MONDAY AM: It’s hard to remember when we last had a fierce weekend at the box office, but it’s going down like the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida. “Liar” is a word that rival distribution heads are using to refer to one another as in the past 24 hours. Distributors have submitted their early-morning estimates, and they show that 20th Century/MARV’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle is leading with $16.975M, followed by New Line/Warner Bros.’ It in second with $16.93M.

Universal/Cross Creek’s Tom Cruise movie American Made is third with $16.758M, per the studio’s own early AM figures.

While industry estimates showed It leading yesterday morning, there was word that Kingsman had the lesser Sunday drop, and in fact it did, down 41% with $4.495M from Saturday. It declined 47% on Sunday with $4.1M from Saturday’s $7.83M.

There’s certain to be some more squabbling this morning; some analysts and even Universal believe that they’re second. What happens now — speaking of chad counting — is that the studios will tabulate all the official money from those theaters flying under comScore’s radar (which, by the way, isn’t that many given the wide swath that the exhibition-studio B.O. relations firm covers) and return with figures in the afternoon.

Warner Bros.

Sunday AM: Despite a close race between It, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and American Made, New Line’s Stephen King movie could see its third No. 1 weekend with an estimated $17.3M, with 20th Century Fox/MARV’s Eggsy spy film battling Tom Cruise’s CIA thriller for second; both 20th Century Fox and Uni calling $17M apiece.

Looking at the industry estimates versus what the studios gave us, the math this morning shows $17.1M for It, $16.97M for Kingsman: Golden Circle, and $16.85M for American Made. There is a chance that Kingsman could trump It; currently this morning, Kingsman is -43% for Sunday, versus -51% for American Made and -53% for It. 

Coming away from this weekend, I’m informed that It grabbed more females than both American Made and Kingsman. However, one thing is clear: No one under the age of 25 wanted to watch a Tom Cruise movie. American Made, per CinemaScore, reports that only 9% of the opening weekend crowd was under 25. Close to half of CinemaScore’s audience was over the age of 50. Ugh. That younger audience for American Made was lost to It and Kingsman, the latter of which drew 66% under the age of 35. As we emphasized in our previous update, American Made, despite its greatness as a Tom Cruise movie, is just not one of his best at the box office–in fact, his lowest opening since 2012’s Jack Reacher ($15M)–and what American Made lacks, unlike Reacher, is a 5.3x holiday leg-out factor. Worldwide, this Cross Creek $60M net financed pic isn’t expected to profit after all revenue streams, per Deadline sources; American Made‘s global take is now at $81.7M.

Many sources continue to rail against Cruise, pointing out how his star is waning outside the Mission: Impossible movies; that his image is a double-edge sword that polarizes audiences. What’s clear here with American Made is that when you don’t have him on the global red carpet premiere circuit, the PR wattage for his movie depletes. And that’s unfortunate, because here’s a great movie that critics enjoyed with an 87% certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. Here’s an opportunity wasted for Cruise to make good with American Made after last June’s calamity, The Mummy. Premise and critics alone cannot sell a film.

Given how American Made came in lower than last autumn’s critically despised Jack Reacher: Never Go Back ($22.9M), one wonders whether Uni spent less than Paramount did in P&A. iSpot TV indeed shows this, with Jack Reacher 2 trailers running 4,591 times on TV with a national TV spend of $28.8M, while American Made spots ran 3,205 times off a $20.1M spend. One rival insider counters, defending Universal that they spent at least $31M on American Made and would never just dump a Cruise film into the marketplace. Again, the major difference between Jack Reacher 2 and American Made was that Cruise was on the global tour last year at this time. For the record, the chief reason keeping him out of American Made globe-trotting was his production commitment to Mission: Impossible 6 (this was before his injury).

Further slowing American Made down was its marketing and positioning: Was it a suspense film? Was it action? What was was the big event premise? Overall, the drug-runner subgenre, as we pointed out before, has been done too many times on the big screen; it’s a storyline that many can stay at home and watch for free on Netflix with Narcos and Breaking Bad. It comes as no surprise that American Made is opening close to other black market traffic movies, read Oliver Stone’s Savages ($16M) and Todd Phillip’s War Dogs last year ($14.7M).

