How ‘Doctor Sleep’ Went Into A Coma At The B.O. With Dreary $14M+ Opening, Following Surprise $17M+ Attack By ‘Midway’ – Sunday Postmortem

Doctor Sleep
Warner Bros.

4th Update, Sunday AM Final: First of all, it’s a really crappy weekend at the box office overall, with ticket sales down 28% from a year ago with $121.6M. The Veterans Day frame either goes one of two ways: It’s a great place to launch a blockbuster, i.e. 2012’s Skyfall ($88.3M), 2013’s Thor: Dark World (2013), or last year’s Universal/Illumination pic The Grinch ($67.5M); or it’s a great launch pad for pics which look to be solid counter-programming in the first wave of the holiday season, i.e. Arrival ($24M) or Dumb and Dumberer ($36.1M).

Wonder Woman 1984
Warner Bros.

Let’s go back in time for a minute: November 2019 was originally set to be a gangbusters time with Wonder Woman 1984 originally on Nov 1 and MGM’s Bond 25 on this weekend. But both of those pics moved, Wonder Woman 2 to June 5 and Bond (now titled No Time To Die) to April 8. Had both those pics stayed in the marketplace, we’d be looking at a very different market right now. Lionsgate rolled the dice on putting Roland Emmerich’s Midway here, betting that Bond would move, and their timing the WWII pic to Veterans Day weekend paid off, with a surprise $17.5M No. 1 opening, well ahead of $12M-$14M projections.

The big shock here this weekend is how Warner Bros, which goes toe-to-toe with Universal/Blumhouse when it comes to commanding the horror space at the B.O., was completely blindsided here by a disastrous performance of its well-reviewed (73% fresh), well-received (B+ CinemaScore and 4 stars on Screen Engine/Comscore PostTrak, 60% definite recommend) Stephen King sequel Doctor Sleepa mid $50M-ish production that was expected to come in north of $25M and is way short in No. 2 with, gulp, $14.1M. Warner Bros. is frankly baffled as to what went wrong here. How does an old property like King’s 1986 novel It go gangbusters on the big screen, and a 2013 tome that’s a sequel to The Shining not work? It has more brand equity that Doctor Sleep; the former pic’s elevator pitch –a clown terrorizing kids– easier to sell.


And to be beat by all things, a tired-looking Roland Emmerich-directed WWII movie Midway, a pic which received bad reviews (40% rotten), but solid exits, with an A CinemaScore and 4 Stars, 58% definite recommend on PostTrak. Lionsgate gets bragging rights here for delivering a $20.5M opening over the 4-day holiday. In a crowded holiday marketplace, being the No. 1 pic helps. Midway‘s surprise notch of No. 1 will go a long way in Lionsgate holding screens on this pic in the coming weeks.

More on Midway in a bit, as the more interesting news is how Doctor Sleep is dead. While Warner Bros. has been solely responsible for a rich autumn with Joker and It: Chapter Two making a near combined $1.5 billion global, unfortunately they’ve crapped the bed with a slew of adult titles, including Motherless Brooklyn, The Goldfinch, and now, Doctor Sleep.  

While Avengers: Endgame at 3 hours proved that long-movies aren’t challenged at the box office, it’s not an equal rule of thumb for all films. Despite Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 The Shining running at 2 hours and 26 minutes, lengthy genre movies do not work with today’s audiences. They just don’t. Furthermore, for an auditorium, you get only four shows a day. Read: while the Mike Flanagan-directed movie is in two auditoriums at the AMC Empire on 42nd Street, it’s only four shows an auditorium, and the gap in your evening shows is big: 7p and 10:30p and 8p and 11:30p. That eats into sales. I think Warner may have known that in the back of their heads, that the running time was a problem, despite how great this film was, and it’s potentially the reason why they didn’t tee this movie up at fall film festivals.

Another note, it felt like Doctor Sleep was a late breaking campaign compared to other Warner and New Line pics (like It and The Conjuring). I mean, the studio completely kept Doctor Sleep out of fan boys’ eyes at San Diego Comic-Con, which was a big mistake. Even though the New Line product is programmed on Wednesday night at Comic-Con with its ScareDiego (and It: Chapter Two was the focus), there’s no reason why room couldn’t be made for Doctor Sleep.

