Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Oct 5-Oct 7): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Weekend Actuals
- Venom / $35,700,000 / -55.5% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Columbia)
- A Star is Born / $28,000,000 / -34.7% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros.
- First Man / $16,500,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Universal
- Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween / $16,225,925 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia)
- Smallfoot / $9,300,000 / -35.4% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros.
- Night School / $8,035,000 / -35.8% / Weekend 3 / Universal
- Bad Times at the El Royale / $7,225,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Fox
- The House with a Clock in its Walls / $3,975,000 / -45.8% / Weekend 4 / Universal
- The Hate U Give / $1,765,000 / +244.7% / Weekend 2 / Fox
- A Simple Favor / $1,380,000 / -59.7% / Weekend 5 / Lionsgate
12. Gosnell: The Trail of America’s Biggest Serial Killer / $1,235,800 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / GVN Releasing
13. Crazy Rich Asians / $1,078,000 / -50.2% / Weekend 9 / Warner Bros.
14. Colette / $1,037,234 / +110.4% / Weekend 4 / Bleecker Street
18. Beautiful Boy / $221,437 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Amazon
28. The Happy Prince / $40,267 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony Pictures Classics
Well, it looks as though we’re all infected, as Venom managed to secure another weekend at number one. To boot, the film also sported a solid hold, proving that Venom is not shot in the pan and actually looks to be here to stay. A Star is Born also managed to a strong hold and is well on its way to being a bona fide box office success. Overall, the weekend was a good one for all of the holdovers, however, newcomers were not so lucky. While external factors will likely guarantee success down the line, First Man, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, and especially Bad Times at the El Royale got off to some rough starts in terms of their grosses. Finally, in the specialty market, Beautiful Boy saw a solid opening in limited release while The Happy Prince failed to make an impression. Also of note, Colette‘s play for the top ten didn’t pan out thanks to a surprising rally from The Hate U Give, which itself managed to become one of this weekend’s top ten grossers.
At the top of the weekend, we find Venom, which is probably grinning a great big fanged grin as it managed to prove many nay-sayers wrong this weekend. Going into the weekend, I had predicted that the film would drop somewhere around 60%; however, many pundits were expecting the film to fall more, somewhere around 65% with some outlets even saying that a drop of 70% was a distinct possibility. The situation certainly did seem pretty dire on Friday when the film grossed about $9.8 million, signaling a potential weekend gross somewhere between $27-$30 million, a drop that Venom could not afford if Sony wanted to prove that audiences were enjoying the film despite the terrible reviews. Sure enough, however, the film rallied on Saturday with $15.3 million and managed a weekend gross of $35.7 million, a drop of only 55.5%. While this drop doesn’t necessarily indicate that the film is lighting audiences on fire with regards to word-of-mouth, this does prove that the film is indeed a bonafide hit, as 55% is a regular drop for a blockbuster in this day and age that has good word-of-mouth and is doing healthy business (It also can’t hurt to boast that Venom posted the same second weekend drop as Avengers Infinity War, which went on to become the fourth highest grossing film of all time).
Of course, such a drop is baffling critics. We’ll discuss it later in the rundown, but First Man, which boasted much stronger reviews and a proven audiences favorite creative team behind it-that of director Damien Chazelle and his La La Land technical team-to back up a lead actor with a not-so-great track record at the box office (Both Ryan Gosling and Tom Hardy have proven thoroughly hit-or-miss up to this point). Yet, First Man undeniably underperformed despite positive buzz going in, while Venom succeeded despite the immense negativity surrounding the production. This is even reflected on Rotten Tomatoes, where Venom holds a 31% critics score but an 88% audience score while First Man holds an 88% critics score but only 60% audience-wise. The result has been, unfortunately, some critics bemoaning the lack of appreciation of audiences toward more cerebral films and many disgruntled “Cinephiles” (with a capital “C“) outrightly calling non-critic audiences uncultured swine who can’t appreciate a movie unless it has a ton of explosions and is directed by a guy with the last name “Bay”.