As far as Sony/Cross Creek’s Flatliners — did they even try? The studio is calling the reboot of the 1990 genre pic at $6.7M. The movie will forever be an answer in a game of Trivial Pursuit to the question: “Name a film with a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score.” The movie was built for a low price at $20M (even though we’ve seen other horror films made for pennies), but when you build it this low, you still have to make sure it’s great. PostTrak crowds loathed the movie at 66%, while CinemaScore audiences were more tolerant with a B-. We hear that the brand equity was meaningless: fans of the original have no desire to see it, and the under-25 bunch don’t know what it is. Despite having Mr. Robot pilot director and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev behind this movie, word is he was working off a flat-footed script for Flatliners which wasn’t any different from the 1990 version.

Fox Searchlight’s The Battle of the Sexesdespite having a great critical score of 85% fresh, isn’t wowing with a $3.4M three-day. That’s lower than Lionsgate’s The Glass Castle, which made $4.67M at 1,461. With Emma Stone and Steve Carell, this Searchlight title should be higher. PostTrak shows an overall 74% positive score with females over 25 at 54% leading the way, followed by 25+ males at 32%. It could be just a matter of older, sophisticated audiences finding their way to this movie. Older females loved Battle of the Sexes the most at 80% positive.

Studio reported figures as of this morning:

1) It (NL/WB), 3,917 theaters (-90) / $4.98M Fri. / $7.88M Sat. / $4.45 Sun. / 3-day cume: $17.3M (-42%) / Total cume: $291.1M / Wk 4

2/3) Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 4,038 theaters (+35) / $4.9M Fri. / $7.5M Sat. / $4.55M Sun. / 3-day cume: $17M (-56%) / Total: $66.7M / Wk 2

American Made  (UNI), 3,024 theaters / $6.1M Fri. (includes $960K previews) /$6.5M Sat. / $4.4M Sun. / 3-day cume: $17M / Wk 1

4.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 4,047 theaters / $2.7M Fri. /$5.6M Sat. / $3.6M Sun. / 3-day cume: $12M (-41%) / Total: $35.5M / Wk 2

5.) Flatliners  (SONY), 2,552 theaters / $2.1M Fri. / $2.8M Sat. / $1.7M Sun. / 3-day cume: $6.7M / Wk 1

6.) Battle of the Sexes (FSL), 1,213 theaters (+1,192) / $1.1M Fri. /$1.4M Sat. / $850K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.4M (+560%) / Total: $4M / Wk 2

7.) American Assassin (CBS/LG), 3,020 theaters (-134) / $954K Fri. / $1.48M Sat. / $891K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.3M (-47%) / Total: $31.8M / Wk 3

8.) Home Again (OR), 2,370 theaters (-315) / $530K Fri. / $791K Sat. / $435K Sun. / 3-day cume: $1.76M (-46%) / Total: $25.1M / Wk 4

9.) Til Death Due Us Part  (IND), 550 theaters / $506k Fri. / $681K Sat. / $380KSun. / 3-day cume: $1.56M / Wk 1

10.) mother! (PAR), 1,840 theaters (-528) / $440K Fri. / $630K Sat. / $390K Sun. / 3-day cume: $1.46M (-56%) / Total: $16.3M / Wk 3

Saturday AM writethru after Friday 11:57 PM post: Tom Cruise’s American Made is looking to plant its flag at No. 1 with a $16.55M start, but the Doug Liman-directed 1980s-era CIA thriller is still in a dead heat with 20th Century Fox/MARV’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle ($16.5M), with New Line/Warner Bros’ It not too far behind at $16.2M; a very different B.O. landscape from what we saw at Friday midday. Tonight’s surge factor will likely dictate who comes out on top and rivals are divided on whether that’s Kingsman or American Made.

Universal

What happened here is that some, not many, have discovered American Made via decent word of mouth and a good Rotten Tomatoes score (87% Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes)The movie received a B+ CinemaScore on Friday night, which is the same grade earned by Cruise’s non-Mission:Impossible titles Edge of Tomorrow (also from Liman), last autumn’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Knight & Day, and Valkyrie. PostTrak shows a 55% definite recommend which is in the wheelhouse of Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow. 