The other deficiency with this R-rated sequel is that it’s completely lost on the younger generation. That might sound odd, given the rapturous response by millennials during The Shining sequence in Ready Player One at the SXSW world premiere two years ago. However, as people vote for their movies with their wallets, it’s clear Doctor Sleep is a thriller for old people, not young people and the marketing materials indicated that in a complete homage to The Shining with young Danny on his big wheel in the Overlook hotel (and there were other outdoor prints of Ewan McGregor standing in the hotel’s hallway). No jump scares here for millennials. There was nothing in the campaign to dynamite the tried-and-true genre fans, i.e. Hispanic crowds (19%) and females under 25 (19% vs. 39% males 25+ and females 25+ at 25%) despite a huge 33% turnout of 18-24s and 59% 18-34s. Despite the latter robust numbers, obviously not enough of them are coming.

Some are blaming McGregor’s star power as slowing sales here as well, that he’s not that charismatic in the role, and that his thunder is being stolen by the villain played by Rebecca Ferguson. However, we live in a world where IP sells tickets, not stars, and it’s debatable if this film would have over-indexed if it had Leonardo DiCaprio in it. Maybe.

But RelishMix, who analyzes the tea leaves on social media, hits the nail on the head in regards to why Doctor Sleep isn’t waking anyone up: “For those who have seen the movie, and who share frustrations with Kubrick’s Shining, Sleep similarly departs from the novel in ways they would not have preferred.” Boom, mic drop.

Doctor Sleep is playing best on the coasts & Southwest. But even there its numbers aren’t great. One rival notes that much like the first Shining in its initial B.O. at that time, Doctor Sleep is a total disappointment at the B.O.

Midway Lionsgate

Midway benefits from the Teflon power of a WWII pic at the B.O. Lionsgate started seeing signs of a good weekend from late advance ticket sales, plus on Thursday, exhibitors started calling the distrib to tell them that they’re moving Midway over to the premium screens (after Doctor Sleep began dozing). Even though this isn’t Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. The Nov. 11 timing stoked 25+ males, who are making up half of the audience. Not to mention this pic is hitting the flyover state sweet spot which Lionsgate commanded with Angel Has Fallen ($21.3M opening, $69M final), with strong markets in the Mid-West, plus the South and the West. Caucasians led at 59% followed by 15% Hispanic, 11% African American, and 15% Asian/Other. Females 25+ are at 30% turnout, per PostTrak, with the males and females under 25 trailing at a combined 21%.

I hear Midway is a pretty good win for Lionsgate, not awesome, but solid. This movie, which had international rights handled by AGC Studios, reportedly cost $100M, with a net of $75M after credits. Foreign sales and a hefty China deal (the latter overseen by CAA Media Finance with Bona) covered $60M of that nut. Lionsgate took UK and U.S. with an MG and solid P&A (around $40M) and screen commitment. They do not have equity in the film, but reap the upside of a distribution deal (“I’ve never known Lionsgate to not do a distribution deal,” remarks one film finance source about the distrib’s involvement in foreign sales financed pics that aren’t theirs). $65M domestic is break-even on the film overall, I’m told by finance sources. In the $30M-range, Lionsgate starts making money. Last November, Lionsgate nosedived with their big-budget reboot of Robin Hood, which no one wanted to see over Thanksgiving, which yielded a near $84M loss after all ancillaries.

Midway is opening in 40 offshore markets this weekend, including UK, Germany, France, Canada, Benelux, Scandinavia, select Eastern Europe countries, Latin America and China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The numbers out of China aren’t good, with an opening weekend of $16M, ranked 2nd right now behind local title Better Days, which made $18.9M in its second weekend with a running cume that’s north of $202M.

Lionsgate went straight for the red states and vets in stoking fandom on this movie with a number of Veterans Day tie-ins, including a USO-promoted and endorsed invitation-only local screenings in 20 key markets on Nov. 5th, with a program for military members and their families to see the pic early. There was also a discounted Midway ticket promotional program for 250K Shell Gas Gold+ members executed through Atom Tickets; and film-based integrations at locations including the USS Midway Museum in San Diego and a Navy-hosted special screening of the film at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Lionsgate partnered with Regal Entertainment to honor veterans who work throughout their theater chain, while Studio Movie Grill will be working with several organizations tied to their Movies and Meals program to help veterans in need.

Said RelishMix on the social media chatter for Midway, “Action adventure fans and military history buffs are liking what they see with Midway’s official assets. They are talking about plane maneuvers, the accuracy of details related to the battle, and how it turned the tide in 1942 despite the American forces being dramatically outnumbered by the Japanese. This side of the fence is paying attention to the recent BTS clips, featurettes, and tributes to the veterans with cast members attending.”

RelishMix gave a shoutout to the following emotional 60 Second Docs clip from Lionsgate featuring Midway vets that was racking up massive views on Facebook.


