Box Office Rundown (Oct 19-21) Halloween Tops the Box Office with Record-Breaking Results!! The Hate U Give Surges in Wide Release!! Mid90’s Surprises and Triumphs Over Can You Ever Forgive Me?!!

Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Oct 19-Oct 21): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates

  1. Halloween / $76,221,545 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Universal
  2. A Star is Born / $19,051,082 / -33% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros.
  3. Venom / $18,043,887 / -48.5% / Weekend 3 / Sony (Columbia)
  4. Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween / $9,712,173 / -38.5% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Columbia)
  5. First Man / $8,327,135 / -48% / Weekend 2 / Universal
  6. The Hate U Give/ $7,602,108 / +337.7% / Weekend 3 / Fox
  7. Smallfoot / $6,576,876 / -27.5% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros.
  8. Night School / $4,892,515 / -36.9% / Weekend 4 / Universal
  9. Bad Times at the El Royale/ $3,420,067 / -52.1% / Weekend 2 / Fox
  10. The Old Man & the Gun / $2,134,481 / +132.6% / Weekend 5 / Fox Searchlight

Notable Outsiders:

12. Mid90’s / $258,157 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / A24

13. Can You Ever Forgive Me? / $161,510 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Fox Searchlight

14. Wildlife / $104,587 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / IFC Films

18. What They Had / $17,683 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Bleecker Street

 

Halloween is officially here, and it is off to a running start, topping the box office and taking the second biggest October opening weekend ever! And on just a $10 million dollar budget, the film is already seeing massive profit margins as it sets a course for All Hallows Eve. Elsewhere, Venom (the number one October opener) and A Star is Born continue to seriously impress with their holds, as do many members of the top ten, with some films even popping in from limited release. First Man, however, is having a very rough time of it. Don’t expect that film to break even in theaters, and in so, expect its Oscar prospects to dwindle. We also saw quite a surprise in limited release with regard to the per-theater-average winner this weekend, begging the question: Is Jonah Hill getting another Oscar nomination this year?

First and foremost, there is Halloween, which soared much higher than anyone expected going into the weekend. Originally being pegged with an opening weekend projection between $65-$70 million, after a startlingly strong Thursday night gross of $7 million, and a Friday gross of $33 millionexpectations shot up to potentially $80 million. Now, the film did not crack into that lofty range but that should be of little concern to Universal and Blumhouse as their new installment in the Halloween franchise managed to gross $76.2 million, not only securing the second highest October opening of all time, but also being the highest opening gross in the entire franchise. The film earned a “B+” Cinemascore, which is actually quite good for a film in the slasher genre, and many moviegoers did voice their enthusiasm in seeing Jamie Lee Curtis, an actress in her late 50’s, not only returning to her iconic role but also returning as the leading face of the franchise to deliver this kind of opening.

As for future prospects, I am not completely sure of where to place them. Without a doubt, the film will cross the $100 million dollar mark worldwide sometime this week (its foreign opening weekend being that of $14.3 million, for a worldwide opening of $90.5 million) and will hit $100 million domestically by this weekend. More than likely, Halloween will see its weekday gross surge two Wednesdays from now (on actual Halloween night) and will likely be able to turn up $120 million at least by the end of its domestic run. All that said, having seen the movie for myself, I don’t believe that Halloween is going to have a particularly long shelf life. I saw it last Friday (contributing to its mega-gross on that day) and left the theater with mixed feelings. I definitely think it is an entertaining movie that not only gets the job done when it comes to scares and tension (kudos to director David Gordon Green; way to pivot out of comedy) and, to my surprise, is a wonderful mood-setter for Halloween. That said, much of the film is thoroughly unfocused, with several plot threads being introduced (some in the very opening scene) that either go nowhere or end quickly, and in either case, contribute nothing of value to the overall plot. It becomes even more unsatisfying in that regard since many of the actors in these plot threads are actually quite likable, funny (ah, there is the David Gordon Green that we all know and love), and very talented in their own right. As a result, we get just a hodge-podge kind of story that satisfies the desire for blood and guts but little else. In so, I can’t help but feel that Halloween is going to drop off the face of the earth after Halloween night. It is certainly an enjoyable time at the movies, especially given this time of year, but once this time passes, there will be little else in the film to sustain interest. Universal will just have to wait and see how much money the film can rake in until October 31st; not worry though, with a $10 million dollar budget, I suspect that Halloween is already very much in the black.

In the number two and three spots, we once again find the most unlikely couple, A Star is Born and Venom. They switched spots this time around, A Star is Born coming in ahead of the Marvel flick, but both once again saw very strong holds. As per usual, A Star is Born fell only in the low 30%‘s (33% to be exact) for a gross of $19 million, bringing its domestic total to $126 million and sending it well on its way to $150 million by the end of its domestic run. Worldwide, the film has grossed $201.7 million, over 5x its budget. This is a massive financial success for the kind of film, not just a musical but one designed to be an awards contender. At this point, I  would say that the film is almost guaranteed a Best Picture nomination. Meanwhile, Venom saw a shockingly low drop of 48%, especially given the mixed reviews. While the film is certainly frontloaded, it clearly is continuing to connect with a variety of audiences if it (a blockbuster of this magnitude) can pull out a hold under 50%Venom grossed $18 million this weekend, and while I am not certain that it will make it to $200 million in terms of its domestic gross, the film has already passed $460 million worldwide. Reports have pegged Venom‘s break-even point at $450 million, so this is a pretty good sign for Sony, especially given the recent news that Venom has scored a November 2nd Chinese release date. China has a very large pocket of the box office for Venom to dig into, so expect the film to do some damage there. It also has Japan on the horizon not long after, so I expect that Venom will be seeing fantastic profit margins by the end of its worldwide run.