Paramount

However, duly note, a No. 1 $16M-plus take for a Tom Cruise movie is nothing to jump up and down on a couch about. It’s his lowest opening in close to five years, since Jack Reacher‘s $15M. Though it’s a great movie, American Made is coming in lower than last autumn’s critical displeasure Jack Reacher 2 which opened to more than its first chapter ($22.9M to $15.2M) and fizzled out with a 2.6x multiple ($58.7M). That’s likely the same leg factor here. Uni is hoping American Made legs out like Girl on the Train, but that’s a completely different movie altogether with a higher ($24.5M) opening, and a bestselling piece of chick lit that drove women to the theater. At the end, Girl earned a 3.1x multiple or $75.4M domestic. American Made nee Mena is original IP based on Gary Spinelli’s spec script which Uni shelled out $1M for three years ago. Outside of his Mission: Impossible films, Cruise tends to average roughly a $22M domestic B.O. start over the last 10 years, and American Made is shockingly under that despite it being such a fantastic rebound for him quality wise since last June’s disaster The Mummy. 

American Made was a prime destination for guys over 25 who made up 44% of Friday night’s crowd per ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak. The under 25 demo was nearly absent making up only 18%. And that’s one of the first hurdles with American Made: You can’t make a $60M movie for a one quadrant, older male crowd. The Cross Creek-financed title on which Uni took foreign isn’t expected to break even, per Deadline finance sources. The movie’s foreign till over the last month was nothing to scream about at $60M-plus, and typically overseas is where Cruise fares best. You need a wider swath to make this a hit, and Cruise has largely won over older males in his latter years. It’s clear that Golden Circle and It are stealing away that 17-34 guy crowd from American Made. 

Netflix’s ‘Narcos’
Netflix

Another factor capping American Made‘s money is the fact that the drug runner action drama is a subgenre we’ve seen too many times. Just take your pick: Traffic, Blow, Sicario and War Dogs (which has an opening not too far from American Made at $14.7M). If you’re really into Narcos on Netflix, why spend the extra money to go watch American Made at the multiplex? Social media monitor RelishMix observed before Friday, “The convo surrounding American Made is mixed, but leaning positive. Many moviegoers compare this movie to films they love like War Dogs and Blow.  But others wonder where the original story lies — which may be surprising given some of the creatives put out by Universal.”

Another big factor that has slowed American Made‘s turnstiles is that Cruise isn’t out there aggressively selling the movie in his standard globe-trotting style. More specifically, there haven’t been any world premieres where Cruise is known to stroll the red carpet for two hours, speaking to fans and signing autographs. Such events make their way to social, and those posts are clearly absent on his handles. Ironic, given how good American Made is. This has created a situation where American Made is forced to stand on its reviews, concept and premise, which as we explained above, isn’t all that unique from the outside looking in.

Instagram

Now some journalists have come to the conclusion that Cruise is avoiding interviews due to the death of the two pilots during production, and the fact that their estates are suing the production. That’s not the case as we hear it, and history has shown that controversies, whether Scientology-related or a bad break-up, have never prevented Cruise from tubthumping his movies. A week before American Made opened, news broke that the estates of the late pilots, Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl, were partially blaming Cruise and Liman. When asked by Vulture whether he had a comment on the lawsuit against the American Made production, Liman responded, “No. Just that I’m a pilot and Tom Cruise is a pilot. I don’t know anything specific about the accident, because it didn’t happen during the filming. They were just moving one of the airplanes. I was just going to say that it’s just a reminder — something all pilots know — which is that flying is really dangerous. Not in commercial planes, by the way.”

We understand that Cruise was always scheduled to do limited press on American Made given his production schedule on Mission: Impossible 6. But then Cruise suffered a broken ankle. His schedule was freed up even more, and he was able to appear on Conan (the video drew over 1M views on YouTube) from London. While Cruise was involved in marketing decisions for American Made, which is standard on his movies, his bullhorn is largely missing this time around.

