Film and TV

Woke Films Make More At The Box Office (With Some Caveats)

There's really no need to fight. Both woke and non-woke film have their place.
Screencap from Barbie
There's really no need to fight. Both woke and non-woke film have their place.
The phrase “go woke, go broke” has never really held up in practice. There are just too many factors involved for such a reductive phrase to be universally true. For instance, let’s look at theatrical releases in 2023. On average, woke films have made more at the box office.

Here’s how we collated this information. Determining if a film is woke is an imprecise process. Luckily, the reviewer at Worth It or Woke? has a handy measure of 1-100 on how non-woke a movie is. It’s just three white men’s and one white woman’s opinions, but it’s a place to start because it’s very easy to divide films into categories numerically.

There have been over a hundred theatrically released films as of August 16, 2023. Worth It Or Woke? has reviewed 41 of them that grossed over $1 million at the domestic box office.

Of those, 5 scored less than 50 percent in non-wokeism: Renfield, Evil Dead Rises, The Little Mermaid, Elemental, and Barbie. Two more films were a perfect tie of woke and non-woke: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania.

I’m counting two other films as woke in spite of their scores based on the content of the reviews. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was initially scored non-woke, but the review was later edited with a scathing condemnation of the “Protect Trans Kids” poster that appears in the movie. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was only 45 percent woke, but the commentary on the woke elements was so vicious that I felt it belonged here.

Those films have a combined domestic box office of $1.90 billion and have an average of $210 million per film. Bear in mind that Barbie’s domestic box office is still going strong, so this number is likely to climb.

Worth It or Woke? rated 32 films this year as non-woke: M3GAN, Plane, 80 for Brady, Cocaine Bear, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, Creed III, Scream VI, 65, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, John Wick Chapter 4, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, The Pope’s Exorcist, Air, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Sisu, Big George Foreman, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, Hypnotic, Fast X, Sound of Freedom, Nefarious, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, The Flash, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, Oppenheimer, Haunted Mansion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, Meg 2: The Trench, Last Voyage of the Demeter, and Gran Turismo.

Several of these are also very new releases and likely to grow, though probably not to the level of Barbie. Nevertheless, they have a combined domestic box office of $3.06 billion.

That is 30 percent more total than the woke movies, but it’s only a $90 million average per film. There are three times as many non-woke films, according to this one measure, but they tend to make less money.

It’s just an average. The highest grossing film so far on the list is Super Mario Bros. ($574 million), though Barbie is rapidly catching up. The lowest grossing film on the non-woke list was Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey ($1 million), while the lowest on the woke list was Renfield ($17 million). Only a third of the woke list made less than $100 million, while two-thirds of the non-woke list did.

What is most surprising about this data is that it throws a wrench into the idea that Hollywood is overly concerned with wokeism. Both children’s films and superhero movies are well-represented in the non-woke category. Disney has two major tentpole releases in the non-woke list despite constantly being the main bogeyperson in the culture wars.

While few films covered by Worth It or Woke? have zero woke content by their measure, most films scored 75 percent or above in the non-woke category. Several like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 scored 100 percent.

Hollywood is clearly catering to a diverse range of tastes, everything from standard action man flicks to Greta Gerwig’s absurdist feminist take on Barbie. There’s no evidence that conservative or “traditional” values are being marginalized. If anything, they appear to be overrepresented.

In terms of releases, woke films are outnumbered. However, in terms of money made per film, they dominate by a lot. They make more on average and tend to be bigger releases. In baseball terms, non-woke films hit a lot of singles and doubles, and woke films hit more home runs.