Throughout July and August, the industry feared that the theatrical box office was going to have a hard time recovering from COVID with very few strong September releases. Many analysts put their hopes on a pair of fall comic book movies, the first one being released this Friday to relative success.
This Past Weekend
For more than a decade, Dwayne Johnson’s dream project has been to make a movie based on DC Comics’ anti-hero Black Adam, starring himself as the title character, of course. Although the movie was released in the shadow of many troubles following the relatively recent Warner Bros. Discovery merger, it was able to overcome the weak box office to make $26.8 million on Friday with $7.6 million of that coming from Thursday previews that began at 3pm. Although superhero movies can be notoriously front-loaded, Black Adam actually held up well through the weekend, opening with an estimated $67 million in North America. ($6.3 million of that amount came from IMAX screenings, which is almost 10% of its total domestic take this weekend.)
That amount means that Black Adam did better than 2019’s Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, when Johnson broke away from the hugely popular action franchise and teamed with Jason Statham for a $60 million opening. Johnson’s sequel Jumanji: The Next Level would open a few months later in 2019 with $59 million, that sequel also having Kevin Hart and Jack Black bolstering Johnson to bring in audiences.
Black Adam was also able to open with $73 million overseas, led by $6.1 million in the UK, which led to a global launch of $140 million for the first big superhero movie of the fall.
The movie also proved to be quite review-proof, its horrible 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes countered by a “B+” CinemaScore and a 90% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. $67 million will definitely be seen as a win by WBD, even though that’s still less than Joaquin Phoenix‘s Joker, which opened in Oct. 2019 with $96.2 million, and less than both Venom movies, which opened with $80 million and $90 million, respectively, the latter doing so during the pandemic.
Julia Roberts and George Clooney reunited for the Universal rom-com Ticket to Paradise, also starring Kaitlyn Dever from Book Smart and Dopesick. Early projections were generally on the lower side, but after making $6.4 million Friday ($1.1 million from Thursday previews), Ticket opened in second place with $16.3 million, which was well above the more conservative predictions for the weekend.
Ticket received an “A-” CinemaScore and generally better reviews with 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, so look for it to continue to do well from word-of-mouth business.
Paramount’s hit horror flick, Smile, took third place with $8.4 million, down just 33% in its fourth weekend, still playing in 3,296 theaters. The movie has already grossed $84 million domestically with a reported budget of just $17 million, so this already-profitable horror film continues to do well.
On the other hand, David Gordon Green’s franchise finale, Halloween Ends, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, took a massive tumble with one of the worst weekend drops in a very long time. It fell 80% to 4th place with $8 million from its $40 million opening, although its $54 million domestic total means that the moderately-budgeted ending – reported to be somewhere between $20 and 30 million – is close to being profitable, despite its simultaneous release on the Peacock streamer.
The last movie to have that big a tumble was New Line’s attempted Friday the 13th reboot in 2009, which dropped more than 80% in its second weekend. By comparison, the poorly-received Foo Fighters horror comedy, Studio 666, only fell 77% in its second weekend earlier this year.
Fifth and sixth place went to Sony Pictures’ Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and The Woman King with $4.2 million and $1.9 million respectively, the former having grossed $28.7 million compared to the latter’s $62.9 million. Unfortunately, Sony’s remaining 2022 releases don’t show to have anything like last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home to help save the studio’s weak year. (Maybe Kasi Lemmons’ Whitney Houston biopic, I Want to Dance with Somebody, will surprise, but biopics have already been faltering in recent years.)
One caveat to the above is that Damien Leone’s gory slasher Terrifier 2 is just behind The Woman King for sixth place with just under $1.9 million, having spiked up 84% in its third weekend despite adding only 55 theaters. It has grossed $5.3 million, so far, based on a reported budget of just $250,000.
Many of the other returning movies lost significant theaters on Friday, which caused many of the September releases to drop to a million or less.
On the other hand, NEON expanded Ruben Östlund’s farcical Triangle of Sadness into 280 theaters, where it was able to do enough business to break into the top ten with $600,000 and $1.4 million grossed so far.
Searchlight Studios released Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin into four New York and L.A. locations. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleason in performances that could get each of them their first Oscar nominations ever, the dark comedy from the filmmaker behind 2018’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri took in an estimated $181,000 this weekend or $45,250 per theater. That’s actually less than the $322,168 platform opening for Three Billboards, so we’ll have to see how Searchlight plays its cards in terms of expansion. (Banshees is set in 1920s Ireland with accents that might befuddle those in Missouri and other parts of America.)
A24 released Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells’ highly-regarded debut, Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal, into four theaters in New York and L.A. where it made $66,000 or $16,589 theaters. Despite rave reviews, the movie didn’t stand much of a chance with the amount of prestige releases already playing in major cities.
Todd Field’s TÁR continued its slow expansion, arriving in 141 theaters Friday, where it grossed $470,000 or $3,300 per theater with $1.2 million grossed so far. The Cate Blanchett vehicle will expand into roughly 800 theaters on Friday – more on that below.
