“Smile” (Paramount), an original horror title costing a reported $17 million, was the least-heralded wide studio release since Labor Day. “Don’t Worry Darling” (Warner Bros. Discovery), “The Woman King” (Disney), “Pearl” (A24), “Bros” (Universal), and the re-release of “Avatar” (Disney) each received significant entertainment press, social media, and other attentions ahead of their releases.
“Darling” and “Woman King” each opened at a respectable $19 million. The two mid-budget films seem well-positioned for eventual profitability, with theatrical exposure that provides awareness to boost home media attention.
And then “Smile” comes along to show that by appealing to core audience hungry for a bread-and-butter horror film, it could top all of them with a $22 million gross — even without stars or a director (Parler Finn) who might be recognizable by even one percent of Film Twitter.
It drew an overall audience more reflective of what breakout movies do, rather than doing well from overperforming among certain groups. “Smile” was nearly even among genders (a big key for success for horror films), 60 percent non-white (even the biggest releases often approach equal share of ticket buyers), 81 percent under 35, and 36 percent 18-24.
And it did so as an R-rated film, which somewhat limited its draw; so did Hurricane Ian. (The weekend marks the first time since May 2021 the top two films were both rated R, with “Bros” making it three of the top four).
This is Paramount’s sixth #1 opener of the year, more than any other studio. Like Sony, it’s showing that it can counterbalance not having a stockpile of franchises by a bit of creativity.
“Bros,” Universal’s very original rom-com, even with its extensive publicity (or perhaps in part because of high awareness) wasn’t even expected to reach $10 million for the weekend. But $4.8 million for #4 is shocking.
But rom-coms, though central to streaming, are nearly extinct on the theatrical level. Add to that a lack of well-known stars, and it’s an uphill climb even before adding that the characters are gay. Eyebrows have been raised that Universal released “Ticket to Paradise” with George Clooney and Julia Roberts overseas before domestic (where is has grossed $45 million). Figure one reason was wariness of box-office results at home and concern a negative response might affect media coverage.
Gay-centered films have broken through with audiences on a handful of occasions, with “The Birdcage” and “Brokeback Mountain” leading the way. But both had major stars at the top of their appeal, and the latter a major awards push.
With a $22 million budget, all eyes will be on how “Bros” does when it hits PVOD (if following Universal’s usual pattern) by mid-October. It could fare very well there and hit profitability. That needs to be considered before doing post-mortems. But it will be hard to avoid that this initial result does damage to the sense of the potential of adding to the diversity of theatrical options. Of note, despite an A Cinemascore compared to B- for “Smile” (typical for horror films), “Bros” fell five percent Saturday, while “Smile” rose four percent.
Playing in only 504 theaters, “Ponniyin Selvan I” (Sarigama), a Tamil Indian historical epic, grossed $4.1 million, good enough for #6. It has a per-theater average of $8,200, better even than #1 “Smile.” Indian films, for several years a strong niche market, continue to grow in domestic appeal even though still limited.
“RRR” (Variance handling its reissue) had a single Los Angeles festival showing Saturday night as part of its credible (Best Picture nomination in pursuit) awards campaign. It did over $21,000, to rapturous response.
“Darling” dropped an above average 62 percent this weekend, despite weekday totals that suggested it might not drop this month. Olivia Wilde’s film has taken in $33 million, with close to $50 million domestic still possible on a $35 million budget. Its notoriety likely helps in further post-theatrical life ahead.
In its third weekend, “The Woman King” dropped only 36 percent, coming in #3 and only $300,000 behind “Darling.” It looks headed for a $65 million+ domestic total.
Missing the Top Ten was “The Good House” (Roadside Attractions), which managed only $834,000 in 1,062 theaters. The mid-life romance with Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline grossed below what “Vikham Vehda” (reliance), another Indian release did in only half as many locations.