In fourth place, Sony also found some good fortune with Goosebumps 2, which actually held similarly to the original Goosebumps, taking advantage of the Halloween season and seeing a drop of only 38.5%First Man, on the other hand, continues to not do so well. The potential Oscar vehicle fell a surprising 48% in its second weekend. Many trades had predicted that the film would hold in the mid-to-high 30%‘s but I, sensing a dissatisfaction with the film based on reviews and audience reactions, predicted that the film would fall around 40% instead. I did not expect, however, that First Man would fall this much. With regards to a blockbuster, a drop in the high 40%‘s is actually good, representing a very strong hold; however, when it comes to a smaller, more mid-ranged, awards-friendly film like First Man, a drop of nearly 50% is shockingly low and signals disaster. This isn’t helped by the fact that the film opened poorly in the first place with $16 million, and drops like this make it seem less and less likely that First Man will be able to recoup its $60 million budget. The film currently stands at a domestic gross of only $29 million and a worldwide gross of $55 million.

On to some happier news, The Hate U Give has been rallying for a comeback since its underwhelming opening in limited release and managed to deliver this weekend. Officially going wide with a release in 2,300 theaters across the nation, The Hate U Give jumped up +337.7% from ninth place to sixth place with a gross of $7.6 million. It’s unclear as to whether or not it was necessary for the film to open in limited release prior to going wide, but it is undeniable that this strategy did assist with word-of-mouth, which bumped the film up into the top ten. I don’t believe the film will go any higher than this, but the jump is certainly a feather in the film’s cap, both financially, as such activity at the box office will likely prompt many people to check it out when it becomes available for rent, and awards-wise (so long as Fox is willing to push).

As for the rest of the top ten, Smallfoot saw its smallest drop yet with only 27.5% for a gross of $6.5 millionNight School saw another solid hold of 36.9% for a gross of $4.8 million, while Bad Times at the El Royale took a very large dive of 52.1% for a gross of $3.4 million. Like First ManBad Times opened small, and with a drop like this, the film is destined to become a financial flop. The number ten spot, however, saw a The Hate U Give-type surprise in that our old friend, the Robert Redford vehicle The Old Man & the Gun, increased its theater count to 802 and jumped from number 15 to number 10 with a gross of $2.1 million. That film also struggled out the gate in limited release, but has surreptitiously been picking up steam over the past four weeks. While this isn’t a slam dunk for its awards campaign, it certainly is an accomplishment nonetheless.

It is in the specialty market this weekend, however, that we saw our biggest surprise yet. Going into the weekend, I had predicted that the Melissa McCarthy Oscar vehicle Can You Ever Forgive Me? would take to the top spot with regard to per-theater-averages given the pedigree fo the talent involved with the production and the enthusiastic response the film received out of Telluride when it premiered at the Film Festival there. Shockingly, Can You Ever Forgive Me? was upstaged. Instead, the per-theater-average crown went to A24’s Mid90’s, the feature film directorial debut of Jonah Hill. Debuting in four theaters for with a total gross of $258,157, Mid90’s saw a per-theater-average of $64,539, massive on its own, but given even more weight when one realizes that almost no one has been talking about the film since its premiere. I was aware that the film had just been screened at the New York Film Festival, so I figured it would play well in New York, but I had no idea that it would do this kind of business. Meanwhile, Can You Ever Forgive Me? opened in five theaters for a middling average of $32,302 per-theater. I do believe that the film still has a fighting chance in Best Actress race given the sheer level of buzz surrounding McCarthy’s performance as noted literary forger Lee Israel, but expect to see a lot of attention get paid to Mid90’s now, especially given that its per-theater-average is the third highest of the year. While I do feel that the film is too small to be competitive in the Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Actor race for Sunny Suljic (the film’s star), Mid90’s is the perfect film (being a directorial debut) to compete in the Best Original Screenplay race this year. A24 has a reputation as something of an Oscar whisperer, so don’t be surprised if Jonah Hill walks away with an Oscar nomination for writing on the morning of announcements, though I would prompt A24 to be cautious. Supposedly, the indie distributor is having Mid90’s go wide this coming weekend and I thoroughly believe that this is a mistake. They should give Mid90’s two more weeks in limited to release to continue to drum up buzz before going fully wide; this way, Mid90’s will debut even bigger than it likely will next weekend.

Outside of these two, the only other notables were that of What They Had from Bleecker Street and Wildlife from IFC films, each opening to much more moderate per-theater-averages that Mid90’s or Can You Ever Forgive Me?What They Had was very much a non-starter with a per-theater-average of $4,421 in four theaters, effectively wiping out any sleeper hit potential, both box office and awards-wise. Wildlife saw a much stronger opening than What They Had, with $26,147 per-theater which was the third biggest per-theater-average of the weekend under Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Mid90’s. However, I don’t think it was strong enough. Wildlife is the directorial debut of Paul Dano (of There Will Be Blood fame) and has received strong reviews for its well-executed story, period detail, and particularly Carey Mulligan’s performance in the film as a beleaguered housewife who falls in love with another man after her husband loses his job and backs away from the family in shame. Mulligan has been labeled a dark horse in the Best Actress race, but Wildlife simply hasn’t been catching on like it should. A per-theater-average like this is exemplary of just that, and IFC Films will need to push much harder if they want Mulligan to have a chance.

(Data collected from BoxOfficeMojo.com, Deadline.com, and BoxOfficePro.com)

 

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