Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Oct 5-Oct 7): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Weekend Actuals
- Venom / $80,255,756 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia)
- A Star is Born / $23,020,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Warner Bros.
- Smallfoot / $14,402,559 / -37.5% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros.
- Night School / $12,514,925 / -54.1% / Weekend 2 / Universal
- The House with a Clock in its Walls / $7,332,665 / -41.8% / Weekend 3 / Universal
- A Simple Favor / $3,424,954 / -47.6% / Weekend 4 / Lionsgate
- The Nun / $2,703,281 / -50.2% / Weekend 5 / Warner Bros. (New Line)
- Crazy Rich Asians / $2,166,626 / -47.2% / Weekend 8 / Warner Bros.
- Hellfest / $2,083,759 / -59.4% / Weekend 2 / CBS Films & Lionsgate
- The Predator / $947,358 / -75.5% / Weekend 4 / Fox
12. Free Solo / $562,786 / +91.2% / Weekend 2 / National Geographic Entertainment
13. The Hate U Give / $512,035 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Fox
14. Colette / $492,981 / +27.5% / Weekend 3 / Bleecker Street
18. The Old Man & the Gun / $403,928 / +184.2% / Weekend 2 / Fox Searchlight
For the first time in a while, we got to see two films succeed monumentally and not at the expense of one another. Both Venom and A Star is Born saw very strong box office grosses, with each acting as counterprogramming to one another; one being an entertaining popcorn film and one an emotional, Oscar bait-y drama. These two also helped to launch the moviegoing month of October in full force, breaking box office records in the process. The success of these two films, however, did create something of a vacuum with regard to the rest of the box office; while some films did manage strong holds, a surprising number of films actually had bigger drops than one would’ve expected. The Hate U Give also saw a surprisingly middling debut in limited release, throwing several factors of the film’s distribution into question.
Taking the top spot this weekend was Venom, which despite having a large obstacle in front of it in the form of bad reviews (currently with a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and 35 on Metacritic), managed to not only blow past expectations but flat out shatter them. Going into the weekend, Venom was projected to gross between $60-$65 million, an admittedly solid opening for a film of this magnitude (sporting a $100 million budget, based on a Marvel property, etc…), on par with that of a Phase 1 MCU film. Combined with a projected $100 million foreign gross for a worldwide opening of $160+ million, Venom looked to be on the road to a solid start. Then the Thursday preview gross came in; $10 million, signaling a massive start to come as the largest October Thursday night preview ever. Thursday night previews typically are folded into Friday grosses, which in these case resulted in a large gross of $32.5 million, as predicted. One would expect, however, that this would be where the good fortune would end for Venom; interest in the film had been high up to this point, somewhat even bolstered by the bad reviews which probably made at least a few people want to check it out to see if it was as much of a “trainwreck” as the critics had labeled it, but interest would be likely to drop off once the first batch of audience reactions hit. Not so, as to the surprise of almost everyone, Venom saw only an 18.9% drop from Friday to Saturday in terms of gross, a drop that is even less when we realize that $10 million of Friday’s $32.5 million gross was from the prior Thursday night, making Friday’s gross truly $22.5 million thus actually showing a Friday to Saturday jump of +16.8% to a Saturday gross of $26.3 million, indicating surprisingly strong word-of-mouth. This came in tandem with a “B+” Cinemascore, a pretty solid score indicating that the overall audiences had an okay, if not good time, watching the movie. Venom rounded out the weekend with a mere 18.9% Saturday to Sunday drop for a Sunday gross of $21.3 million, adding up to a total gross of $80.2 million, way beyond what had originally been expected of the film (not to mention a foreign opening of $125.2 million for a worldwide opening weekend gross of $205.4 million, wow!) as well as breaking the all-time record for an October opening weekend gross.
So what does this mean? Are critics completely disconnected from the tastes of audiences? Do audiences like trash? Is there a conspiracy? Well, frankly, we have no way of knowing that for now. Venom certainly made a big impression on audiences this weekend, and from the looks of it, that impression was generally positive. A look on social media reveals many reactions from moviegoers stating that they just had a really good time watching the film. There have even been critics who have come out in support of the film (I came across an article on IGN this weekend titled “In Defense of Venom”). Moviegoers and critics have also agreed that Tom Hardy does a fantastic job of heading up the film as the titular Marvel antihero, but other than that, it would seem as though most critics really don’t have a read on the tastes of audiences. However, this remains to be seen as we need one more weekend to really gauge whether Venom will stick. What this weekend proved is that the character of Venom is indeed quite popular and is a lightning rod for chatter. One could easily surmise that the film’s box office dominance this weekend was driven completely by the likes of an audience full of comic book lovers and the sheer curiosity of seeing what a film about Venom, that doesn’t include Spider-Man (whose absence from the film has, interestingly enough, been one of the main talking points in many of the bad reviews), would look like. With that, there is the potential for a major drop off next weekend if the film is unable to connect with an audience outside of the comic book fandom, and Venom‘s very strong opening weekend (the film looks to have already broken even outside of P&A) could merely be a blip on the radar similar films such as Suicide Squad and Justice League, each of which had a lot of buzz out of the gate, but failed to maintain good word-of-mouth and saw very large declines in their grosses weekend to weekend. However, there is an equal chance that the film could genuinely be well-liked by audiences and see solid grosses going forward. A typical blockbuster like Venom tends to see a 2nd-weekend drop in the 50%‘s, so if Venom can manage that next weekend, we will know for sure that audiences are genuinely taken with Marvel’s favorite Symbiote.
