"Mean Girls" had a splashy box office debut, earning $28.7 million in its first three days.
Its studio deemphasized that it was a musical in marketing to avoid repelling certain moviegoers.
While most ticket buyers knew it was a musical, some were "disappointed" by the genre, per Variety.
"Mean Girls" arrived at No. 1 at the North American box office this weekend, earning $28.7 million in its first three days and $33.2 million for the four-day stretch into the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, according to studio estimates.
The film, a musical remake of the 2004 Tina Fey comedy of the same name, was a clear hit among females and 18- to 34-year-old moviegoers who represented the bulk of its opening weekend viewers, the Associated Press reported.
But the studio's decision to deemphasize that the film was a musical in certain marketing materials may have confused some attendees, according to exit polls the company shared with Variety.
While 75% of respondents said they knew it was a musical before buying a ticket, "16% left the theater 'disappointed' by the genre," Variety reported. The remaining 9% were neutral about it.
The decision to downplay the musical aspects of the film mirrored similar tactics from studios like Warner Bros. Entertainment, which kept musical details to a minimum in its marketing push for the December release of "Wonka."
For "Mean Girls," the goal was to emphasize the film's comedic aspects rather than its songs to draw in a broader audience, according to Marc Weinstock, Paramount's president of worldwide marketing and distribution.
Weinstock told Variety that "people tend to treat musicals differently" and that "it could be considered a musical but it appeals to a larger audience."
The company didn't avoid musical elements in its marketing entirely. The opening of its first trailer, released in theaters ahead of "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" screenings, began with singing, for example.
The company also added a musical note to the "A" on the film's title.
"There are hints to it without being overbearing," Weinstock said.
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