Everyone Is Seeing Everything Everywhere All at Once

It appears that movies aimed at grown-ups can succeed at the box office if they are spectacularly entertaining.
A screenshot of Michelle Yeoh with a googly eye on her forehead from Everything Everywhere All At Once
Image Source: Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once earned $6.2 million at the box office this weekend, making it tied with The Lost City for the third-biggest picture in the country. It beat out Morbius, Father Stu, and Ambulance, and looks like the first word-of-mouth hit of the year.

Since the pandemic started, it’s been harder and harder to predict which movies will get audiences out to theaters. Prior to the pandemic, it would have been hard to imagine Stephen Spielberg’s West Side Story as a flop, but it bombed hard, earning only $36.6 million in its first three weeks. As noted by filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, more and more it seems like the only thing that audiences really want to see in theaters are Marvel and Disney films; because these are guaranteed hits, it also feels, to cinephiles, that any other kind of movie barely manages to stay in theaters for a weekend, while Marvel’s latest offerings last for months or more.


When I bought a ticket to Everything, Everywhere over the weekend, I was shocked to see something I haven’t seen since prior to the pandemic: the theater was almost entirely sold out, and the only two seats together were in the very back. The audience wasn’t just there to beat the summer heat, either—they were engaged with the film, laughing and cheering for the characters, and erupting in applause as the credits rolled. It wasn’t just my theater that was reacting to the film so strongly. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once initially opened in a limited run in only 38 theaters, but expanded to over a thousand screens last week, and will be adding another thousand this week for a total of 2,200 screens.

Although Everything, Everywhere’s gross of $6.2 million pales in comparison to the number one film (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, with over $42 million), it’s also the exact kind of movie that seems to not have even a chance of making a dent in the box office due to structural factors. It isn’t the only film not from a major studio to make it into top 10—the Indian film KGF: Chapter 2 premiered this week at $2.8 million—but it is the only American independent film on the list, and also the only returning film that is actively earning more money week to week rather than less. The Lost City premiered at number one at the box office with $30 million for the weekend, but after four weeks in theaters, it’s just barely beating Everything, Everywhere in its weekend gross.

Watching the movie, it’s hard not to see what people find so captivating. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is joyously in love with movies and everything they can do. It strives in each scene to show the audience a new kind of visual expression of its themes. If it’s not a tongue in cheek homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, then it’s suddenly transforming its lead characters into solitary rocks in the desert, or imagining the material conditions of a world where everyone has hot dogs for fingers, or showcasing lead actress Michelle Yeoh’s legendary skill as a martial artist. 

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is richly imaginative, in the way that superhero movies used to feel, blending an end-of-the-world action plot with a heartfelt family drama. It’s also the rare movie that is not just about a woman over 40, but also takes the mundane issues of such a woman’s life seriously. In Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, doing your taxes and trying to understand why your adult daughter is mad at you are just as important as saving the multiverse. The lives of tens of millions of filmgoers who are normally offered nothing but adolescent power fantasies were treated seriously, and wildly entertainingly, in this movie. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that people found it.