics crying foul over a progressive makeover.
This examination from the liberal Salon.com suggests why the third film is sinking at the box office.
There is certainly less nudity than in the previous films and at times, it suggests that men know what is best for women better than they do themselves. Mike even tells Max that it is “chauvinistic” if she doesn’t include a female lead in a show about women’s empowerment.
It’s hard to pin the franchise’s demise on Tatum. He remains a bankable star, witness the strong performances of his 2022 films following a self-imposed screen sabbatical.
Mike has danced for the last time, most likely. Some film success stories don’t need a second act, a lesson Hollywood will never learn.