Sony

Cross Creek has another movie this weekend, Sony’s Flatliners. The company is only on the hook for 25% of the pic’s $20M-ish production cost. Despite being directed by the stunning Danish director Niels Arden Oplev who helmed the original Swedish The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the Mr. Robot pilot, Flatliners is DOA with $5.5M. The studio shielded the movie from critics, and for those 30 who finally watched it, they’re giving it a 0% Rotten Tomatoes flat line. Those moviegoers who actually dared to spend money on Flatliners gave this remake a B- CinemaScore, which isn’t so bad, but overall the movie is everything a horror film isn’t suppose to be: a remake of a cult film and a retread (as Variety‘s Andrew Barker says, “About as inessential as reboots get, Flatliners… otherwise offers no reason for reanimating this long-expired property”). If moviegoers want to watch a riveting horror film, then they’ll just go see It again, which is Flatliners biggest bane. Flatliners gets an awful 66% overall positive score from PostTrak and a low 46% definite recommend. Females under 25 at 31% showed up followed by older females at 27%.

Fox Searchlight

Fox Searchlight’s The Battle of the Sexes could possibly touch $4M on 1,213 theaters by the end of the weekend and that would be a decent start in line with Searchlight’s previous Oscar contender, Wild (it broke wide on 1,061 venues with $4.1M). Currently, Battle of the Sexes is at $3.5M, which should be better considering it has an 85% certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. Rivals say $4M is decent, but $5M-$6M would better, like Searchlight’s previous awards contender wide breakouts 12 Years a Slave ($6.6M on 1,144) and The Grand Budapest Hotel ($8.5M at 977 sites). Why did Searchlight go so wide so soon rather than bleed this movie out? Word is that the label was looking to get one of its awards season pics out there before the fall Specialty market gets crowded.

Industry estimates for weekend of Sept. 29-Oct. 1: 

1/2/3)  American Made  (UNI), 3,024 theaters / $6.1M Fri. (includes $960K previews) / 3-day cume: $16.55M / Wk 1

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (FOX), 4,038 theaters (+35) / $4.87M Fri. (-68%) / 3-day cume: $16.5M (-58%) / Total: $66.2M / Wk 2

It  (NL/WB), 3,917 theaters (-90) / $4.9M Fri. / 3-day cume: $16.2M (-46%) / Total: $290.1M / Wk 4

4.) The Lego Ninjago Movie (WB), 4,047 theaters / $2.6M Fri. (-56%) / 3-day cume: $11.6M (-43%) / Total: $35.1M / Wk 2

5.) Flatliners  (SONY), 2,552 theaters / $2.1M Fri./ 3-day cume: $5.5M / Wk 1

6.) Battle of the Sexes (FSL), 1,213 theaters (+1,192) / $1.1M Fri.  (+5918%) / 3-day cume: $3.5M (+600%) / Total: $4M / Wk 2

7.) American Assassin (CBS/LG), 3,020 theaters (-134) / $935K Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.1M (-47%) / Total: $31.7M / Wk 3

8.) Home Again (OR), 2,370 theaters (-315) / $528K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.7M (-47%) / Total: $25.1M / Wk 4

9/10)  mother! (PAR), 1,840 theaters (-528) / $437K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.36M (-59%) / Total: $16.2M / Wk 3

Til Death Due Us Part  (IND), 550 theaters / $455K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.3M / Wk 1

NOTABLES:

 A Question of Faith (PURE), 661 theaters / $364K Fri. / 3-day cume: $1.1M / Wk 1

Victoria & Abdul (FOCUS), 77 theaters (+73) / $273K Fri./ 3-day cume: $871K (+451%) / Total: $1.1M / Wk 2

Stronger (RSA), 574 theaters/ $262K Fri. (-50%) / 3-day cume: $868K (-46%) / Total: $3.1M / Wk 2

Friend Request(ES), 2,081 theaters (-492) / $229K Fri. (-66%) / 3-day cume: $741K (-63%) / Total: $3.4M / Wk 2

UPDATED, 12:06 PM: Ouch. We knew Tom Cruise’s American Made wasn’t going to file No. 1, but as of right now it looks like not only Kingsman: The Golden Circle will beat the Cross Creek/Universal feature, but the fourth weekend of New Line/Warner Bros’ It as well.