U.A. Releasing’s historical biopic Till also expanded into 104 theaters where it scored $367,134 or $3,617 per theater, which might be somewhat worrisome for its wide release into 2,000 theaters on Friday.
Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave, South Korea’s Oscar selection, added another $296,000 this weekend from 48 locations, bringing its total to $437,000. So far, it doesn’t seem to be doing quite as well as Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars in early 2020.
|Rank||Entry||Distributor||Revenue||Theater Count||Total Revenue|
|1||Black Adam||Warner Bros.||$67,004,323||4,402||$67,004,323|
|2||Ticket to Paradise||Universal||$16,509,095||3,543||$16,509,095|
|5||Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile||Sony Pictures||$4,251,217||3,536||$28,764,068|
|6||The Woman King||Sony Pictures||$1,877,372||1,858||$62,833,460|
|7||Terrifier 2||Bloody Disgusting||$1,756,000||755||$5,116,500|
|8||Don’t Worry, Darling||Warner Bros.||$867,750||1,306||$44,260,372|
|9||Amsterdam||20th Century Studios||$824,676||1,750||$13,930,241|
|10||Triangle of Sadness||Neon||$601,052||280||$1,420,927|
Last October, three movies in a row opened over $49 million, joined by a fourth as Warner Bros. released Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune after a number of prominent film festival premieres. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and more, the movie continued WB’s decision to release all its 2021 releases simultaneously in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, but Dune still managed to pull in $53.9 million in 4,125 theaters over the weekend or $13,000 per site.
David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills fell 68% to $18.6 million, so not nearly as bad a tumble as Halloween Ends, although reviews were equally poor, and its CinemaScore was only slightly higher at “B-.” It grossed $77.1 million in its first ten days, compared to the $54 million made by Ends in the same period.
No Time to Die took third place with $17.4 million, down 47% in its third weekend, with a running total of $125.5 million. Venom: Let There Be Carnage followed with $12 million in fourth place, its own gross at $184.7 million, which, at the time, would be the second-best domestic gross for the year.
Disney had a rare animated bomb, releasing 20th Century’s Ron’s Gone Wrong into 3,560 theaters, where it only made $8.8 million in its fifth place opening.
Searchlight Pictures opened Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch into 52 theaters where it made a decent $1.9 million, which was roughly $36,100 per theater – not a bad start for one of Anderson’s offerings that wasn’t nearly as well-received.
After the past two weekends, this one is going to seem like somewhat of a downer, because the only brand-new wide release is Lionsgate’s exorcism thriller, Prey for the Devil, which has changed titles and releases so much over the past year, some may have already lost track of what movie this is. Digging a bit deeper, you can find out that it was directed by Daniel Stamm, who had quite a bit of success with his 2010 movie, The Last Exorcism, when it opened with $20.4 million in late August.
The cast for this one isn’t particularly impressive – fairly typical for a horror movie – although it does include Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen, continuing her horror run from her earlier role in Candyman, and Colin Salmon from Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator. Prey stars Jacqueline Byers (Salvation) as Sister Anne, a rare female exorcist, and the trailers have generally gotten better since they began appearing when the movie was originally planned for a Feb. release as The Devil’s Light.
It’s important to note that this weekend is the one right before Halloween – which has the misfortune of landing on a Monday this year – which means moviegoers will be looking at scarier movie offerings, of which there are already many options in theaters. Even so, the interest in demonic possession and exorcisms has led to quite a few hits, including James Wan‘s The Conjuring movies and Scott Derrickson‘s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so Prey for the Devil should be able to bring in decent business despite an oddly low-key marketing approach by Lionsgate. (Don’t expect any reviews before Friday since Lionsgate will probably not be screening this for critics, who will likely trash the movie for that reason alone. Also, very typical for horror movies, at least pre-pandemic.)
UPDATE: It’s been reported that the breakout horror hit, Terrifier 2, will be expanding into 1,000 theaters on Friday, and word-of-mouth should give this a nice pre-Halloween bump, but unfortunately, one that might cut into Devil‘s business.
Focus Features and U.A. Releasing are going to go wider with two of their Oscar contenders, which have been playing in select cities for the past two weeks. It can be difficult to survey how well a movie might do in a nationwide expansion after platforming, and that’s definitely the case here, although Todd Field’s TÁR has grossed nearly twice as much as Chinonye Chukwu’s Till, despite both opening the same weekend.
Even so, it seems likely that Till will play better in regions outside the major cities, such as the South and Midwest, as it expands into roughly 2,000 theaters, which will give it a significant advantage over TÁR, which is slated to expand into around 800 theaters. The historical import of Till and the Oscar buzz around Danielle Deadwyler is likely to outdo Cate Blanchett’s equally-praised performance as fictional conductor, Lydia Tár. Till will also benefit from being in twice as many theaters this weekend, which could help it break into the top five.
Either way, we’re looking at a second weekend at #1 for Black Adam with Prey for the Devil opening in a distant second place somewhere between $10 and 12 million. Word-of-mouth should help Ticket take third place, followed by the unstoppable Smile, and then Till with $4 to 5 million.
Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.net, The Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film Journal, The New York Daily News, Den of Geek, and many others.