“Sirens” (Oscilloscope), a Lebanese documentary about a female metal band, had an encouraging exclusive New York opening of $8,890. The specialized season gets a big boost next weekend with the platform open of “TÁR” (Focus).
Overall, performance improved this weekend, with the $64 million improved from last week, 67 percent of the same weekend in 2019 (the best result in over two months, a sad sign of how weak the release schedule has been). This raised our rolling four week comparison to three years ago to a still bad 47 percent.
The Top 10
1. Smile (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 68; Est. budget: $17 million
$22,000,000 in 3,650 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,027; Cumulative: $22,000,000
2. Don’t Worry Darling (WBD) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$7,300,000 (-62%) in 4,121 (+8) theaters; PTA: $1,771; Cumulative: $32,805,000
3. The Woman King (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$7,000,000 (-36%) in 3,504 (-261) theaters; PTA: $1,998; Cumulative: $46,713,000
4. Bros (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 77; Est. budget: $22 million
$4,800,000 in theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $4,800,000
5. Avatar (Disney) REISSUE; Last weekend #3; also on VOD
$4,696,000 (-55%) in 1,860 (no change) theaters; PTA: $2,525; Cumulative: $(adjusted) $910,522,000
6. Ponniyan Selvan I (Sarigama) NEW – Est. budget: $20 million
$4,100,000 in 504 theaters; PTA: $8,200,000; Cumulative: $4,100,000
7. Barbarian (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #4
$2,817,000 (-42%) in 2,720 (-170) theaters; PTA: $1,036; Cumulative: $33,107,000
8. Bullet Train (Sony) Week 9; Last weekend #7; also on PVOD
$1,400,000 (-23%) in 1,931 (+24) theaters; PTA: $725; Cumulative: $101,334,000
9. DC League of Super-Pets (WBD) Week 9; Last weekend #8; also on PVOD and HBO Max
$1,305,000 (-25%) in 1,924 (-427) theaters; PTA: $678; Cumulative: $91,694,000
10. Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount) Week 18; Last weekend #9; also on PVOD
$1,230,000 (-24%) in 1,561 (-464) theaters; PTA: $788; Cumulative: $713,457,000
Additional specialized/limited/independent releases
Vikham Vehda (Reliance) NEW
$(est.) 980,000 in 558 theaters; PTA: $1,756
The Good House (Roadside Attractions) NEW – Metacritic:62; Festivals include: Toronto 2021
$834,170 in 1,062 theaters; PTA: $785
Vesper (IFC) NEW – Metacritic:70; Festivals include: Karlovy Vary 2022; also on VOD
$20,000 in 44 theaters; PTA: $455
Sirens (Oscilloscope) NEW – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Karoly Vary 2022
$8,890 in theaters; PTA: $8,890
On the Come Up (Paramount) Week 2; also on Paramount +
$14,671 in 145 (-458) theaters; PTA: $101; Cumulative: $229,000
Pearl (A24) Week 3
$724,900 in 1,638 (-1,344) theaters; Cumulative: $8,246,000
See How They Run (Searchlight) Week 3
$1,007,000 in 1,650 (-754) theaters; Cumulative: $7,946,000
Moonage Daydream (Neon) Week 3
$472,500 in 675 (-58) theaters; Cumulative: $3,438,000
Running the Bases (UPU2) Week 3
$113,000 in 377 (-320) theaters; Cumulative: $1,273,000
Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva (Disney) Week 4
$135,000 in 170 (-290) theaters; Cumulative: $7,752,000
Gigi & Nate (Roadside Attractions) – Week 4
$10,690 in 56 (-79) theaters; Cumulative: $2,265,000
Bodies Bodies Bodies (A24) Week 9
$9,547 in 67 (-105) theaters; Cumulative: $11,434,000
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (A24) Week 14; also on PVOD
$9,291 in 21 (-4) theaters; Cumulative: $6,325,000
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 27; also on PVOD 28
$5,837 in 28 (no change) theaters; Cumulative: $70,006,000