In a box office victory that has taken just about everyone by surprise, Midway opened to #1 with $17.5 million. The ensemble action-war film, independently financed for $70-100 million (depending on your sources) and distributed by Lionsgate, opened about 15% above the last Lionsgate November WWII release, Hacksaw Ridge from three years ago. That film went on to have strong legs and a surprise awards run that carried it from a $15.3 million opening weekend to a $67.2 million total. With 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, Midway is unlikely to be an awards play, but it did match Hacksaw‘s A Cinemascore, so audiences could push the film pretty close to its break-even point of $65 million. Expect a final total around $60 million, possibly higher if it withstands the adult-aimed competition coming over the next few weeks.
Coming in significantly below expectations in second place was Doctor Sleep, with a $14.1 million weekend gross. Even after underwhelming openings in European markets last weekend, tracking for the film stayed in the $20-25 million range, and positive reviews seemed like a good omen for the Shining sequel. So what went wrong? Marketing for the film was probably not as aggressive as it could have been, especially for a sequel to one of the most iconic horror films of all time. One must assume that the November release date was to give it some distance from WB’s other Stephen King adaptation, IT: Chapter Two, but the result was a horror film opening eight days after Halloween, when a mid/late-October release date would have probably given the film a decent boost. Audiences seemed to like the film, with a strong-for-horror B+ Cinemascore, but the film seems unlikely to branch out from the audience that came out for its opening weekend, which will probably lead to a $35 million final total.
Coming in above its modest expectations, Playing with Fire opened to $12.8 million. The family comedy is of a rare breed these days, an original live-action film aimed at families without any fantastical elements, receiving a rather wide release in 3,125 theaters, led by an actor with only one real hit as a leading man (the R-rated Blockers). This opening weekend is not exactly a full-fledged breakout, but it does show that families are still willing to come out to the theater to see a film even if it’s not based on a bestselling book or an older movie classic. The film has only two weeks to keep making bank before Frozen II is released, but if the film can still hold onto some screens over the Thanksgiving holiday, it could leg out to a $40+ million total, matching is modest $30 million budget.
Another genre that has seen better days, the romantic comedy, suffered another blow this weekend, as Last Christmas came in below expectations with an $11.6 million debut. The first romantic comedy to receive a wide release since Isn’t It Romantic nearly nine months ago, Last Christmas was hoping to capitalize on Emilia Clarke’s status as a household name, and on the holiday season, only to come in below the other three new openers this weekend despite having a slightly wider release (3,448) than Midway or Playing with Fire. While other holiday-themed films have seen success with early November releases, an original film like this might have been better off opening a weekend or two closer to the holiday season, as this underwhelming opening will make holding onto theaters into December difficult. Not helping matters is a B- Cinemascore, a rather low rating for a romantic comedy, but Hustlers managed fine legs a couple months ago with a similar score, so it’s not a total death knell. If moviegoers decide to give the movie a chance later in the month (and enjoy it more than the opening night audiences), and if theaters decide to hold onto the holiday title closer to said holidays, it could leg out to a $45 million total, outgrossing its $30 million budget and possibly making a profit with an overseas over-performance for the British co-production.
In holdover news, Terminator: Dark Fate took a dark turn in its second weekend, dropping -62% to a $10.8 million weekend gross. The film will likely start shedding theaters quickly over the next couple weekends, finishing with a poor $65 million domestic gross. Joker had the best hold of all of the wide release holdovers, dropping only -32% in its sixth weekend to $9.2 million. With a worldwide gross of $984.7 million, it should become the first $1 billion R-rated grosser by the end of next weekend. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil felt the heat of Playing with Fire dropping -39% to an $8 million weekend gross, while Harriet had a solid -38% drop to a $7.2 million weekend.
Two of October’s art house breakouts officially entered wide release to strong results. Jojo Rabbit made $3.9 million over the weekend from 802 theaters, giving the film the second best per-theater-average of all wide releases this weekend, behind only Midway. Meanwhile, Parasite stayed even with its grosses last weekend, making $2.55 million from 603 theaters, giving it the third best per-theater-average for the weekend behind Midway and Jojo. Both films continue to be crowd-pleasers (their Rotten Tomatoes audience scores, 97% for Jojo and 93% for Parasite, are among the best for all wide releases), but both studios are likely to slow down their expansions soon, so they can take advantage of any awards boosts in December and January.
Opening in only four theaters this weekend, Honey Boy grossed $288,825 for a per-theater-average of $72,206. That is not only the best per-theater-average for the weekend, but the fourth best PTA for the year (behind Parasite, The Farewell, and Avengers: Endgame) and the second best ever for Amazon Studios, behind only Suspiria‘s $92,019’s PTA from two theaters last October. The film is Amazon’s only fall release receiving a full theatrical window, and this start seems to indicate that it was a smart move. The film’s mainstream appeal is probably limited, but a start this high does indicate that there is a sizable audience interested in writer/star Shia Labeouf’s autobiographical look at his Hollywood career, especially after the surprise breakout success of The Peanut Butter Falcon earlier this fall. Expect a final total somewhere north of $5 million, with potential for $10 million if Amazon can successfully expand the movie into wide release.
1. Midway – $17.5 million (NEW)
2. Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep – $14.4 million (NEW)
3. Playing with Fire – $12.8 million (NEW)
4. Last Christmas – $11.6 million (NEW)
5. Terminator: Dark Fate – $10.8 million (-63%)
6. Joker – $9.2 million (-32%)
7. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – $8 million (-39%)
8. Harriet – $7.2 million (-38%)
9. Zombieland: Double Tap – $4.3 million (-42%)
10. The Addams Family – $4.1 million (-50%)