If you release it, we will come. That appears to be the message that audiences are sending right now. Either that, or if you release it and it gets really strong reviews – or at least has enough behind-the-scenes drama that it draws up awareness to keep us interested on a mystery premise even if the critics do not think much of it – we will come. $50 million is the new $100 million for the autumn season. Actually, $50 million would be the old $50 million for this period of releases, and a little of the old would be most welcome. There are already back-to-back films making a run at it.
There is no question that Warner Bros. got an assist in advertising with all the press devoted to the backstage drama of Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling. In-fighting to the public is much different than just hearing something is a disaster. Critics have certainly done that lifting by only putting the film at 38% on the Tomatometer. But audiences were still curious and spent nearly $20 million on the film this weekend. That’s the second highest September opening (after Shang-Chi) since the beginning of the pandemic and could lead to our second $50 million grosser of the month if that “B-“ Cinemascore does not sink it too deeply. So let’s examine both numbers.
A $19.2 million opening in September with a “B-“ and a Tomatometer score in the 30s? That is not far off from another sci-fi mystery from 2004, led by Julianne Moore: The Forgotten. It opened to $21 million and finished its run with over $67 million – a pretty high bar to set for Darling at this point. The Forgotten fell 43% in its second weekend (with a PG-13 rating), grossing $11.8 million and a running total of $38 million after 10 days. Darling would have to fall pretty hard for it not to make that $50 million floor at this point, but the fact that it made $9.5 million of its $19.2 million on Thursday and Friday is not a great sign that audience love is spreading. However, only four films have ever opened to $18 million or more in September and not made it to $50 million. They were Resident Evil: Retribution, Riddick, Rambo: Last Blood, and The Rundown. At least Darling‘s title doesn’t begin with an R, and it made another $10.8 million internationally this weekend.
Last week’s No. 1 fell back to second this week with a decent 42% drop. The Woman King grossed $11.1 million to drive its 10-day total to over $36 million. That puts it within range of the Coen Bros.’ Burn After Reading, which did just squeak over $60 million. That’s a goal that Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film would love to achieve. It is only a couple hundred thousand off that film’s pace, so if it can keep itself above $6 million next week, it has a solid shot at achieving that. However, its international total would at least need to match that if it is going to be in profit when it leaves theaters for Sony – it opened to $1.3 million in just Brazil and Nigeria this weekend. The studio is, however, going to get their wish of Bullet Train crossing $100 million domestic. Another $1.8 million this weekend brings that film’s total to over $99 million, and by next weekend it should pass the century mark. With only another $125 million internationally, though, the film is still not quite out of the red yet and could be labeled a disappointment.
James Cameron’s Avatar got the re-release treatment ahead of the sequel’s long-delayed release in December, and it pulled in $10 million in 1,860 theaters. As the discourse about its cultural footprint continues, this weekend’s $5,376 per-theater average is better than last month’s E.T. re-release ($2,717 in 389 theaters), this month’s Jaws re-release ($2,117 in 1,246 theaters), and Spider-Man: Far From Home ($1,373 in 3,935 theaters). Then again maybe some people did forget what happened in the original. Avatar’s numbers this weekend nearly match what the special edition release made at the end of August 2010 ($10.7 million). After Top Gun: Maverick worked all summer to try and catch Cameron a second time, Disney just had to pull away from it further. The Tom Cruise film fell to ninth place in its 18th week of release and drove its total to over $711 million.
The horror film continuing to draw solid word-of-mouth, 20th Century Studios’ Barbarian, entered its third weekend by adding another 550 theaters. That resulted in a 26% drop down to $4.8 million, and it has now brought its total up to over $28 million. Based on its September counterparts, the film now appears to be headed for somewhere between $37-43 million. Ti West’s Pearl fell 39% to $1.9 million. That is slightly less what X made in its second weekend ($2.1 million), but at $6.6 million, it lags behind X’s $8.2 million 10-day total. Still, that’s not bad at all on just a $1 million budget. That still outpaces last week’s other Disney/Fox tale of murder, See How They Run, which made $1.7 million bringing its total to just over $6 million.
Finally, over in animation, we should be seeing the last of the Minions in the top 10 this week. Over 13 weeks The Rise of Gru has remained a fixture and brought its total up to over $365 million. That is now officially ahead of the pace of The Secret Life of Pets, which only grossed $443,300 in its 13th week (The Rise of Gru still pulled in a cool million). It now needs less than $3 million to top Pets to become Illumination’s highest-grossing domestic film ever. It has made $915 million worldwide.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ DC League of Super-Pets also continues to hang around with $1.7 million, positioning it to become the highest-grossing non-adult-related late-summer season animated film to date. That title is currently held by Disney’s Planes from 2013. The latter also made $90.2 million, while DC League of Super-Pets currently stands at $89.9 million. The David Bowie documentary Moonage Daydream is doing solid business, grossing $922,000 in 733 theaters this week and bringing its total to $2.6 million. The highest-grossing doc since the pandemic began has been Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, which made $5.3 million.
Two new films in theaters next week hope to keep the box office alive with another potential $50 million grosser. Billy Eichner’s Bros is drawing attention for being the first gay romantic comedy with a cast made up entirely of LGBTQ actors (well, released by a major studio, at least). Universal is hoping the Nicholas Stoller/Judd Apatow film will become one of the season’s big success stories. It currently has a 94% with critics who reviewed it at the Toronto Film Festival. As horror is having a moment, we’ll also see just how much can Smile rustle up some scares. The film has a 77% with critics after reviews from this week’s Fantastic Fest in Austin.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Warner Bros.