Brad Pitt’s World War II tank film Fury topped the North American box office charts opening to an estimated $23.5M for Sony. The brutal R-rated drama averaged a sturdy $7,406 from 3,173 locations and opened in between the $22M of George Clooney’s The Monuments Men from February and the $25.7M of Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips from this same month last year. All skewed to an older adult audience using an A-list actor as the anchor.
Fury< scored good reviews from critics and pleased paying audiences too as evidenced by its good A- CinemaScore grade. Studio research showed that the crowd was, not surprisingly, 60% male and 51% over 35. Connecting with older men at this time of year is often difficult due to sports competition from NFL and college football plus the baseball playoffs. While Fury< did not score one of top ten opening weekends of Pitt's career, its older skew, good buzz and light competition over the next two weeks should allow the $68M production to build nicely. And overseas potential is solid given the star's drawing power and the Germany-set story.
Despite competition from Brad and the other new releases, two-time champ Gone Girl held up quite well in its third round slipping only 33% to an estimated $17.8M and joining the century club in the process. This fall’s biggest hit has now banked $107.1M and could find its way to the vicinity of $150M from North America. Only five September/October releases have ever climbed to that level before. Girl cost $61M to produce and may reach a global gross five times that amount.
The new animated offering The Book of Life premiered in third place with an estimated $17M from 3,071 sites for a good $5,536 average. That was about even with the recent toon The Boxtrolls which bowed to $17.3M and a $4,987 average in late September. Both were non-sequels offering a unique visual style for family audiences. Fox’s PG-rated Book had Mexican influences from its director, producer and source material and 30% of the audience was Latino. Overall demos showed the crowd to be 57% female and 54% under 25. 3D screens made up 31% of the gross, a low figure but common nowadays for toons. Book of Life features voices from Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, and Cheech Marin plus earned positive reviews.
The best weekend gross among the sophomore titles was an estimated $12M for Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Off only 34%, the Steve Carell comedy has collected a sturdy $36.9M to date and could be headed for the neighborhood of $70M.
Author Nicholas Sparks suffered his worst opening weekend ever for a film based on his novels as the romance The Best of Me opened in fifth to an estimated $10.2M from 2,936 locations for a mild $3,474 average. It was the ninth movie adapted from his books but audiences did not show up. Reviews were terrible and starpower was low with Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden anchoring. The PG-13 entry was released by Relativity which has not yet opened a film north of $13M this year.
The effects-heavy thriller Dracula Untold fell 58% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.9M boosting the cume to $40.7M for Universal. A solid $95.7M from overseas markets during these pre-Halloween weeks has raised the global gross to $136.4M.
Fellow sophomore The Judge held up moderately well with an estimated $7.9M, off 40%. The Warner Bros. release has grossed a modest $26.8M and looks headed for about $45M. The studio’s horror hit Annabelle dropped 50% to an estimated $7.9M as well for $74.1M to date making it 2014’s highest grossing fright film. A final of close to $90M seems likely.
A pair of September hits rounded out the top ten. Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer grossed an estimated $5.5M, down 44%, for a $89.2M cume for Sony. Fox’s The Maze Runner fell 40% to an estimated $4.5M banking $90.8M to date. Both will reach nine digits.
Oscar hopeful Birdman got off to a thunderous start in platform release debuting to an estimated $415,000 from only four locations in New York and Los Angeles for an eye-popping $103,750 average. That was the second highest opening weekend average of any film over the past two years. Only Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel fared better when it bowed last March to a $202,792 average. Both were released in four theaters on the first weekend by Fox Searchlight.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman stars Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts and earned sensational reviews. The R-rated film is eyed as a major contender in the picture, director, cinematography, and acting races. Searchlight will expand Birdman on Friday into 18 new markets for a total of about 50 theaters and continue to roll the awards contender out into November.
Also faring very well in its limited release debut was the race relations satire Dear White People which grossed an estimated $344,000 from 11 playdates for a strong $31,273 average. The Roadside Attractions release has earned great reviews across the board and also took home a Special Jury Award from Sundance last winter.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $116.3M which was up 28% from last year when Gravity remained at number one with $30M; and even with 2012 when Paranormal Activity 4 opened on top with $29M.