It is rare that the box office has an upset of the magnitude of this weekend’s. It’s even rarer that such a surprise victory does not come with the normal spoils one might expect from it. All the projections showed the adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep leading the pack with a haul in the mid-20s to as much as $30 million. Roland Emmerich’s WWII FX-laden updating of Midway was trailing even behind Last Christmas among most projections. Nevertheless, Midway bucked the odds – or the typically wrong tracking services – and pulled out a victory with $17.5 million, albeit one that is the lowest-grossing number 1 in November since 2012 when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 – in its third weekend and in the doldrum weekend post-Thanksgiving – grossed $17.4 million.
Midway‘s surprising victory at the box office does come with some caveats. Aside from the Twilight statistic noted above, Midway’s $17.5 million is the lowest opening weekend for Roland Emmerich since Stargate in 1994 ($16.6 million) and it seems unlikely to stretch to $71.5 million as that film did. (Though if this weekend taught us anything, it’s that we should prepare for surprises.) That would then make it Emmerich’s lowest-grossing wide release since 1992’s Universal Soldier made $36.2 million. It will gross more than that but in the history of November only two wide releases – not rated “G” or “PG” – have ever opened to less than $20 million and grossed over $70 million. They were Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear ($79.09 million) and A Bad Moms Christmas ($72.11 million).
Lionsgate can surely promote Midway as “the number 1 film in the country” this week but it is still staring down a $100 million price tag with not a lot of international appeal for its American victory tale. Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor grossed $250 million in international dollars. Lionsgate has only had nine films make as much as $200 million overseas: four were Hunger Games films and one was the final Twilight film. (The other four Twilights were released by Summit before Lionsgate acquired them.)
Paramount is not having the greatest of weeks. Their family film, Playing With Fire, is the worst-reviewed (24% on the Tomatometer) of the new releases this week; the nearly $30 million-budgeted film grossed $12.8 million, which is hardly a disaster – and better than some projections – but not a rousing success, either. It is last week’s release of Terminator: Dark Fate, though, that is just not looking good; it dropped 63% to $10.8 million in its second week. A solid haul is not unheard of from here: Dark Fate is just a million behind Paramount’s own Daddy’s Home 2’s 10-day gross ($50.21 million) just two years ago as it went on to squeak out over $104 million. But its second weekend is over $3.5 million less than what the Farrell/Wahlberg sequel earned in its second weekend. Dark Fate is also about a half-million ahead of The Muppets, which had a massive fallback in its second weekend back in 2011 and grossed over $88 million. Terminator’s second weekend is also slightly behind that one ($11.08 million). However, an optimistic $90 million finish means nothing without a stronger international showing and to date it sits at just $150 million when it is going to need more than $400 million outside the U.S. to break even. On the plus side, Dark Fate is one of those rare films whose Tomatometer score is actually getting better as it expands and more critics see it: it is currently Fresh at 72% after spending time in the 60s.
Doctor Sleep this week became the victim of too-lofty expectations. The numbers are truly disappointing though, which has pundits asking if Warner Bros. should have sold its connections to The Shining more forcefully – and whether there was an appetite for more Shining in the first place. Only four Stephen King adaptations have ever opened to over $20 million – and two of them were this year with It: Chapter 2 and the Pet Sematary redux. (1408 and the first It were the others.) Inflation notwithstanding, Doctor Sleep had the 10th best opening for a King adaptation and at 73% on the Tomatometer ranks as the 11th best-reviewed theatrical release of a film based on the author’s work.
1980’s The Shining grossed approximately $139.5 million in adjusted dollars. Doctor Sleep’s $14.1 million start trails behind even Dreamcatcher, which opened to $15.02 million back in 2003. If you gave The Lawnmower Man an inflation boost from 1992, it would have grossed $14 million today, right around what Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil sequel opened to ($14.06 million) – though we should note that was 10 days before Halloween in 2016. The trouble for Doctor Sleep might have been with the release date. Horror is not a popular genre in November these days. Not a single horror film has grossed over $60 million from a November start since before 2000. The Mist, a 2007 Stephen King adaptation released over Thanksgiving (and the 12th-highest–rated King adaptation at 72% on the Tomatometer) took in what equates to about $11 million in ticket sales today on its first weekend.
