2nd Sunday AM Update after 2:08AM post:Venom‘s solid second weekend of $35.7M (-55%) and Goosebumps 2s $16.2M opening have swung Sony past the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office for the year, making it the fourth major to do so. Disney has been there for a while with $2.75B+, Warner Bros. is north of $1.3B, and Universal at $1.2B+.

Sony

Sony crossed $1 billion two months sooner than they did last year. Previous to 2017, the last time Sony grossed north of $1 billion was in 2014. In addition to this weekend’s Venom which is at $142.8M through 10-days, other highlights for Sony YTD include $235.5M worth of stateside sales from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in the calendar year (pic made $404.5M in its entire U.S./Canada run). Hotel Transylvania 3 which grossed $166.7M (second best in franchise behind part 2 which made $169.7M), Peter Rabbit ($115.2M), and The Equalizer 2 ($102M), which not only beat the first movie’s $101M, but is Denzel Washington’s fourth-highest grossing film of his career at the domestic B.O.

Venom turned in a Saturday of $15.3M, +58% over Friday, meaning the younger males turned out. There was a pause on Friday morning after Warner Bros.’ A Star Is Born beat Venom on Thursday that the momentum would continue into the weekend. The Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga musical romance still did great with a $11.8M Saturday, +38% for a second weekend around $28M (-34%) and 10-day of $94.1M.

First Man
Universal

Universal is calling their astronaut drama First Man in third with $16.5M. There was hope at Uni that First Man would do better (like $20M) and hindsight being 20/20 there’s no regrets about not launching this during the holiday season when multiples are huge versus now. The studio went in the fall, not just based off the heat the pic had at TIFF, but because they were looking at fall multiples for awards season fare, i.e. Bridge of Spies’ 4.7x  ($15.3M opening, $72.3M domestic). Some rivals though think First Man will run out of gas getting to the $60M range with audience scores which aren’t exactly over the moon with a B+ CinemaScore and 79% overall positive on PostTrak. The slowdown and under-performance with First Man has less to do with any flag controversy and more to do with its lengthy 2 hour and 21 minute running time and the fact that it’s a drama first and foremost, unlike the snappy VFX extravaganzas from previous Octobers, Gravity and The Martian. Bridge of Spies also had a 2 hour, 20 minute running time, but was bolstered by an A CinemaScore. Imax drove 23% of the gross hear and PLF another 9%. Guys were predominant at 56%, with 52% over 35.

Said domestic distribution boss Jim Orr this morning, “Audiences, critics and award pundits will be talking about First Man for months, well into the New Year.  We anticipate First Man to have a very long, successful run at the domestic box office which it certainly deserves.”

Bad Times at the El Royale from Fox 2000 cooled down 10% on Saturday with an estimated $2.7M for a 3-day of $7.2M at 2,808. Not so hot for this adult genre film which will really face a monster next weekend when Universal/Miramax/Blumhouse’s Halloween scares up $60M worth of business. How bad was the Bad Times at the El Royale? So bad that the movie got beat by Universal’s Night School which made more money in its third weekend with $8M and on fewer screens, 2,780. As we assessed in the previous post, Bad Times came across as too edgy, ’90s arthouse.

Chart of studio-reported figures for weekend of Oct. 12-14

thumb rank pic dis scrs(cg) fri sat sun 3day total wk
1 Venom Sony 4,250 $9.8M $15.3M $10.6M $35.7M (-55%) $142.8M 2
2 A Star Is Born WB/Live 3,708 (+22) $8.6M $11.8M $7.6M $28M (-35%) $94.1M 2
3 First Man Uni 3,640 $5.8M $6.4M $4.2M $16.5M $16.5M 1
4 Goosebumps 2 Sony 3,521 $4.8M $6.8M  $4.6M $16.2M  $16.2M 1
5 Smallfoot WB 3,606 (-525) $2.2M $4.2M $2.8M $9.3M
(-35%)
$57.6M 3
6 Night School Uni 2,780 (-239) $2.2M $3.5M  $2.2M $8M (-36%) $59.8M 3
7 …El Royale Fox 2,808 $2.8M $2.7M  $1.7M $7.2M $7.2M 1
8 The House… Am/Uni 2,791 (-672) $992K $1.7M $1.2m $3.9M (-46%) $62.2M 4
9 The Hate U Give Fox 248 (+212) $522K $739K $499K $1.76M (+245%) $2.4M 2
10 The Nun NL/WB 1,174 (-1,090) $400K $630K $345K $1.3M (-49%) $115.9M 6

Friday 11:44PM Writethru after 2:45PM post: The weekend once again belongs to Sony’s Venom and Warner Bros.’ A Star Is Born, which are respectively looking at second weekends of $31.7M (-60%) and $29.6M (-31%). Whether A Star Is Born ultimately beats Venom this weekend will be determined by whether more adults turn out in big numbers versus Vernom‘s young males. One rival distribution report is literally predicting that the two pics are in a photo-finish.  Ten-day totals by Sunday for Venom and and A Star Is Born will stand at $138.8M and $95.7M.