A Star is Born took second place and also has a lot to sing about. After weeks of fanning the flames of fan anticipation once the first trailer dropped, very strong reviews, countless media spreads, and dozens of lavish red carpet events have paid off as A Star is Born opened to $42.9 million. Admittedly, this isn’t what I was expecting (I fully expected the film to open to $45 million) but this opening is not at all bad; in fact, its actually quite good given that, surprisingly, many pundits seemed to feel that the film would only be opening in the $30 million range. No matter what, the film did indeed over-index and is off to a great start for the $36 million price tag it is saddled with. Like I mentioned above, the film was well positioned in that it served as great counterprogramming for Venom, serving an audience that was predominately female and skewed a bit older. The film also received an “A” Cinemascore so the word of mouth on the movie will definitely be quite strong. The only foreseeable hiccup for A Star is Born is that it played to an audience that was noticeably Caucasian at 69%, a much higher percentage than usual with most mainstream films playing to an audience that is 30%-49% Caucasian. We’ll have to see if this affects the film negatively going down the line, but for now, it seems to be unencumbered. Age wise, every demographic group seemed to have a positive view of the film. Both men and women tended to give it an “A”, those over 50 gave it an “A”, and those under twenty-five were the most spirited, giving it an “A+”. This will likely drive online chatter and translate into a strong hold for next weekend, which seems all but guaranteed at this moment.
The buzz, and the concrete proof of said buzz via box office numbers, will undoubtedly be translating into Oscar gold as well. Best Original Song is certainly a lock for the picture given that the film’s soundtrack topped the iTunes charts in the US all weekend, and with continued support from the audiences at large, a Best Picture nomination is not far behind (along with a slew of other nominations). It should be noted as well that the film’s buzz seems to be spilling out into the week as well, as estimates for its Monday gross are coming in around $6.7 million, blockbuster level weekday grosses (The same can be said of Venom at $9.6 million for this past Monday), most likely due to the observance of the Columbus Day holiday in various areas of the US. This will only aid the film going forward, with pundits currently expecting the film to perform somewhere around $150+ million in terms of its total domestic haul. If the soundtrack really does catch on, we could potentially be looking at this year’s The Greatest Showman, where the music itself could power the film to new box office heights.
As for the holdovers, Warner Bros. had another win (outside of A Star is Born) with Smallfoot. Following in the footsteps of Storks, Smallfoot‘s sister film from Warner Animation Group, the film fell only 37.5% for a weekend gross of $14.4 million; comparable to Storks 36.8% two years ago. However, these two films are beginning to diverge in a major way, that being in weekday grosses through which Smallfoot is dominating Storks. I had mentioned last weekend that Storks serves as the best comparison to Smallfoot due to their being from the same company, their animation styles, and their similar openings. However, this posed a bit of a problem given that Storks did have trouble making a profit, something that Smallfoot would have an even bigger issue with given its $80 million budget. To the delight of Warner Bros., however, Smallfoot is powering through thanks to a much stronger day to day gross which has allowed it to pull ahead of Storks by $5.7 million at this same point in the release cycle, for a total domestic gross so far of $45.3 million. Combined with a hold like the one this past weekend, and Smallfoot could be looking at some bafo business down the line, especially given its wintery aesthetics just as we enter into October fully.
Night School, on the other hand, was not as lucky. While my prediction that the film would perform similarly to Think Like a Man Too with a drop in the 60%‘s (given the bad reviews, the strength of the opening, and the presence of Kevin Hart) did not come true, mercifully so, the film’s drop was much steeper than expected at 54.1%, resulting in a final gross of $12.5 million. Now, this isn’t a terrible drop (actually quite the norm for would-be blockbusters) and the film is already making money with a $48.7 million domestic gross and $60.7 million worldwide (all on a $29 million dollar budget); however, with better reviews, this could have been an even stronger performer so I can imagine that it must be something of a disappointment for Universal. Hopefully, this doesn’t negatively impact the leads going forward, particularly Tiffany Haddish who has some intriguing projects in the works.
