Many in Hollywood were sure that Super 8 would debut this past weekend as a major box office failure. Not only did J.J. Abrams' sci-fi flick boast no stars, but early audience-interest tracking revealed that most Americans were either unaware of, or indifferent to the film. Factor in a determinedly coy marketing campaign that concealed the most exciting plot points, and Super 8 seemed doomed to underwhelm at the box office. Turns out, the film tallied $38 million and won the weekend. What happened? Here, three theories:

1. Super 8 was saved by Twitter
Paramount Pictures, the studio behind Super 8, launched a last-ditch social-media campaign Thursday, says Michelle King at The Wall Street Journal. The studio successfully promoted nationwide Thursday screenings on Twitter, generating good word of mouth when a healthy proportion of the tweeps who saw the film tweeted about it positively. "Being able to come out of a movie and instantly tell your friends to see it because you heard about it under the radar is helpful," says Paramount vice president Don Harris, as quoted by the Journal.

2. Super 8 was saved by older viewers
In a rare demographic twist for a summer blockbuster, nearly three-quarters of the Super 8 audience was 25 or older. Indeed, the film has been "embraced by older movie lovers who grew up in the '80s and see Super 8 as a modern version of films like E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial or The Goonies," says Amy Kaufman in The Los Angeles Times. Not only did that get Super 8 off to a "solid start at the box office," the resulting buzz hints that Super 8 could be as successful as Bridesmaids and True Grit, two films that also "crossed generational divides."

3. Super 8 didn't need to be saved
The film's budget was only $50 million, says Scott Mendelson at The Huffington Post, so pundits who were eager to label Super 8 an "automatic flop" if it opened at $30 million, as projected, should never have been taken seriously. The movie's "rock-solid" $38 million haul, a bit above the projections that caused so much hand-wringing, should be considered "a huge win for Paramount."