The 20th Century Fox/MARV spy pic is eyeing around $5.5M to $5.6M Friday for a take that’s between $18M to $19M at 4,038 theaters, down 53% for a 10-day total near $68.7M. The first chapter grossed $18.3M in its second weekend, and Golden Circle might file under that. We’ll see.

Warner Bros

The all-powerful It is currently edging out American Made for second with $4.8M today and $16M for the weekend, when its running cume by Sunday will be near $290M.

American Made per industry projections is at $5.5M for today, including last night’s $960K, for a three-day at $15M.

Sony/Cross Creek’s Flatliners is going into a deep sleep thanks to injection of a 0% Rotten Tomatoes Score, with $2.6M today and $6.5M for the weekend.

Fox Searchlight

Fox Searchlight’s expansion to 1,213 theaters of The Battle of the Sexes looks to earn $1.25M-$1.5M today with a three-day around $4M.

As we always footnote on these midday reports,  we could be looking at a different ranking by nightfall, but this is what it looks like right now. We’ll have more updates for you later.

PREVIOUS, 7:08 AM: Tom Cruise’s latest movie American Made made $960,000 last night in previews at 2,455 theaters, one of his lowest Thursday nights in recent history.

Just to look: Paramount’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back last fall made $1.33 million at 2,850 on its Thursday (opening day $8.8M, $22.8M weekend), American Made director Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow made $1.8M and Oblivion hooked $1.1M in midnight shows. Heck, even Cruise’s disaster The Mummy did better at $2.66M in June.

American Made boasts fantastic reviews at 86% certified fresh — higher than The Mummy (16% Rotten) and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (37% Rotten) — but it’s only expected to bring in a three-day that’s in the mid to high teens, a figure that’s around such recent Cruise pics as Rock of Ages (a bomb for him at $14.4M domestic opening, $75M cost and $59.4M global take) and Jack Reacher, which benefited from 2012 holiday play ($15.2M opening, $80M domestic, $218.3M global, $60M production cost).

The hope here by Universal is that people find the film, which reviewers have been extolling as one of Cruise’s best. The actor due to his schedule with Mission: Impossible 6 and an injury from that film did not embark on his standard worldwide premiere press tour.

Directed by Bourne Identity helmer Liman, American Made follows the wild ride of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot-turned-CIA arms runner for the Contras, and drug runner for the Medellin Cartel.

Cross Creek backed this Cruise pic 100% with Universal distributing domestic for a fee and buying foreign, the latter which has racked up more than $60M. We hear the production cost is around $80M gross, and net at $60M. Already, American Made has made north of $60M abroad, having been in release since September 10 in some overseas territories.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox/MARV’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle will remain the cool guys at the B.O., expected to hold No. 1 with a three-day around $20M. In its first week, Kingsman: Golden Circle jotted down $49.7M which is nickels and cents above the first chapter’s $49.58M. Yesterday, the Matthew Vaughn-directed movie made $2M.

Sony

New Line/Warner Bros’ It is also expected to hold strong with a third weekend around $15M. By Sunday, It should be close to $289M — there’s no question this movie is headed to $300M. The Stephen King adaptation is still the horror film to see, and all other genre pics are getting mowed over by it including mother!, last weekend’s Friend Request, and this weekend’s Cross Creek/Sony film Flatliners, which did not hold previews last night and is only expected to gross in the mid-to-high single digits at 2,552 venues. Boo! There’s still no score on Rotten Tomatoes and word is Sony didn’t show this movie to the press. That’s how bad the film is supposed to be. Reportedly Flatliners, a remake of the 1990s cult movie starring Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, cost $20M before P&A.

Fox Searchlight’s The Battle of the Sexes is busting wide from 21 locations to 1,213 sites and a three-day in the $4M-$5M range would be ideal. That’s where Searchlight’s Reese Witherspoon awards contender Wild was at that break ($4.1M).

Pureflix’s faith-based film A Question of Faith at 661 venues is projected to gross around $1M.