With Joker looming as a potentially record-breaking opener last weekend, most studios avoided opening any major new releases this weekend, with only two new openers in the top 10 with minimal overlap with that comic book adaptation. The one wide release had an adequate opening, enough to take the top spot for the weekend, but the bigger story was a quasi-wide release that out-performed almost all expectations.
Opening at #1 was Universal’s Abominable, with a $20.85 million opening weekend. This is the lowest opening weekend for a DreamWorks Animation release since the Aardman co-production Flushed Away from 2006, but still within the studio and industry expectations for the film, which had a rather muted marketing campaign by DreamWorks standards, and a low-by-DreamWorks-standards $75 million budget. The film was a co-production with Chinese film production company Pearl Studio, so the movie also has potential to be a major player in China when it opens there on Tuesday. In America however, the movie will have a quiet couple of weeks before facing direct competition from The Addams Family in two weekends and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in three weekends, so legs could be cut short. I forsee a final total around $70 million, leaving it up to China and other international markets to put the film in the black.
The one other new opener this weekend, Roadside’s Judy, surpassed almost all expectations with a strong $3.1 million opening from 461 theaters, enough for 7th place for the weekend. Quasi-wide releases of this size are often hard to predict, since most of the time they are reserved for movies that a studio is dumping. But Roadside has been using a strategy this decade that almost no other studio uses, where they release a movie in 300-500 theaters its first weekend, before expanding into a proper wide release (600+ theaters) in the second or third weekend. This was the strategy behind some of their biggest hits, including Mud, Mr. Holmes, and A Most Wanted Man. Judy fits into a similar wheelhouse of those movies: while they’re not quite movies with blockbuster potential, they are movies with stars and stories that still have immediate appeal beyond the coasts, and don’t require a slow rollout to find their audience.
Judy‘s theater count is about 100 theaters higher than the three movies mentioned above, but it still managed a similar per-theater-average ($6,706), giving the movie Roadside’s fourth biggest opening weekend of all time, behind three movies (I Can Only Imagine, Forever My Girl, The Conspirator) with proper wide releases. With this strong of a start, the movie will almost certainly move into a proper wide release next weekend, although there is no indication from Roadside about the size of the expansion, making a final total hard to calculate. But the movie received an A- from Cinemascore, and 79% of its audience this weekend over the age of 35, meaning the movie would probably have a relatively leggy run even without any expansion. So the movie should be good at least a $12+ million total, with a potential for $15+ million if it has a successful expansion next weekend.
With only one new wide release this weekend aimed squarely at families, most of the holdovers had good holds this weekend. Downton Abbey made $14.5 million for the weekend, with a -53.3% drop – but when you remove the $2.2 million of Sept. 12 previews from last weekend, it actually dropped just under 50%, a great hold for a movie that should have fans rushing out immediately to see it. Hustlers moved up from 5th to 3rd place this weekend, dropping only -31.8% for a $11.5 million weekend. With minimal competition for its female audience over the next two weekends, the movie should continue to have decent legs and could challenge The Upside ($108.3 million) for the title of STX’s #1 2019 release. IT: Chapter Two finally had a good drop as well, dipping -38.8% for a $10.4 million weekend, while Ad Astra rounded out the top 5 with $10.1 million, a -46.6% drop from its opening weekend. Considering its B- Cinemascore and 42% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, I imagine Fox and Disney are pleasantly surprised by that hold.
1. Abominable (Universal) $20,850,000 (NEW)
2. Downton Abbey (Focus) $14,500,000 (-53.3%)
3. Hustlers (STX) $11,470,000 (-31.8%)
4. IT: Chapter Two (WB/NL) $10,400,000 (-38.8%)
5. Ad Astra (Fox) $10,143,000 (-16.6%)
6. Rambo: Last Blood (Lionsgate) $8,575,000 (-54.6%)
7. Judy (Roadside Attractions) $3,091,417 (NEW)
8. Good Boys (Universal) $2,010,000 (-22.4%)
9. The Lion King (Disney) $1,603,000 (-40.1%)
10. Angel Has Fallen (Lionsgate) $1,535,000 (-36.2%)