October 8, 2016

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: Smooth Ride For “Girl On The Train,” Low Start For “Birth Of A Nation”


From the start, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (DreamWorks/Reliance/Universal) was perceived as a lower-intensity version of the Gone Girl phenomenon, and that’s holding with the opening of its film version.  Where Gone Girl had a $13.2M Friday start on its way to a $37.5M weekend, preliminary numbers at Deadline give Train $9.3M on Friday, which should translate into a $26M weekend.  Gone Girl was both extremely leggy in the US (a final $167.8M that was 4.5x its opening weekend) and highly successful overseas ($201.6M), and if Train can perform likewise, it could reach $250M worldwide, which would be a tidy profit on about $150M in production/marketing costs.  Train should also become Emily Blunt’s biggest starring vehicle, as compared to titles where she was the co-star (Edge of Tomorrow, The Wolfman) or a member of the ensemble (Into the Woods, The Devil Wears Prada).

When THE BIRTH OF A NATION (Fox Searchlight) was bought at Sundance, most of the attention went to its record $17.5M purchase price.  But the deal also required Searchlight to open the film at no less than 1500 theatres, and incur the marketing costs that come with a national opening.  The belief was that Birth could be both an awards contender and a popular hit, but it was always a risky strategy, because while awards films usually rely on a gradual platform run to build word of mouth and create pleasing optics of a box office that constantly rises for weeks, this made opening weekend an all-or-nothing proposition.  Then Nate Parker’s scandal engulfed Birth, and the risks became more dubious.  That played out with a $2.5M Friday that probably means a $6-7M weekend, and one that has little room to expand beyond its 2105-theatre opening.  (Few indies open that wide, but Searchlight earned $8.5M from the 1573-theatre start for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.)  A $20M US total would be a failure for Searchlight on $30-40M in acquisition and marketing costs, and if Birth doesn’t hold exceptionally well next weekend, it will be out of the awards season picture almost before it could begin.

MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE (CBS/Lionsgate) had a $1.8M Friday, and will hope for a Saturday matinee bump to push it to $6M for the weekend, still not much on $30M or so in production and US marketing costs.

MISS PEREGRINE’S SCHOOL FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (TSG/20th) led the holdovers, but fell 57% from last Friday to $3.8M, for a $13-14M weekend.  It’s headed for $75M at the US box office, and with $225M+ in total costs, it will require significant overperformance internationally to break even.

That’s better, though, than DEEPWATER HORIZON (Participant/Summit/Lionsgate), which will also cost $225M or so when the marketing dollars are spent, and which fell 53% from last Friday to $3.3M, with a $11-12M weekend ahead.  It may only reach $60M in the US, and early overseas performance last weekend was unpromising.

The math on THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (Village Roadshow/MGM/Columbia/Sony) isn’t working out, with a Friday-to-Friday drop of 46% to $2.5M that will give it a $8-9M weekend, and a US total that’s unlikely to match the $101.5M of The Equalizer despite costing $35M more to produce, a situation made worse by its lackluster performance overseas thus far.

STORKS (RatPac/Warners Animation) is holding well, down 33% from last Friday, but that still meant just $2.1M for the day, $8M for the weekend and a likely $70M US total against $200M in production/marketing costs, yet another production that will need to be rescued overseas.

SULLY (Village Roadshow/RatPac/Warners) is heading in for a landing, down 42% Friday-to-Friday to $1.4M, which should mean $5M for the weekend and an ultimate US total of $125M.  That’s solid, but so far international business has been soft at $47.8M.

MASTERMIDNS (Relativity) dropped 53% from its low start last Friday to $1.1M, and will be on track for a DOA $20M US total after a $3.5M weekend.

QUEEN OF KATWE (Disney) showed fair word of mouth with a 42% Friday-to-Friday drop, but that still meant just $400K for the day, and it may not top $10M in the US and will fade quickly.

DENIAL (Bleecker Street) had an OK expansion to 31 theatres that should give it a weekend per-theatre average around $7000.  AMERICAN HONEY (A24), though, isn’t catching on, with a weekend $3000 average at 25 theatres.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."