Currently, Packer is anticipating the premiere of his Tim Story-assisted gospel-comedy Praise This. The Peacock movie stars Chloe Bailey, Quavo, Anjelika Washington, Drew “Druski” Desbordesm, Tristan “Mack” Wilds and more.
With the theme of “come as you are” seen throughout the film, Packer described his anticipated flick as, “a church movie that ain’t about church.” Unique from similar films like Pitch-Perfect and The Fighting Temptations, Praise This offers a particular blend of music, comedy, drama, and forgiveness.
“I think it’s special because the music mashups are different than what you’ve seen before,” Packer added. “It’s got the big secular artists like a Beyoncé or Megan Thee Stallion mashed up with Gospel. I think that’s super cool. It’s funny. It’s got levity. It’s definitely got moments that hopefully will have you laughing out loud. That’s what makes it different, it separates it. And it’s the type of movie that I enjoy making because it’s fun to make. The cast was amazing.”
Packer, 48, has produced and executive produced a wide range of films grossing more than $1 billion worldwide. The Florida-native has worked on over 30 features, including 10 No. 1 box office hits including: Ride Along, Ride Along 2, Think Like a Man, Think Like a Man Too, No Good Deed, Takers, Obsessed, Straight Outta Compton, Stomp The Yard and Night School.
The film impresario sat with VIBE recently to discuss his latest film set to premiere on Friday (April 7) via Peacock. He also gave the next generation of filmmakers five key ingredients needed for success at the box office, which include theme, urgency, being unique to genre, the cast, and execution of theme.
Check out a break down of five important tips from Packer below, and see the official trailer for the film here.
When creating a film that’s aiming for the number one spot at the box office, Will Packer says you must have a clear theme.
“What is the movie about?” he suggests you ask yourself while keeping in mind that “audiences need to connect to it.”
One of his top-grossing movies, 2007’s Stomp The Yard, had a clear theme of “brotherhood” amongst a Black fraternity on an HBCU campus. It also stressed the importance of education.
The film, starring Columbus Short, Chris Brown, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo and more, was also sure to showcase different styles of dance and stepping in Black culture.
Stomp The Yard opened at No. 1 during its premiere week, and grossed over $61 million domestically and $75 million worldwide.
In creating a successful film that will garner accolades such as Packer’s NAACP Image Award winning Straight Outta Compton did, there needs to be “a sense of urgency” felt around the movie.
“These days there are so many different options that you have out there. A movie needs to feel urgent,” Packer suggested. “Like, ‘I need to not only see it, but I need to see it right away. I must see this movie.’ Because if you don’t, there’s so many movies out there that you forget about it.”
Straight Outta Compton tackled controversial issues surrounding the rise of the Compton group and the death of late rapper Eazy-E of N.W.A, who died from HIV in 1995. Many Hip-Hop lovers flocked to the theaters to see this film about the genres most notorious rap group, known for their raw and uncut lyrics that challenged authority. Many fans also felt a connection to the film as they got to learn more about one of Hip-Hop’s renowned rap groups.
SOC came in first place at the Box Office during its opening weekend, grossing over $60.2 million. The film made history as the fifth-best August opening weekend of all time. Overall, Straight Outta Compton grossed over $157.5 million domestically and $188 million internationally, becoming the highest grossing music biopic thus far.
The film, which starred Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, and more, also inspired Dr. Dre’s third studio-album, Compton, which dropped in 2015.
Unique to Genre
Repetitive themes are found throughout films in all genres — and there’s no escaping that. However, according to Packer, the way to stand out is to have, “some type of element that makes it different than other movies in that genre.”
His forthcoming film Praise That does just that. The praise competition flick does have common elements that we’ve seen in movies like Pitch Perfect, but this one is centered around Black culture and Black music. The film also includes mashup songs where popular Hip-Hop tracks meet Gospel lyrics.
“It’s not just a competition, it’s not just good music, it’s not just a church backdrop — it’s also a funny movie and that makes it fun,” Packer expressed.
The fourth ingredient in the recipe for a successful box office film is the cast, says Packer.
In his 2010 No. 1 box office film Takers, the star-studded cast included actors Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Jay Hernandez, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Zoe Saldana and music artists/actors Tip “T.I.” Harris and Chris Brown.
The cast of Takers was uniquely put together to carry out the storyline of professional bank robbers who specialized in over-the-top robberies. Viewers got to see another layer of stars like T.I. and Chris Brown, as neither one of the musicians acted in a film like that prior.
Speaking to what made the cast perfect for the film, Packer told The Atlantic Journal Constitution at the time, “They bring a different kind of appeal than what you normally see for an action movie. The way Hollywood looks at action movies is that they appeal to men. The tried-and-true quality of an action film, it speaks to men and young men.”
He added, “I felt like if we put a group of attractive, sexy, well-dressed men in an action movie that we could open up a whole other demo: women.”
At the box office, Takers was number one during its opening weekend, grossing over $20,512,304.
Execution of Theme
Lastly, Packer believes to score the top spot at the box office, the theme of the film — including the script — needs to be executed flawlessly.
The 2012 romantic comedy Think Like A Man is a prime example of a Packer movie that had great execution of its theme.
Based on Steve Harvey’s 2009 book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, the film had an ensemble cast, featuring Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Terrence J, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco, and Gabrielle Union.
The film stayed true to the tome’s chapters, as each casted couple represented a depiction from the novel. TLAM highlighted four storylines including: The Mama’s Boy vs. The Single Mom, The Non-Committer vs. The Girl Who Wants the Ring, The Dreamer vs. The Woman Who Is Her Own, and The Player vs. The 90-Day Rule Girl.
The women in the film, who portray avid supporters of Harvey’s authorship, try to turn the tables on their men according to the advice found in the book.
Think Like a Man grossed over $33.7 million during its opening weekend, landing it in the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office. Overall the film made $91,547,205 in both the United States and Canada, and a worldwide total of $96,070,507.