Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Jan 11-Jan 13): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Estimates
- The Upside / $19,590,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / STX Entertainment
- Aquaman / $17,265,000 / -44.3% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros.
- A Dog’s Way Home / $11,300,000/ (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia)
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse / $11,300,000 / -31.4% / Weekend 5 / Sony (Columbia)
- Escape Room / $8,900,000 / -51.2% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Columbia)
- Mary Poppins Returns / $7,215,000 / -54.4% / Weekend 4 / Disney
- Bumblebee / $6,775,000 / -48.7% / Weekend 4 / Paramount
- On the Basis of Sex / $6,227,000 / +286.9% / Weekend 3 / Focus Features
- The Mule / $5,545,000 / -39.1% / Weekend 5 / Warner Bros.
- Vice / $3,278,644 / -42.8% / Weekend 3 / Annapurna
11. Bohemian Rhapsody / $3,200,000 / +35.1% / Weekend 11 / Fox
12. Replicas / $2,500,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Entertainment Studios
13. If Beale Street Could Talk / $2,388,953 / +29.6% / Weekend 5 / Annapurna
14. Green Book / $2,098,000 / +16.1% / Weekend 9 / Universal
17. A Star is Born / $1,132,000 / +78.5% / Weekend 15 / Warner Bros
28. The Wife / $115,715 / +1,6117.5% / Weekend 22 / Sony Pictures Classics
Wow, what a turn of events this weekend. In one of the biggest upsets that I can remember recently, Aquaman saw its potential to take the number one spot at the box office one final time thwarted by The Upside, which managed to rally despite low expectations and take the crown. Aquaman still gets its day in the sun though, as it has now officially passed over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Elsewhere, new releases didn’t make much of an impact on the box office with the real standout performances coming from the previous weekend’s Golden Globe winners and specialty/limited release offerings, with On the Basis of Sex, in particular, seeing a pretty successful launch into wide release.
In first place, of course, we have to talk about that upset. I am positive that going into the weekend, no one expected The Upside to do nearly as well as it did. Originally projected to earn about $10 million this weekend, the film massively over-indexed and went on to gross $19.5 million, fully challenging Aquaman for first place with its daily grosses through every single day of the weekend. The result was not only an “A” Cinemascore, but also a very strong start for a film that was originally thought to be dead on arrival given the circumstances surrounding it.
So what happened? Well, I had originally thought that the film was being unceremoniously dumped (as is typical of January fare) by STX, whose film release track record is up to now is very bad. Given that The Upside was a former Weinstein film that had a lukewarm reception at TIFF and was pulled off the schedule due to Harvey Weinstein’s scandal, my perception was that STX was throwing this film into the “dumpster” month of January in order to make a quick buck. I chide STX frequently for their lack of an effort in launching their films and with good reason; however, you can’t rip on anyone for their faults unless you are also willing to recognize when they do something right, and here, STX did just that. Going into the weekend, I had remarked that The Upside had an advantage on A Dog’s Way Home (what I thought would be its biggest competitor) in that it had more notable stars in Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, and Nicole Kidman, but that it potentially would not draw a lot of people in due to bad reviews (the film still has a Rotten Tomatoes score in the 30%s). However, when you look back on Kevin Hart’s box office history, you come to realize that he is not only a significant draw in his own right but that he is also somewhat critic-proof. Take Night School from last summer as an example. Despite negative reviews, the film had a solid opening of $27 million, and managed to push its way to $100 million worldwide (a gross that The Upside would be lucky to have). This is the same story for several of Hart’s other outings like the Ride Along movies and Get Hard, so it would actually make sense to place a movie led by him in January. By comparison, the month looks dead in terms of new releases and with many of the December carry-overs starting to lose steam, a Kevin Hart-fronted offering looks not only like a breath of fresh-air, but actually like an exciting offering.