Universal’s Last Christmas is coming in with $11.6M in 4th place, while Paramount’s Playing With Fire is in third with $12.8M. Both were made at respective responsible budgets at under $30M, the former geared toward females, and the other toward families. Last Christmas in its studio economics was modeled akin to director Paul Feig’s last fall pic, A Simple Favor, which was made for $20M, opened to $16M, and made it to $53.5M stateside, $97.6M global. But it’s unlikely that this schmaltz will leg out to that. Audiences have turned their backs on this pic with a B- Cinemascore and PostTrak exits of 3 stars. The 61% females like it slightly more than the 39% men, 74% to 69%, but that’s not saying much. Critics agree with audiences that Last Christmas should go timber like a tree at 49% Rotten. While the studio was seeing $10M+, many had this pic higher, in the mid-teens, beating Midway. Who doesn’t like a cutesy Love Actually-feeling romantic comedy named after a George Michael holiday classic starring hot couple Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding?

“Many complain about the pic’s “twist” at the end, that’s off-putting,” says RelishMix, without spoiling anything. Last Christmas played best in Canada, along with the West, Mid and South-West. For a film like Last Christmas to succeed in today’s marketplace, it needs to be awesome.

Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire is poised to see a better fate than Last Christmas at the box office. Rivals are giving somepat on the back to Paramount here because they expected this John Cena comedy to open in the single digits. CinemaScore at B+ was higher than PostTrak at 2 1/2 stars. Parents hate it at the same grade, while kids under 12 are more forgiving at 4 stars. Parents and kids are responsible for any business the pic is doing at 59%. Diversity mix is 55% Caucasian, 28% Hispanic, 13% Asian/Other, and 4% African American. Though East, Mid-West, and South are the pic’s best markets, it’s nothing to get excited about. RelishMix sees that audiences are divided on the humor being displayed in trailers: You’re either on board for this fireman comedy, or not.

Roman Griffin Davis and Taika Waititi in 'Jojo Rabbit'
Fox Searchlight

Fox Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit is currently in the No. 11 spot, with an expected  $3.9M after jumping 546 theaters to 802 locations. Critics have it at 79% Certified Fresh. But PostTrak exits are going bonkers for the Taika Waititi movie, with a massive 4 1/2 stars, and a huge 68% definite recommend. Women at 39% like it more than the 61% males, 91% to 80%. Demo breakout is males 25+ (40%, 83% grade), females 25+ (32% and 92% grade), males under 25 (21% and 75% grade), and females under 25 (7% and 88% grade). I hear there’s solid core business in New York, LA, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, DC and more. However, business softens up in the market where Searchlight went deeper. I also hear Utah is a big market from Provo to Sandy, and in Salt Lake City. Where Jojo stayed limited or exclusive, the tickets sales are very good. Jojo will have to be very patient in its further platform as we get into awards season so that it doesn’t disappear before an awards season bump takes place.

Honey Boy
Amazon Studios

Amazon’s Sundance pick-up Honey Boy, directed by Alma Har’el and written by and starring Shia LaBeouf based on his child actor life with his abusive father, is charting the best opening-screen average of the year with $72K and an expected four theater NY and LA opening of $288K. Very strong numbers off its 93% Certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes score.

By this time a year ago, we were well past the $10 billion mark, and 2019 continues to drag by 5.5% for the Jan. 1-Nov. 10 period with $9.5 billion.

Sunday’s chart:


Saturday’s chart off industry estimates:


thumb rank film dis. screens (chg) friday(vs. prev fri) 3-day total wk
1 Midway LG/AGC 3,242 $6.3M $18.6M $18.6M 1
2 Doctor Sleep WB 3,855 $5.2M $12.6M $12.6M 1
3 Last Christmas Uni 3,448 $4M $11.7M $11.7M 1
4 Playing With Fire Par 3,125 $3.55M $11.6M $11.6M 1
5 Terminator: Dark Fate Par/Sky/Fox 4,086 $2.8M (-74%) $10.1M (-65%) $47.8M 2
6 Joker WB 2,806 (-713) $2.5M (-34%) $9.3M (-31%) $313.6M 6
7 Maleficent 2 Dis 3,201 (-619) $2M (-36%) $8.5M (-35%) $97.7M 4
8 Harriet Focus 2,186 (+127) $1.99M (-49%) $6.9M (-41%) $23.1M 2
9 Zombieland 2 Sony 2,427 (-910) $1.1M (-43%) $4.27M (-42%) $66.M 4
10 Addams Family MGM/UAR 2,674 (-933) $920K (-54%) $4.09M (-50%) $91.4M 5
11 jojo Rabbit FSL 802 (+546) $1.1M (+57%) $3.8M (+65%) $8.9M 4