This is where I must digress and say: That’s not okay at all. To call someone uncultured solely because they do not agree with you is truly messed up. Yes, it can be something of a shame if a person does not appreciate something in the way that you do, but that in no way devalues their intelligence or opinion of the matter; it is okay to agree to disagree. The real reason that critics and non-critic audiences diverge on their opinions of certain movies is quite simple. It is a critic’s job to watch a lot of movies, usually at least two in a week, so potentially over 100 in a year (and that isn’t even counting when film festivals and Oscar season roll around, in which some critics will watch 6 movies in a day). As a result of the sheer volume of movies that they are consuming, critics are likely to develop a sharper idea or opinion of what they like in a movie; this is not necessarily a better opinion, but one that is well-defined and well informed by what is happening in the industry at large. This is comparable to how a politician, lobbyist, or even a political aide might have sharply defined and strong opinions about certain political and social issues or people who work in government or are running for office. It may not be an opinion that is shared by everyone, but it is still an opinion defined by their work and awareness of happenings in that industry. The same could be said of any profession because the work you do and the people you interact with will always affect your view of the world.
With regard to the “critics v. audiences” conundrum, not all audiences are comprised of critics. Not every audience member is aware of trends in the industry or in filmmaking, or has a vast library of knowledge regarding film history, or has the time or money to see nearly 100 films a year. The average moviegoer might see 12 movies a year (one a month) in theaters at a maximum. Disregarding the cost of seeing a movie (a major factor in the divergence of opinions that could make for an interesting essay all on its own), some non-critics may see films in order to engage and intellectually challenge themselves while others go for escapism. Some may only see a film because it is the next installment in their favorite franchise, and some may only go as an excuse to hang out with friends and family, the quality of the movie be damned. The fact is that no matter what way you spin it, non-critic audiences will usually have a less sharply defined opinion of films that of critics; however, in no way does that mean that said audience’s opinion is undefined or uncultured. It is simply that the parameters that define what a person likes might just be different than that of a critic. In other words, it’s just an opinion, nothing worth brooding over or getting angry about (or in some cases, creating an academic study over, see here for more eye-rolling details). With regard to Venom, audiences just seem to enjoy it. The film has passed the century mark with $142 million domestically as well as having drummed up $378 million worldwide, blasting past bad reviews and being a pretty big win for Sony (and you know what, that is a-okay).
As for a movie that does not have critics and audiences at odds, A Star is Born continues to do wonderful business. Dropping only 34.7% for a gross of $28 million in its second weekend, it was not the photo finish that many were anticipating between A Star is Born and Venom. However, with fantastic reviews and equally strong box office, A Star is Born doesn’t really need to compete with the blockbuster. The film is very much marching to the beat of its own drum, straight past the $90 million mark in fact, with a domestic gross of $96 million. More than likely, the film will past the century mark this week before beginning its march toward the $150 million domestic benchmark in the weeks to come. In other great news, the film has been well received internationally as well, with major box office support coming from Europe, particularly Italy (where the film premiered in Venice last month), Franch, Germany, and the UK. Globally, the film has grossed $135 million, a fantastic gross in the $36 million-budgeted film’s mere second week of release. Gaga’s star power is undeniable in terms of the film’s success, though one should not discredit Bradley Cooper, who not only holds his own in the movie quite well but also, as the director, has created an incredibly absorbing film overall. Having seen the movie this past weekend, I can say that the skillful and intimate cinematography and lighting as well as incredibly rich sound design help to give the impression of watching a live concert to audiences in the theater. This will definitely boost word-of-mouth going forward and will no doubt boost the film’s Oscar campaign, particularly for Best Director and the technical categories.
