Audiences had a choice this weekend at the box office: see one movie about a doomsday clock ticking down to the end of the world or an Eli Roth family film. We jest, of course, but either sounds like an end-of-days scenario having us wondering what year or universe we are waking up in. But the auteur of hard R-rated horror fare such as Hostel and The Green Inferno has gone Amblin on us and not only easily won the weekend, but could possibly have the biggest hit of his career.
Honestly, it was clear that any film that could muster up $12 million this weekend would take the crown. The fact that Roth’s The House With a Clock in Its Walls did more than twice that is a solid victory for a filmmaker who has hardly charmed critics or audiences since entering the horror scene after being propped up by no less than Quentin Tarantino early in his career. House is not just Roth’s biggest opening, but also his best-reviewed film ever at 68%. It’s his first positive score since his first two efforts, Cabin Fever (63%) and Hostel (61%). He hit a low point with this year’s Death Wish remake (17%), which grossed a total of $34 million. It’s the bucks that will keep Roth in business, and House is not out of the woods yet.
The $42 million production got a nice start with nearly $27 million. (Roth’s highest-grossing film domestically is Hostel with $47.3 million.) The Universal release is going to need around $125 million–$130 million worldwide to start turning a profit, however. The good news is that other live-action adaptations of children’s books have stretched their numbers fairly well over the years. Goosebumps opened to $23.8 million and made it to $80 million. Then there was also Bridge to Terabithia ($22.5 million/$82.2 million) and The Spiderwick Chronicles ($19 million/$71.1 million). Even if the film drops to the $60 million–$70 million range in the U.S., international sales on films such as these opening between $19 million–$29 million — aside from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films — have done no less than Terabithia’s $55 million. Goosebumps added $66.8 million across the globe and Spiderwick made $91.6 million. An animated film does seek to steal audiences away from this next week, so the emphasis outside the U.S. could ring stronger. We will be tracking its progress right here.
Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor dropped just 35 percent in its second weekend. It’s a notable hold that allowed it to even move up the chart from third into second place. With $32.7 million after 10 days for the film with an 84% Tomatometer score, it is right in the mix with September releases Stigmata, Easy A, The Guardian (2006), and The Boxtrolls. Each of those films opened higher than A Simple Favor and each finished between $50 million–$59 million, meaning that the Anna Kendrick–Blake Lively comedy is finding an audience that is guiding the $20 million production to success.
The numbers for Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 are a mixed bag. Compared to Fahrenheit 9/11 (aka the highest-grossing documentary of all time), the numbers are incredibly disappointing, especially given its release in nearly double the theaters in its debut. On the other hand, it’s a documentary that opened to $3 million. Among the 14 other docs that managed that, five of them are behind-the-scenes concert films or musician docs, seven are Disney Nature pieces, and the other two belong to Michael Moore and Bill Maher. Bottom line is that America has been experiencing the Trump show for a couple years now and likely did not want to pay 12 bucks to know who they are already voting for this November.
One thing for sure unlikely to see any votes with critics later this year is Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself (in no way associated with Steve James’ Roger Ebert documentary, which has a 97% Tomatometer score). At 13% on the Tomatometer, it is one of the worst-reviewed wide releases of the year with only Fifty Shades Freed (12%), Peppermint (11%), Slender Man (7%), and Death of a Nation (0%) beating it in the race to last place. This is Amazon Studios’ first wide release, and a $2.1 million start is the worst this year for a debut in over 2,500 theaters. (Fox’s The Darkest Minds was the previous low bar with $5.8 million.) After Amazon paid $10 million for the film and kept it out of Sundance, maybe that means there could be a few less lightning deals for Black Friday this year.
Also shelling out $10 million were Neon and its partner, Russo Bros.–led AGBO, who paid as much for Assassination Nation out of Sundance. The provocative internet-message-boards-come-to-life-like film got a 65% Tomatometer score with critics, but only $1 million from audiences with the studio’s first wide release launch in over 1,400 theaters. Thankfully their other Sundance pickup, the documentary Three Identical Strangers, made over $12 million this summer. That is now likely to outgross Michael Moore’s latest.
Last week this column published the worst drops for September films in over 3,000 theaters in anticipation of The Predator joining that list. And now it has. The worst drops in September for films released in over 3,000 theaters belong to Resident Evil: Retribution (-68.2 percent), Apollo 18 (-67.2 percent), and Insidious: Chapter 2 (-65.7 percent). If the estimates hold, The Predator dropped 65 percent and is just over $40 million. Do not expect it to reach $60 million domestic. It’s international total stands at $75 million.
Warner Bros. still has another week with its trio. The Meg will be replaced with Smallfoot next week, and it is still limping its way towards profitability with $140 million domestic and $500 million worldwide. The Nun passed the $100 million mark here and has an international haul of over $245 million. Crazy Rich Asians will be hitting $160 million tomorrow, while its international haul is still just shy of $200 million.
Sony’s Searching is now the second highest–grossing film out of Sundance this year with over $23 million. Congratulations to Aneesh Chaganty, John Cho, and the whole team on the thriller, which has a 93% Tomatometer score. Sony Classics’ The Wife dropped only 13 percent in limited release and is now just shy of $5 million; their biggest release of the year. Annapurna’s The Sisters Brothers (82% on the Tomatometer) with Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, and Jake Gyllenhaal made $122,000 in just four theaters. But the best per-theater-average of the week belongs to Bleecker Street’s Colette with Keira Knightley and Dominic West, which made $156,000 in four theaters.
1. The House With a Clock in Its Walls – $26.8 million ($26.8 million total)
2. A Simple Favor – $10.4 million ($32.6 million total)
3. The Nun – $10.2 million ($100.8 million total)
4. The Predator – $8.7 million ($40.4 million total)
5. Crazy Rich Asians – $6.5 million ($159.4 million total)
6. White Boy Rick – $5 million ($17.4 million total)
7. Peppermint – $3.7 million ($30.3 million total)
8. Fahrenheit 11/9 – $3.1 million ($3.1 million total)
9. The Meg – $2.3 million ($140.2 million total)
10. Searching – $2.2 million ($23.1 million total)
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]