Sony/WB

Both titles are responsible for sending the October box office to a potential domestic record. ComScore reports that the first ten days of the month stand at $268.2M, 5% ahead of October 2014, which turned out to be a record month with $757.1M, and 43% ahead of last October currently, which finaled with $566.3M. However, the rest of this weekend’s new competition, though not impressive, does create a greater depth to the box office.

Universal

What’s also clear is that it’s already a fierce marketplace for burgeoning awards season contenders looking to make their mark commercially in a fierce marketplace. Even though A Star Is Born skews more female, they’re dragging guys along for the ride and that’s subtracting bodies from Universal’s First Man which is looking at a chilly $16.8M opening at 3,640 theaters in 3rd. While Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are one factor impacting the pic’s rocket fuel, which Uni is hoping lasts throughout awards season, we cannot ignore the fact that the astronaut movie is 2 hours and 21 minutes. We hear there were conversations between the studio and Damien Chazelle about this, however, in the end, everyone gave into the art versus the practicality of business and squeezing in more showtimes. Universal hopes for legs. But there’s a bit of disconnect between critics and audiences, the former who love it with an 88% Certified fresh and the latter who are OK with it, grading it a B+ CinemaScore (below Gravity‘s A-, Apollo 13‘s A and The Martin’s A) and a overall PostTrak of 79% overall positive. It’s also not a sci-fi spectacle in the sense of Gravity or The Martian rather more dramatic. It’s not so much literally about the first man on the moon, rather who Neil Armstrong is, and the steady braveness he maintained as he plowed through trials and witnessed his peers literally die for what leads him to the 1969 Moon landing.  One film finance source observes, “True stories and historical pictures usually don’t have huge openings.” Universal kept First Man as low as they could with $60M before P&A. There’s a greater reliance on overseas for the pic. First Man benefits from gaining PLF and Imax screens from Venom, i.e. Thursday night’s Imax repped 34% of First Man‘s ticket sales, or $370k at 404 runs. Buzz is that Imax is repping around 33% of the B.O. currently. Even though those numbers are small, that it’s the biggest percentage of Thursday previews box office for a wide studio release that Imax has ever had. Male to female split was 56% to 44% with 50% under 35 years old. The single largest quad was 25-34 at 25%. Hopefully, Saturday’s voyage is a bigger step for mankind. If though Universal doesn’t have No. 1 bragging rights this weekend, watch out, because they will next Friday with Halloween which could freak out and do $60M.

Sony

Currently Sony’s Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is placing fourth with $15.7M at 3,521, but that’s before Saturday matinees kick in. It would not be a shocker if this sequel to the 2015 release based on the Scholastic kids bestseller actually edges First Man out. Goosebumps 2 is certainly doing better in regards to its budget ($35M before P&A) than First Man. CinemaScore here is a B versus the first one’s A. What a difference Jack Black makes. He played Stine in the first film, but he’s busy starring in another spooky family pic, Amblin/Uni’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls which is looking at a fourth weekend of $4M (-45%), and a total running cume of $62.3M which is 6% behind the first Goosebumps at the same point in time. That movie ended its run at $80M.

20th Century Fox

Then there’s Bad Times at the El Royale via Fox 2000 at 2,808 venues which is looking at a lowly $7.9M in sixth place. The whole offbeat thriller, which premiered at Fantastic Fest, seems to be throwback to the type of edgy 1990s fare that Samuel Goldwyn (read, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart) and Miramax use to platform, and it’s arguably a feathered fish for Fox; way too nichey in regards to what we’ve seen from the big studio though it’s doing better than the studio’s high genre pics like A Cure for Wellness (a dud with a $4.4M opening). In its execution, it looks like a Fox Searchlight film. Critics haven’t shrugged it with a 73% Certified Fresh score; they’re having enough fun in the movie. Like First Man, it’s pretty long, also at 2 hours and 21 minutes, but even if it was shorter, it’s not like this $30M production would really play any wider. Pic gets a B- CinemaScore. The movie has zero awards season buzz, and wasn’t fired up by any fall film festivals like Fox’s The Hate U Give which expanded  from 36 to 248 for a great 9th place second weekend of $1.5M or $6K. Fox is exercising a lot of TLC in spreading George Tillman Jr.’s movie out there. Why did Fox make Bad Times at El Royale? To stay in business with Oscar-nominated The Martian screenwriter Drew Goddard who makes his second feature directorial here after 2012 cult horror pic The Cabin in the Woods. 