As for the first of the new releases this past weekend, First Man had a tough time of it. Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to La La Land certainly has a lot going for it, however, it has indeed stumbled out of the gate. The $60 million production from Universal only grossed about $16.5 million despite going into the weekend with a project of $20 million. $20 million itself is already a low bar for a film of this level, budget-wise, especially when faced with the cold, harsh reality that this kind of film has, and can, do better. Both The Martian and Gravity were space-themed films with Oscar-caliber directors attached (Ridley Scott and Alfonso Cuarón, respectively) that opened in October, yet The Martian and Gravity each opened to about $55 million and were able to parlay that opening into strong domestic runs. First Man, unfortunately, could not even get close to that high bar and will potentially struggle down the line.
With regard to the critical reception of the film, both on the critic’s and audience’s sides, the film has been well received, with praise going to the performances, direction, cinematography (reportedly, this film is designed to be seen in IMAX), and focus of the story on the man that was Neil Armstrong. First Man was pegged as an Oscar frontrunner from the moment of its premiere and I have no doubt that it will still have a strong showing on Oscar morning given the subject matter and contemplative tone of the film. That said, that contemplative tone is likely what got in the way of its box office success. Reportedly, the film, while breathtakingly shot and sound engineered at points, especially with regard to space travel, is quite slow. Instead of taking an exciting and playful approach to showcasing NASA and the space program (a la Hidden Figures, for example, which balanced playfulness with the weightiness of the subject matter), First Man zeros in directly of the psyche of Neil Armstrong, played stoically by Ryan Gosling, as he grapples with the death of his daughter, the weight of that on his psyche, and the weight of facing his mortality by attempting to fly to the Moon. The film is apparently very heavy in tone, both writing-wise and visually with muted colors and morose performances cueing the audience into the potential for the failure of this mission. While this may have engaged audiences to a degree, given the film’s “B+” Cinemascore, it clearly wasn’t enough.
Now, going back to the debate between critic’s reviews and audience appreciation of film, an important factor that should be taken into consideration, in this case, is the fact that audiences have to pay to see the film. As I mentioned above, the topic of money and its influence of the critic/audience divide could be an essay on to itself, but in this case, one has to realize that audiences have to choose how they want to spend their money. While some may want to pay to watch a very cerebral character study of the first man to walk on the Moon, that isn’t everyone. More than likely, upon reading reviews, many people might come to consider the film a better rental or streamer than a theater viewing experience given the reduced cost and the ability to take one’s time with the film. As a result, we see a deflated gross or First Man versus The Martian and Gravity, which each incorporated higher energy into the story alongside more philosophical or cerebral elements, thus making for potentially a more worthy theater experiences. This could bode well for First Man downline, especially if it can win any Oscars since that will make it a much more viable candidate on streaming and rental (and by the looks of it, First Man might just have Best Supporting Actress for Claire Foy locked).
In fourth place, we find our second new release of the weekend, that of Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, which actually performed on par with expectations at $16.2 million. Goosebumps 2 was going to struggle from the start, especially being released within such close proximity to The House with a Clock in its Walls. With both being similarly themed and featuring Jack Black (reprising his role from the original Goosebumps), the two films were destined to eat into each other’s box office. That said, the Goosebumps sequel was frugally budgeted at $35 million, thus a $16.2 million opening is a solid start, at least to help the film break even before heads to the ancillary market to make a profit.
The real big accomplishment of Goosebumps 2‘s opening gross is that with it (and Venom‘s domestic gross), Sony Pictures has accomplished an incredible feat, grossing over $1 billion dollars at the domestic box office this year. While detractors will be the first to say that Sony is late to the party, with Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros. having all accomplished this feat earlier in the year, this is a big accomplishment for Sony, which has been fraught with issues for years now and has been trying to re-establish itself as a strong competitor amongst the other studios. After being on the decline for three years, Sony rebounded beautifully last year with the surprise hit that was Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, grossing $404 million stateside alongside the likes of Spider-Man: Homecoming’s $334 million and Baby Driver’s $107 million (also stateside) which helped push Sony past $1 billion domestically for the first time in a while. Repeating this same feat again (and earlier in the year no less) is a sign that the studio is really growing and healing. This year has not necessarily been a year of mega-hits for Sony (outside of Venom) but it has still seen several surprisingly strong performers, like that of Peter Rabbit from earlier this year, Hotel Transylvania 3 over the summer (arguably winning the summer with its holds), and even The Equalizer 2, which managed to not only squeak past the $100 million mark domestically but also outgross its predecessor; and with the production of a new Men in Black-spin-off and a Charlie’s Angels reboot underway, as well as both Jumanji and Peter Rabbit sequels in development (not to mention the imminent arrival of both Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse and the Homecoming sequel currently filming), it will be a delight to see Sony as the studio continues to move forward into a brighter future.