Also not a great genre in November: romantic comedies. At least, successful November rom-com releases have been pretty sparse. There have been some moderate numbers over the years for films like The American President ($60.07 million) and Love Actually ($59.69 million). Shallow Hal grossed $70.8 million, but that was sold more on its high-concept premise than as a traditional rom-com. Paul Feig’s Last Christmas began with $11.6 million this weekend. That puts the film likely in the $30-$40 million range. As for those who are surprised Universal put out a Christmas movie in November, rather than December, it’s not uncommon practice – and has worked well for some releases in the past. These November releases with “Christmas” in the title show the release strategy can succeed wonderfully, and fail spectacularly:
In better news for Warner Bros. this week, Todd Phillips’ Joker has passed more milestones. Its $313 million domestic and another $650 million internationally gives the film $984 million. That means it has now joined the list of the 50 highest-grossing films of all-time. Say goodbye to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (and say it soon to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The Jungle Book once Frozen II and The Rise of Skywalker open) as Joker enters the list this weekend at 44th place; it is also headed soon to become the 44th film ever to reach $1 billion.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has had a bit of a rebound lately. It is going to pass $100 million at home sometime this week and it is now over $430 million worldwide. But it is still going to need about another $120 million before getting out of the red. The Addams Family is now well into profit with over $154 million worldwide, $91 million of that domestically. United Artists Releasing (a combo of Annapurna, MGM, and Orion) had some rough box office results earlier this year with Booksmart and Laika’s Missing Link, but they have been more recently putting out movies that have been turning profits, like their remakes of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (a.k.a. The Hustle) and Child’s Play. The Addams Family will be their biggest earner to date.
Harriet dropped 38% and made $7.2 million in its second weekend. Between that and its $23.46 million gross to date, the film is in the vicinity of Allied and Stranger Than Fiction, which each managed to just get over the $40 million line. That could make it just the 18th film in Focus Features’ history to reach that mark.
Fox Searchlight expanded Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit from 256 theaters into 802 and it just missed hitting the top 10 with $3.9 million. That puts the film squarely between the studio’s (500) Days of Summer, which went from a third weekend of $2.77 million in 266 theaters to $3.73 million in 817 theaters, and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, which made $2.51 million in 238 theaters in weekend three and jumped into 791 theaters the next week to gross $4.05 million. Those films had $12.35 and $10.72 million, respectively, after 24 days. Jojo Rabbit is at $9.1 million.
Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite moved into an “official” wide release this week, expanding into 602 theaters. It grossed another $2.5 million, which is better than The Farewell’s move to wide release from 409-to-704 theaters in its fifth weekend, where it grossed $2.09 million. The Neon release also has a slightly better per-theater-average ($4,152) than Boyhood had ($3,900), when it jumped in the same period from 310-to-506 theaters. The Farewell had $10.2 million after 31 days; Parasite has $11.2 million (and another $95.5 million internationally); Boyhood had $10.5 million and grossed over $25 million. I, Tonya is Neon’s highest-grossing domestic film to date with $29.9 million.
Finally, in limited release news, Amazon’s release of Shia LaBeouf’s autobiographical Honey Boy grossed $288,825 in four theaters. That is the second-best per-theater-average ($72,206) for Amazon to date, ahead of both Late Night ($61,576) and Beautiful Boy ($54,722), also each released in four theaters. The 2018 Suspiria remake had a $92,019 average in just two theaters. It is also the fourth-best PTA of 2019 behind Parasite, The Farewell, and Avengers: Endgame.
The second weekend of November 2018 brought us Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, from Illumination. The feature-length animated version of the classic story opened to $67.57 million. Hanging strong was Bohemian Rhapsody, grossing $31.2 million and just getting over its first $100 million in 10 days. In third place was the Nazi monster film, Overlord, with $10.2 million and back in sixth place was Claire Foy taking over the role of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl In the Spider’s Web, which made just $7.8 million. Just before the weekend, Venom passed the $200 million mark. A Star is Born rose to $178 million and David Gordon Green’s Halloween was at $156 million. The top 10 films grossed a total of $152.58 million and averaged 59.2% on the Tomatometer; this year’s top 10 grossed an estimated $99.7 million and averaged 55% with critics.
Next week a pair of new challengers for the number 1 spot emerge and most are betting on James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari with Christian Bale and Matt Damon to be victorious. The true-life racing drama is Certified Fresh at 91% on the Tomatometer after a successful festival run. The box office must also find room for Elizabeth Banks’ new reboot of Charlie’s Angels with Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska. The previous big-screen iterations both grossed over $100 million, but will this one draw the same nostalgic interest? Warner Bros. is also releasing Bill Condon’s latest, The Good Liar, with Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren, which is expected to come in on the low-end of the charts. Then, finally, in limited release is Trey Edward Shults’ Waves, which is Certified Fresh at 88% from its festival run and which is being touted as a potential awards contender.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]