Industry estimates for Oct. 12-14:

wEEKEND B.O. FOR oCT. 12-14

thumb rank film dis. screens (chg) fri 3-day (-%) total wk
1 Venom Sony 4,250 $9.5M (-71%) $31.7M (-60%) $138.8M 2
2 A Star Is Born WB 3,708 (+22) $8.9M (-43%) $29.6M (-31%) $95.7M 2
3 First Man Uni 3,640 $5.9M $16.8M $16.8M 1
4 Goosebumps 2 Sony 3,521 $4.9M $15.7M $15.7M 1
5 Smallfoot WB 3,606
(-525)
$2.1M (-38%) $8.8M (-39%) $57.1M 3
6 …El Royale Fox 2,808 $2.9M $7.9M $7.9M 1
7 night School Uni 2,780 (-239) $2.1M (-41%) $7.5M (-40%) $59.3M 3
8 The house… Am/Uni 2,791 (-672) $1M (-43%) $4M (-45%) $62.3M 4
9 The Hate U Give Fox 248 (+212) $455K (+160%) $1.5M (+201%)   $2.2M 2
10 A Simple Favor LG 1,452 (-956) $427K (-59%) $1.3M
(-61%)
$52M 5

2ND UPDATE 7:26AM after 5:38AM Inital post: Universal is reporting that First Man is blasting off to $1.1M for its Thursday night previews at 2,850 theaters, which began at 7PM.

The feature about Neil Armstrong and his trials catapulting toward the 1969 Moon landing is directed by Oscar winning helmer Damien Chazelle. It is one of three new wide studio entries this weekend, including 20th Century Fox’s Bad Times at the El Royale and Sony’s family movie Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.

First Man blasted off out of the fall festival season, beloved by critics with a current 89% Certified fresh, and with raves for Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy’s nuanced performances and Chazelle’s authentic approach to the astronaut genre. A third place landing in the high teens is conceivable; the question is whether general audiences flock to this two-hour and 21 minutes epic. It’s a serious contender for Universal this awards season, so the hope is that this estimated $60M production legs out. The movie, playing in 3,600 sites, has the added help of Imax. That’s the way to see the movie, we hear, as Chazelle shot the lunar sequences of the Apollo 11 mission with Imax high-resolution cameras, and the large format exhibitor’s venues provide 26% more picture on the screen.

First Man‘s Thursday night is under the $1.4M racked up by Gravity‘s 10pm and midnight shows back in October 2013, as well as Fox’s October 2015 The Martian, which earned $2.5M from its Thursday night previews before notching a $18.1M Friday, $54.3M opening. First Man is arguably more dramatic in nature than those October outer space spectacles.

Sony

Sony’s Venomthe comic-book-movie-that-could, gets bragging rights again this weekend for No. 1, with an estimated second go-round of $32M, -60%. Ditto for Warner Bros.’ A Star Is Born, which is expected to dip 30% to 35% for $27M-$30M in second place. The Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga romantic musical drama was No. 1 last night with an estimated $4.5M,  -1% from Wednesday at 3,686 theaters and a first week of $66.2M plus previews. Venom made $4.2M yesterday at 4,250 locations, -10% from Wednesday, for a spectacular first week of $107.1M. Again, there was a lot of worry around the feature at Sony, given a lot of behind-the-scenes drama. ut all of the blood, sweat and tears are paying off for Sony boss Tom Rothman and his team.

Sony Pictures

This weekend Sony has Goosebumps 2, which they are estimating to open at $14M, while tracking has it a tad higher around $16M. Previews started at 5PM last night and the Ari Sandel-directed movie is in play at 3,510 locations. Sony’s $750K  figure from last night beat the industry estimates we spotted earlier, which were within $600K-$700K. That figure is also 25% ahead of the first Goosebumps’ Thursday, which was $600K at 2,567 locations, a number that translated into a $7.3M first day. That first chapter starred Jack Black and was made for $58M. It was a solid October performer for Sony, opening to No 1 with $23.6M. Part two cost  was significantly cheaper before P&A, an estimated $35M.

Twentieth Century Fox, Kimberley French

Fox’s funky noir Bad Times at the El Royaledirected and written by Oscar-nominated The Martian scribe Drew Goddard, is projected to open at round $8M. Fox kept this all-star thriller starring Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, et. al as economical as possible at $30M, given its edgy tone. $575K came from 2,250 venues last night. Critics have hugged Bad Times with a 75% certified fresh rating.