Back to positives, The House with a Clock in its Walls saw an even better hold than originally predicted, managing a solid 41.8% for a gross of $7.3 million. Indeed, the bleeding is slowing down for the film after it got scuffed up by Smallfoot‘s arrival on the scene last weekend. I believe the official beginning of October, thereby the Halloween season, is a definite factor in propping up the films financials and will definitely help it play well throughout the rest of the month, likely beefing up the film’s weekday grosses via matinee showings. The film is already up to $92 million worldwide, seeing surprisingly strong overseas numbers (though that becomes less surprising when you realize that the foreign gross is being propped up by strong numbers in Australia, Cate Blanchett’s native country, and the UK, where Cate Blanchett is quite popular, having made a name for herself by playing Queen Elizabeth), and will likely hit $100 million worldwide soon, a box office milestone for any wide release. We’ll probably see the film make into to at least $120 million worldwide, which would be a solid run for the film overall, though as I’ve said before, this will be making a lot of its money on streaming as a Halloweentown-type seasonal classic.
Outside of the top five, it was business as usual for the holdovers, though we are beginning to see some of the top performers power down. Both A Simple Favor and Crazy Rich Asians saw their biggest drops yet at about 47% each. A Simple Favor likely has a little more gas in the tank as it looks to end its domestic run somewhere around $55 million while Crazy Rich Asians is officially beginning to bow out after a stellar run at the box office (eight weeks in the top ten, and counting). This is a very strong debut for breakout star Henry Golding who played the male lead in both films; both of his movies have boasted the strongest holds in the top ten for several weeks in a row now. Off this success, Golding was the first person from the Crazy Rich Asians cast to land another role (the male lead opposite Emilia Clarke in Paul Feig’s next comedy, Last Christmas), although we are now beginning to see the stars of the film get more work. Constance Wu, who just returned to television with the fifth season premiere of her show Fresh Off the Boat on ABC, just landed a role opposite Jennifer Lopez in the upcoming Hustlers which just switched studios from Annapurna to STX, and while this is not an acting gig, Michelle Yeoh recently signed a first-look deal with SK Global Entertainment to produce, direct, and potentially act in several projects that she will be developing with the studio. It’s nice to see the work put into Crazy Rich Asians yield some new opportunities. Rounding out the top ten, we saw Hellfest and The Predator take big dips of 59.4% and 75.5%, respectively. Expect them to drop out by next week.
In the specialty market, we saw the release of The Hate U Give in 36 theaters, topping the specialty market per-theater-averages with $14,223 per theater. However, this is actually a bit disappointing given that midway through the weekend, the film was looking at a potentially much more impressive per-theater-average of about $17,000, resulting in the final average coming off as just middling. I’ve written to the importance of a high per-theater-average for prestige pictures before and how it is best to go with a smaller theater count in order to boost up that very number. The Hate U Give presented with a bit of a challenge as it straddles the line between a prestige race-relations drama and a YA adaptation with wide appeal. It looks as though Fox was hoping to balance that out with a 36 theater limited release before rolling the film out nationwide, but clearly, it backfired. With this release strategy, the film’s strongest comparison looks to be Annapurna’s 2017 Oscar play, Detroit. The film, from Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar-winning Director of The Hurt Locker), had Oscar potential as another racially charged prestige film, this time about the 1967 Detroit riots, but Annapurna-who had just launched their newly minted distribution arm and released Detroit as their first film-bungled the release with a limited release in 20 theaters, resulting in a less than stellar average of $17,510 per theater. This release could have easily spun, publicity-wise, but Annapurna continued to mess around and went wide immediately after for an underwhelming wide opening gross. The Hate U Give finds itself in an even worse situation as it couldn’t even manage a $17k per-theater-average like Detroit despite conceivably being able to do so given the built-in audience of book and the fact that it opened in more theaters, thus could’ve put more butts in seats. Thankfully, the film just got a boon to its Oscar campaign thanks to its Audience Award win at the Hamptons International Film Festival, but Fox would to best to delay a wide-release for at least another week or two in order to more properly build buzz around the film before going fully wide (it also wouldn’t hurt to advertise the film a little more).
Free Solo saw an expansion into 41 theaters, along with a 91.2% jump in its gross to $562,786 (its domestic haul, in total, currently stands at $977,697), and took the number four spot this weekend in terms of per-theater-averages. This is quite impressive for the documentary and there has been online chatter as to whether or not National Geographic will launch an Oscar Campaign to capitalize on the interest; not just in the Documentary category, but also potentially in the Cinematography race as audiences members have cried out that this movie is designed for IMAX. Elsewhere, The Old Man and the Gun continues to try to make some headway, climbing from the number 31 spot last weekend to number 18 this weekend. The real standout, however, (at least in my opinion) is Colette, which is climbing toward the top ten weekend grosses, jumping from number 22 to number 14. Gross-wise, the Keira Knightly period piece saw a +27.5% jump thanks to another expansion into 107 theaters overall. Bleecker Street has something potent on their hands and should keep steadily increasing so as to potentially jump into the top ten, which would be a major win for the film and its awards campaign.