It also can’t be ignored that Hart’s recent Oscar hosting controversy probably played a part in the film’s success this weekend. While I don’t want to get into the details, the scandal has resulted in Hart’s name being thrown around the news quite a bit. However, while this might seem like bad publicity overall, I think that the Oscar connection might have actually given Hart something of a shield from the negative effects. It’s an odd theory, but listen to this. Deadline reported that The Upside played best in markets in the West, South, and Midwest, specifically noting that of the biggest theaters, five were located in Texas and Georgia. Both of those states are known to be red states, and unfortunately, this has given way to some pundits saying that The Upside is a success for very negative reasons. Several have stated that the film’s portrayal of racial dynamics is regressive and that this regressive look at race in America makes the film more appealing to conservatives which is why it overperformed. I have not seen the film, so I cannot comment on the racial dynamics there, however, I can say that I am not at all a fan of an argument that kind of boils down to “this movie is successful because people are racists” and generalizes about its audience. I can say, however, that conservatives are less likely to be interested in the news surrounding the Oscars, which is known to skew heavily in the liberal direction. Kevin Hart being wrapped up in a controversy regarding an Oscar hosting gig is simply not one that resonates with people in these areas because the Oscars themselves do not. However, having Hart’s name in the headlines does give The Upside free publicity, and with Hart’s appeal being very broad across multiple demographics, more people would be willing to show up to one of his films, particularly one that seems to showcase him in a different, a bit more dramatic light that is usual, thereby adding a novelty factor. Admittedly, the film did play to an audience that was predominately white, but African-American and Hispanic audiences brought up the rear with stronger percentages than you typically see for those audiences. The film played to an older crowd (which, as seen with The Mule, can be highly lucrative) with women over 25 repping the largest demographic and also giving the film its highest marks.
Overall, The Upside is a very big win for STX for a lot of reasons. First off, it is the first instance in the company’s history that they have been able to open a film in the number one spot at the weekend box office, a feat made all the more significant by the fact that the film was able to dethrone the monolith that was (and frankly still is) Aquaman. STX also looks like a hero in this scenario give that they rescued The Upside from the dying clutches of the Weinstein Company and, given that they managed to open the film well, more production companies may become willing and eager to work with them (they recently rescued another project, Jennifer Lopez’s The Hustlers at Scores, from nearly bankrupt Annapurna so I am curious if they will have better luck releasing that project as well). Most importantly, however, this win represents STX growing as a company. Even if The Upside falls off the map after this weekend (which is possible in the wake of the release of Glass this coming weekend), this win is one that cannot be taken away from them as it came from thoughtful positioning of their film and the company taking advantage of circumstances. I can only hope that it just gets better from here on out and that STX continues to grow in a positive direction.
As for the number two position, while Aquaman may have had its thunder stolen, there is little to cry about for the Prince of the Sea as the film officially hit the $1 Billion mark this past weekend! Currently standing at a domestic gross of $287 million, the film immense success at the box office is not just the product of a solid domestic run, but also an incredibly successful run in foreign market, where Aquaman has grossed more ($732 million) than any DC film released, and that is not exclusive to the recent slate of DCEU films. Yes, Aquaman is not only the highest grossing DCEU film but has also joined Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Returns as the only DC films to have grossed over $1 billion in theaters, with its international gross surpassing both of theirs. This is a pretty big accomplishment, especially given that we live in an increasingly more globalized world, one were a film’s success can be made or broken by how well it is received in foreign markets. Aquaman‘s next benchmark to be met is that of getting past $300 million domestically, and given that the film is now pacing slightly ahead of Suicide Squad (which ended its domestic run with a strong $325 million), this looks likely to happen pretty soon. If it can surpass Suicide Squad, Aquaman will be the third highest grossing film of the DCEU domestically, and with only Glass looking to pose a big threat in the coming two weeks, this looks doable.
Third though fifth place were taken up by Sony, which had a solid weekend overall at the box office. A Dog’s Way Home did not outperform The Upside on the strength of its puppy dog eyes as I had predicted, but still managed to debut within expectations at $11.3 million in third place while Escape Room fell within its expected range, dropping 51.2% (actually a solid hold for the genre) and grossing $8.9 million in fifth place and tying up a more than solid domestic gross of $32 million on a $9 million budget, thereby securing a great profit margin as it heads to streaming to make a real killing. Fourth place, however, was home to arguably the best performing film in the top ten, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which managed to capitalize on its momentous Golden Globe win last weekend and had the lowest drop in the top ten, 31.2% for a gross of $9 million! Not only was the film successful in the states but Spider-Verse also saw a surprising jump in the foreign market as it expanded into 37 territories and jumped past $302 million worldwide! I had said last week that it was at this point that we could start calling the film a success, and sure enough, it’s all paying off. The Globe win could not have come at a better time as it got to enter more foreign markets with the label of “Golden Globe winner”, a moniker which carries more weight than other awards internationally given that it is given out by foreign film journalists. Domestically, the film’s performance is still quite strong and it will likely be overtaking $150 million by the end of the week given that it stands at a current gross of $147 million. This would push it past the first Hotel Transylvania movie to make it Sony Animations’ third highest grossing release ever in the States, which, given the box office strength of the Hotel Transylvania franchise, is not bad company to keep. Those film’s have actually managed to increase their audience as they go forward (each film grossing more worldwide than the installment prior), so passing Hotel Transylvania domestically would increase the chances of a Spider-Verse sequel film getting made as well, a prospect which seemed a bit dim when the film first opened. Now, all it has to do its win that Oscar!!!!!
