Speaking of “it’s unfortunate that so many people spend so much of their moviegoing dollar on a smaller portion of tentpole movies,” Guillermo del Toro’s very good and very ambitious Nightmare Alley never had a chance. Even with solid reviews and decent buzz among the online film nerd community, the Bradley Cooper/Cate Blanchett/Rooney Mara (and more) period piece film noir melodrama earned just $1.192 million yesterday, setting the stage for a $1.95 million opening weekend. That’s below even the over/under $5 million “Covid normal” for the likes of King Richard, The Last Duel and Last Night in Soho, closer to the $2.3 million launch of Lisa Joy’s Reminiscence. Again, these are exactly the kind of big-budget, adult-skewing, star-driven, non-franchise studio programmers everyone claims Hollywood never makes.
After the last few years (this has been a problem since late 2015/early 2016 as the “go to the movies just to see a movie” crowd swiftly migrated to streaming), it’s be hard to blame Hollywood if they really do stop trying. Sure, you can argue that Disney isn’t prioritizing their non-IP formally-Fox flicks, and perhaps they should have released West Side Story over Christmas and opened The King’s Man in early December. Moreover, it’s harder for marketing to reach folks who A) don’t see non-franchise films in theaters (no trailer exposure) and don’t want conventional network television (no catching the television spots). Alas, at some point we have to acknowledge that audiences are making the informed choice to see the tentpoles in theaters and ignore everything else.
Meanwhile, last week’s “coulda/woulda/shoulda/didn’t” biggie West Side Story got understandably kneecapped in weekend two. Steven Spielberg’s very good re-adaption of the 1957 Broadway play (which was adapted in 1961 into an Oscar-winning theatrical smash) earned just $1.063 million (-74%) on its second Friday, giving it a new $15.629 million eight-day domestic cume. We can expect a $3.5 million (-67%) weekend and a sad $18 million ten-day cume. This obviously isn’t getting Greatest Showman-like legs, for any number of reasons (a known quantity, no stars, longer, less family-friendly, no stars, post-release competition, a downer ending, etc.) and will end up playing closer to Cats ($27 million domestic). The Rachel Zegler/Ansel Elgort musical romance deserved better, but as Clint Eastwood famously said in Unforgiven, deserves got nothing to do with it.
Walt Disney’s Encanto earned $1.651 million (-28%) on its fourth Friday for a likely $6.8 million (-32%) weekend and $81.8 million 24-day total. It’s still a disappointing performance for a terrific toon, and it’ll need a Christmas miracle to get past $100 million domestic. Sony’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife earned $930,000 (-47%) on Friday for a $3.63 million (-50%) sixth-weekend gross and $117.5 million domestic cume. That’s a fine total, one that Spider-Man: No Way Home just topped in a single day. I mean, they’re both Sony flicks, but by tonight or tomorrow it’ll also be past Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($212.5 million) too. Without casting moral judgment, if Sony hadn’t unloaded so many good-to-great movies to streamers, they’d be the unmitigated hero of Hollywood for late-2021.
MGM’s House of Gucci earned another $579,359 (-54%) on Friday for a likely $1.81 million (-56%) weekend and $44.8 million 26-day cume. Director Ridley Scott is now responsible for both the season’s most depressing box office disaster (The Last Duel, although I mourn for King Richard) and the season’s only real commercially viable Oscar flick (House of Gucci). The Lady Gaga/Adam Driver flick has an advantage in the Oscar race, both because regular audiences are seeing it and because it’s an easy “this is a fun movie” Oscar screener pick for voters hoping to entertain their friends over the next two weeks. Meanwhile, Dune will earn $235,000 (-73%) in just 300 theaters for a $107 million domestic total.
Eternals earned $337,000 (-58%) on Friday for a likely $1.31 million (-58%) weekend and $163.7 million domestic cume. With no shot at catching Incredible Hulk in terms of tickets sold ($132 million in 2008/$171 million adjusted), it’s a good news/bad news weekend for Marvel. Paramount’s Clifford: The Big Red Dog will have $48.6 million domestic tomorrow, while Sony’s $25 million Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will have $16.7 million after 24 days. No Time to Die will should pass Die Another Day ($160.9 million) domestically over the weekend, while Licorice Pizza will pass $1.3 million without expanding past four theaters. Christmas With the Chosen will drop 89% (!) in weekend three for a $135,000 weekend in 500 theaters (-950) for a still relatively impressive $14.1 million 19-day cume.