Two weeks in a row, the magic number was $19 million for the top film at the box office, as The Woman King and Don’t Worry Darling opened similarly, even though now are on divergent paths. Then along comes the second horror film in September not only to rule the weekend, but also to have the best opening of the month. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as we move towards Halloween, since the genre fans are pretty loyal. But the bigger story may be how audiences of all statures just ignored the first big gay romantic comedy to be released by a major studio.
Killer clowns, nuns, and insidious things have been the big horror films of September. Throw in the exorcism of one Emily Rose, a Shyamalan visit, and a few Resident Evils and you have your $20+ million territory. Is Smile headed for a franchise route now that the $17 million-budgeted film opened to $22 million (and $14.5 million internationally) to lead the box office this weekend? Only time will tell, but considering it’s about a chained curse, it can theoretically continue forever unless you pull a Denzel Washington in Fallen. Speaking of chained curses, one thing the horror films that opened in September have in common is their frontloaded nature. Among those that have opened to $18 million or higher, the best multiple still belongs to It, which itself is an anomaly given that it had a monster opening ($123 million) and yet still has the second best multiple over that start (2.65). Stigmata, the lowest start on the list with $18.3 million, has the best multiple with a 2.73. The average multiple of the 11 films in question – a list that includes seven franchise/universe titles – is a mere 2.37. The average of the four “original” films comes to 2.59. So let’s set Smile’s first final estimate between $52-57 million and watch as it surpasses September’s other horror hit, Barbarian, which brought its own total to over $33 million this weekend.
Unfortunately, Billy Eichner’s Bros opened to a mere $4.8 million this weekend. Touted as the first big studio mainstream gay romantic comedy with a primarily all-LGBTQ cast, the film found absolutely no support at the box office. Eichner may not be a household name, but not even the Judd Apatow brand that once headlined Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in early big screen roles to over $121 million could get people in theaters. Comedies with gay characters and themes (played by well-known straight actors) found success as far back as 1996 (The Birdcage) and 1997 (In & Out). But here in 2022, audiences just flat-out ignored an opportunity not only to see a really funny and acclaimed film (Certified Fresh at 91% on the Tomatometer, making it just the sixth live-action film in wide release this year to rate as high) but also to ensure that studios would be willing to take a chance on greenlighting other films like Bros. Those who did get out to see it and were surveyed by Cinemascore gave Bros the first “A” rating for an R-rated film since Judas and the Black Messiah in February 2021. For even more depressing context, 2003’s Boat Trip, the Cuba Gooding Jr. film where two straight guys pretend to be gay, would have opened with $6.1 million, adjusted for inflation.
Not every film that makes nearly half of its opening weekend on Thursday and Friday drops big in its second weekend, but Don’t Worry Darling certainly did. Last week we said it had to stay at least over $9 million to keep it on pace to pass $50 million. This week it fell 62% to just $7.2 million; good enough for second place, but its total of $32.8 million after 10 days falls behind Rambo: Last Blood, which finished with just $44.8 million. Even worse is the fact that even the last Rambo movie grossed $8.5 million in its second frame before suffering a major drop-off in week three down to $3.59 million. Darling will hope to stay above that next weekend, but even if it does, it could still end up in the $45-50 million range and will need some international help to clear its $35 million budget and marketing costs. It has made another $22 million so far.
The Woman King, on the other hand, continues to do solid business. Another $6.9 million this weekend brings its total to $46.7 million after 17 days. That officially puts it ahead of the pace of Burn After Reading, which had $45.5 million after a $6.1 million third weekend. The Woman King is now in the driver’s seat to clear $60 million, which is a solid domestic number that will still be counting on some international support to cover its $50 million budget. It has only made $1.3 million to date outside of the U.S. and Canada.
Warring factions continue in the top 10 this week with Ponniyin Selvan: Part One making it all the way to No. 6 with $4 million in just 500 theaters, and the re-release of Avatar grossing another $4.6 million itself and $18 million since last week. In other big hit news, Top Gun: Maverick may have spent its final week in the top 10 with another $1.1 million, bringing its total to over $713 million. Meanwhile, DC League of Super Pets has now grossed over $91 million (and $186 million worldwide) on a $90 million budget. Finally, Bullet Train managed to cross the $100 million mark domestically this week, though it is still about $38 million away from getting out of the red, even considering its $131 million international haul.
Families and adults will fight it out for the top spot next week. In one corner you have the star-studded cast of David O. Russell’s Amsterdam opening. The R-rated film with Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and John David Washington hasn’t wowed the critics so far; currently at just 33% on the Tomatometer, it may become the only Rotten film that Russell has gotten released wide in theaters. In the other corner is Lyle, Lyle Crocodile with the vocal stylings of Shawn Mendes. The singing croc is the first new family film being released in theaters since DC League of Super Pets at the end of July.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Warner Bros.