Sixth and seventh place saw Mary Poppins Returns and Bumblebee gets lumped together again, with Poppins falling a relatively large 54.5%. To its credit, Poppins is now up to a domestic gross of $150 million, but with a worldwide gross of only $287 million, the film is not turning out how Disney likely hoped. Bumblebee, on the other hand, held better with 48.7% and saw big international boost with a foreign gross of $82 million as it expanded into 47 territories, an 81% jump from the previous weekend. It currently sits at a worldwide gross of $364 million, so it might just make a solid profit for Paramount yet. Seventh place saw the successful expansion of On the Basis of Sex, which entered into 1,811 more theaters and grossed $6.2 million in eighth place. This film and its distributor, Focus Features, need to be commended here as they were able to successfully launch this film despite it having no awards prospects at all. Banking on the intense interest surrounding Ruth Bader Ginsberg this year (magnified by her recent surgery), Focus has been able to push this film into the spotlight against all odds and it is amazing to behold. Combined with the excellent performance of Mary, Queen of Scots, I would say Focus has been having a really great few months. Rounding out the top ten, The Mule took ninth place, passing $90 million domestic on its way, while Vice made one final stop in the number ten spot, failing to truly capitalize on its Globe win as it slips out.
The specialty market had some surprising levels of activity this weekend, both good and bad. In the bad section, we find Replicas, which debuted to $2.5 million in twelfth place, thereby making for the worst wide-release debut of Keanu Reeves’ career. This surprises me slightly, not because Replicas looks like a good movie (I mean, it has technically been bouncing around since 2017 when it was first sold to its distributor). What surprises me is that Entertainment Studios probably could’ve launched the film a bit better. They’ve had some solid successes launching properties like 47 Meters Down and Hostiles, both of which overperformed (even the Robert Kennedy biopic, Chappaquiddick, over-indexed in its debut), so marketing a Keanu Reeves film, no matter who weightless it looks, shouldn’t be nearly as hard. It must have been pretty bad, however, given that the studio only spent $10.5 million to market it.
Elsewhere, several films got boosts from their respective Golden Globes wins. Bohemian Rhapsody got a 35% boost to $3.2 million in eleventh place, pushing its gross to $198 million domestic, with $200 million soon to come in the wake of Oscar nominations in which Bohemian Rhapsody has practically sealed the deal when it comes to a Best Picture citation. It’s Best Picture-Drama win at the Globes as well as its Best Actor win for Rami Malek have pushed the young actor to the front of the line amongst the Best Actor frontrunners, and that is propelling its box office gross to unbelievable heights. We haven’t seen this much of buzz surrounding a potential Best Picture contender since the likes of Black Swan, which ended up winning Natalie Portman an Oscar for Best Actress, so Malek’s chances are great.
If Beale Street Could Talk and Green Book also got solid bumps in their box office hauls thanks to their respective wins with Beale Street getting a bigger bump than I would’ve expected given that it only won Best Supporting Actress for Regina King. The film jumped 29.6% to $2.4 million in 13th place, which King’s agents should seriously leverage when finding her new projects. A Star is Born also made a meek effort to capitalize on its win for Best Original Song, but it had little impact (something Warner Bros. probably knew given that it only added 176 theaters). The Wife also made a surprise return to theaters, bumping up its theater count to 156 and jumping 1,677.5%. Of course, it only grossed $115,715 given that it was barely in theaters anymore last weekend, but that jump is still pretty substantial and deserves a lot of credit.
(Box Office Data from Box Office Mojo, Deadline, and Box Office Pro)