In fifth and sixth place, Smallfoot and Night School each saw strong holds, respectively. Smallfoot‘s hold is not surprising given its hold last weekend as it continued to hold by 35.4% for a gross of $9.3 million (the feature also crossed the $100 million mark worldwide!). The real surprise was that of Night School, which recovered from the nasty fall it took last weekend with a great rebound hold of 35.8% for a gross of $8.035 million. Universal can rest well with the knowledge that despite a bit of slow start, Night School is indeed catching on. The same cannot be said of Fox’s Bad Times at the El Royale, which is dead on arrival with an opening weekend gross of $7.2 million. Below even the muted projections of $9 million, the top secret feature from The Martian screenwriter Drew Goddard not only suffered from confusing advertising but also flat-out failed to capture audiences imaginations with a “B-” Cinemascore. Similarly to First Man, while critics came away from the film impressed with the cast and the technical ingenuity of the production, non-critic audiences came away with nothing in the story to latch on to. As a result, the film suffered from thoroughly weak word-of-mouth and say a pretty bad weekend. Perhaps it can become a cult classic down the line.
As for the rest of the top ten, The House with a Clock in the Walls didn’t suffer terribly from the presence of Goosebumps 2, managing to hold by 45.8%, grossing $3.9 million in eighth place, and crossing the $100 million mark worldwide. To the surprise of many, The Hate U Give actually rallied after a middling opening weekend last week. Realizing that it might be best to swing into the mainstream, and perhaps emboldened by the film’s Audience Award win at the Hamptons International Film Festival, Fox widened its release into 248 theaters, resulting in a jump of +244.7% for a gross of $1.76 million in ninth place. Whether this will help the film’s Oscar chances remains to be seen, but The Hate U Give may eventually become a sleeper hit if Fox can manage the release properly. In tenth place was A Simple Favor, which grossed $1.38 million on its way out of the top ten as it looks to finish its domestic run around $54 million.
In the specialty market, Colette did not manage to break into the top ten as predicted. While the film, quite impressively, still managed a significant jump of +110.4% from last weekend to a gross of $1.037 million, it remained in the exact same place (number 14) as last weekend. Part of this was due to the sudden expansion of The Hate U Give, which definitely took the wind out of Colette‘s sails, but the other factor in this surprising upset was that of a completely unadvertised film called Gosnell: Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. Released by GVN Releasing (???) and starring Dean Cain as the lead detective, the film revolves around the trail of Kermit Gosnell, a doctor who performed illegal abortions and killed several children born alive in the process. I have heard nothing about the film, so one has to imagine my surprise when I discovered that film was not only crowdfunded but also hold the record for one of the most highly funded crowdfunding projects of all time (you learn something new every day).
In other news, Beautiful Boy opened to solid per-theater-average of $55,359 in four theaters for a total gross of $221,437. The film took the top spot in terms of per-theater-averages which bodes well for its Oscar campaign, but there is still a lot of ground to make up. The Happy Prince, on the other hand, failed to register with a per-theater-average of $5,033 despite opening early and in more theaters. Rupert Everett may have done better to go for a 2019 release date like that of Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, a film of similar 19th-century stylings concerning the Peterloo massacre, which shifted its release date to 2019 to be more competitive in that award’s cycle.
(Box Office Data from BoxOfficeMojo.com, Deadline.com, and BoxOfficePro.com)