Christmas Comes Early For ‘The Grinch’; ‘Overlord’ Proves Zombies and History Don’t Mix

Compared to 2017, this weekend saw a $10 million box-office bump. However, it's unlikely to keep that pace.
"The Grinch"
"The Grinch"

There’s always room for a familiar hit at the box office. “The Grinch,” from Universal’s animated division Illumination Entertainment, beat out two live-action studio releases. This is the fifth adaptation of a Dr. Seuss classic in the last 18 years, and it bested the combined gross for World War II zombie film “Overlord” and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” the second English-language Lisbeth Salander adaptation, by a 350 percent margin.

With $66 million from “The Grinch,” that represented about 40 percent of the weekend’s $161 million total gross. Compared to last year, that’s a 10 million dollar improvement, but the pace will be tough to maintain: Last year had “Justice League,” “Coco,” and a Star Wars film still to come.

The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) discovers the perils of stealing Christmas in "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" from Illumination.
“The Grinch”Photo Credit: Illumination and U

“The Grinch” is the third-biggest opening among the Dr. Seuss films, behind the live-action version in 2000 and “The Lorax” in 2012. Its release date isn’t necessarily prime for a family film (though justified by the Veteran’s Day holiday and Thanksgiving just ahead). Coming up, there’s major competition including “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” on November 16, and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” a week later. But with its strong debut, an A- Cinemascore, and being ahead of the pack, it could see a domestic gross of $200 million.

Universal’s animated films are massive overseas, usually doing 70 percent or more of their business worldwide. It opened in only 12 territories, with most major ones ahead. In the U.K./Ireland, it started ahead of “Frozen,” “Coco,” and “Moana.”

The studio has done a great job in maximizing its release dates. “The Grinch” became the studio’s fourth title to open at #1 over the last eight weeks (the others being “The House With a Clock in Its Walls,” “Night School,” and “Halloween”).

"Bohemian Rhapsody"
“Bohemian Rhapsody”20th Century Fox

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is the real deal, with only a 40 percent drop in its second weekend. It’s made $100 million in 10 days; among rock-themed biopics, it’s already the biggest. It could become the biggest pop-music biopic since “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and possibly exceed “Straight Outta Compton” and “Walk the Line.” Expect its success to spur interest in developing future music biopics, or reviving those that languish in turnaround.


The last time Hollywood combined zombies and history was “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in 2012. With an (adjusted) $18 million opening, and a budget of around $75 million, it wasn’t a success. This one, which drops zombies in to World War II, cost $38 million, but with a $10 million opening the best it can claim is it wasn’t the week’s worst opener.

It missed the younger crowd a genre movie needs; nearly seven out of 10 ticket buyers were either male and/or over 25. Paramount compares the audience makeup to Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” but that was a major disappointment; it couldn’t even manage $60 million. World War hardly hurt Tarantino’s earlier “Inglourious Basterds,” but that had major stars, a strong director, and strong reviews.

Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) in Columbia Pictures' THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB.
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web”Nadja Klier

It took Sony seven years to continue the Swedish mystery sensation of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” The earlier film had director David Fincher, a Christmas release, a much higher budget, and stars Daniel Craig as well as Rooney Mara, who received an Oscar nomination. This has director Fede Alvarez (“The Evil Dead,” “Don’t Breathe”), Claire Foy (a rising actress, but not a theatrical draw), a cast otherwise unknown to Americans, and mediocre to negative reviews.

Scattered international openings that began last week don’t suggest a bailout overseas. If this franchise continues, it might do best with a downshift to lower-budgeted streaming venues. For theaters, the thrill is gone.

“A Star Is Born”Warner Bros.

Our projections for “A Star Is Born” holdovers again proved insufficiently optimistic. We expected a drop of 33 percent per weekend; it’s now three weeks in and this weekend’s 27 percent drop is its biggest yet. That’s terrific, and even more impressive since it’s lost almost 600 theaters. It now is likely to play in good theaters through Thanksgiving, with some sticking around through Christmas. End result? It could be $225 million.

“The Grinch” made life even more problematic for “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” which saw a nasty 53 percent drop (Disney films like this rarely fall that much). This will be lucky to make $55 million.

Tyler Perry’s “Nobody’s Fool” also fell more than half, and should make around $30 million, which would be one of the lowest performers in his very successful career.

Sony continues to do well with Marvel’s “Venom.” Week six saw only a 38 percent drop, for a $206 million total. More importantly, it opened in China to $111 million, near the high end of Marvel releases there.

The Top 10

1. The Grinch (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 50; Est. budget: $75 million

$66,000,000 in 4,141 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $15,938,000; Cumulative: $66 million

2. Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox) Week 2; Last weekend: #1

$38,850,000 (-40%) in 4,000 theaters (no change); PTA: $7,713; Cumulative: $100,010,000

3. Overlord (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 58; Est. budget: $38 million

$10,100,000 in 2,859 theaters; PTA: $3,533; Cumulative: $

4. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend: #2

$9,565,000 (-53%) in 3.766 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,540; Cumulative: $35,257,000

5. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 44; Est. budget: $43 million

$8,015,000 in 2,922 theaters; PTA: $2,736; Cumulative: $8,015,000

6. A Star Is Born (Warner Bros.) Week 6; Last weekend: #4

$8,010,000 (-27%) in 2,848 theaters (-583); PTA: $2,813; Cumulative: $178,020,000

7. Nobody’s Fool (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend: #3

$6,540,000 (-52%) in 2,468 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,654; Cumulative: $24,276,000

8. Venom (Sony) Week 6; Last weekend: #6

$4,850,000 (-38%) in 2,351 theaters (-716); PTA: $2,063; Cumulative: $206,234,000

9. Halloween (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend: #9

$3,840,000 (-64%) in 2,717 theaters (-1,058); PTA: $1,413; Cumulative: $156,811,000

10. The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox) Week 6; Last weekend: #10

$2,070,000 (-38%) in 1,108 theaters (-399); PTA: $1,868; Cumulative: $26,706,00

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