Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday's Headlines - Weekend Box Office

A trio of high-profile fall festival films opening nationwide got iced at the weekend box office -- Michael Moore's new doc Fahrenheit 11/9, the edgy teen black comedy Assassination Nation and Dan Fogelman's Life Itself.

The only new movie to do impressive business was a more commercial, Hollywood studio offering: Eli Roth's big-screen adaptation of the beloved kids book, The House With a Clock in Its Walls. The family friendly pic, starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett, debuted to a better-than-expected $26.8 million from 3,592 theaters, easily enough to top the chart.

From Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and distributed by Universal, the pre-Halloween offering follows a young orphan (Owen Vacarro) who goes to live in his uncle's spooky house, only to accidentally awaken the town's dead.

Fahrenheit 11/9 limped to an eighth-place finish with $3.1 million from 1,719 theaters. Pre-release tracking had suggested at least $5 million-$6 million. One bright spot: Audiences gave it an A CinemaScore. Moore's satirical, anti-Trump film marks the first release from Tom Ortenberg's new company, Briarcliff. (Ortenberg worked with Moore on Fahrenheit 9/11 while stationed at Lionsgate.)

In 2004, Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 debuted to a record-breaking $23.9 million from 868 locations. Otherwise, his films, similar to other political or specialized docs, have launched first in select theaters before expanding their footprint in order to capitalize on word of mouth.

This summer, conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza also decided to open his latest film nationwide. Death of a Nation debuted to $2.4 million from 1,005 locations before topping out at $5.9 million domestically, the worst showing of D'Souza's directorial career despite an overall doc boom at the box office, including such summer hits as Won't You Be My Neighbor? ($22.6 million), RBG ($14 million) and Three Identical Strangers ($12.1 million). The latter three all rolled out slowly.

Life Itself, directed by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, came in at just $2.1 million from 2,578 cinemas after getting ravaged by critics (its current Rotten Tomatoes score is 13 percent). Late last year, Amazon Studios doled out north of $10 million for rights to the film.

The multigenerational relationship film stars Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas. Life Itself, earning an estimated $800,000 on Friday, looks to come in No. 10.

Sam Levinson's satirical thriller Assassination Nation fared even worse, earning an estimated $1 million from 1,403 theaters. In January, specialty distributor Neon partnered with the Russo brothers in ponying up a reported $10 million for rights to the no-holds-barred black comedy after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

A modern-day take on the Salem witch trials, the violent, R-rated revenge pic follows a group of gun-toting teenage girls who must save their small town after a data hack exposes everyone's dirty little secrets. Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Bella Thorne, Abra, Anika Noni Rose, Colman Domingo, Maude Apatow and Joel McHale star.

Earlier this month, Assassination Nation screened at the Toronto Film Festival, where Fahrenheit 11/9 and Life Itself also played as awards season got underway.

Heading into the weekend, none of the three films were expected to post big opening numbers, since they are adult-skewing titles that count on a long, sustained run. Still, all three are coming in on the low end of expectations, if not behind. And the risks of opening nationwide, versus a platform run, include quickly losing theaters.

Fahrenheit 11/9 currently sports a 79 percent Rotten Tomatoes score; Assassination Nation, 68 percent. House With a Clock has a 65 percent score.