2nd UPDATE: Wow, this wasn’t expected Roland Emmerich’s Midway is overperforming apt to beat Warner Bros. Doctor Sleep, $19.2M to $17.2M. Good for Midway, really bad for Doctor Sleep which cost in the $50Ms. $7M today for Midway, and $6.6M for Doctor Sleep. How bad were Doctor Sleep previews last night? So bad they included cash from the Oct. 30 screening. Pity, because I think it’s a great movie. Others disagree saying it’s slow at 2 1/2 hours with few scares (I beg to differ, but, hey, I’m in the minority). On the same note, the takeaway here is you don’t make a genre movie at 2 1/2 hours. Talk about tracking being off on Doctor Sleep, but we heard whispers he could slow down after its lackluster foreign opening last weekend. This is a disappointment for the Stephen King canon which the whole ton was hog wild about seeking a revival on post It, the feature adaptation of the author’s tomes having a streak in the 70s, ’80s and 90s’.

Universal’s Last Christmas is looking at $13M-$14.6M while Paramount’s Playing With Fire is in fourth with $12M after $3.5M today including $500K in previews. Paramount/Skydance Media/Fox’s Teriminator: Dark Fate drops to 5th place with $11.75M, -59% for a $49.4M 10-day.

Doctor Sleep
Warner Bros.

1st Update: Warner Bros. The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep drew $1.5M last night from showtimes that began at 6PM. The R-rated pic which runs 2 1/2 hours is lower than the $2.75M made by New Line’s Curse of La Llorona, and lower than Paramount’s reboot of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary back during the Easter/spring break period which did $2.3M. Opening weekend estimates for Doctor Sleep, which cost in the mid $50Ms before P&A, are in the $25M-$30M range, likely lower now after this preview cash. Remember, it’s a pure 4-day weekend with Veterans Day falling on Monday.

In the post It era of the feature adaptations of King’s canon, Doctor Sleep is 75% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a grade that’s higher than the latest Pet Sematary and It Chapter Two‘s 63% fresh. Horror fans typically come out first to these pics, and Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak last night showed 4 stars and a 56% definite recommend which is solid. The over 35 audience which turned out at 41% enjoyed the movie more with grades exceeding 85%. Quads broken out are Men 25+ leading at 42% (79% grade), females 25+ 29% (77% grade), females under 25 who are typical fans of genre only showed up at 15% (60%) and guys under 25 at 14% (88% grade).  Pic plays to today at 3,855. PostTrak exits for Doctor Sleep were higher than Pet Sematary which did 2 1/2 stars, and a low 47% definite recommend. That King pic drew males over 25 (33%) and females over 25 (24%) but more young folk with males under 25 (22%) and females under 25 (20%).

‘Midway’ Trailer: Roland Emmerich Epic Sets Sail In Teaser

Midway Lionsgate

Lionsgate/AGC Studios’ PG-13 Midway drew $925K at previews in 2,600 locations at 7PM. As expected, pic’s Thursday night is being compared to 12 Strong which made $900K from 7PM showtimes and turned in an opening weekend of $15.8M. Midway‘s previews are also higher than the 7PM Thursdays of Hacksaw Ridge ($750K, $15.2m opening, $67.2M domestic final), Deepwater Horizon ($860K previews, $20.2M opening, $61.4M domestic final) and Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghhazi ($900K, $16.1M opening, $52.8M). The Roland Emmerich directed movie is expected to draw $12M-$14M this weekend. Only 3 1/2 stars on PostTrak with a 52% definite recommend with demos being Men 25+ (52%), females 25+ (30%), Men under 25 (13%) and females under 25 (5%). A late review embargo yielded a 38% RT score.

Last Christmas

Universal’s Last Christmas made $575K last night from 7PM shows in 2,700 theaters. Pic expands to 3,448 venues today. Expectations for the Paul Feig romantic comedy were in the mid-teens, with the expectation that it would peg ahead of Midway. With these low preview night figures and a 3-star grade, that opening could be lower. Maybe more females come out tonight. As of last night the pic earned 3 stars on PostTrak, a 68% grade from the 63% females who showed up, with men at 37% enjoying the pic a tad more at 73%. Demo breakdown is spread out, just if these darn ticket sales for the Henry Golding-Emila Clarke romantic comedy were higher with females 25+ at 40% (70% grade), females under 25 at 23% (64% grade), males over 25 (76% grade) and males under 25 at 15% (69% grade). The hope is that this holiday movie gets a multiple from the season. B.O. comparison here is Paramount’s Instant Family which did $550K in previews resulting in a $14.5M opening, $67.3M final domestic. Critics at 49% Rotten have no patience for this holiday goo.

‘Doctor Sleep’ Review: Ewan McGregor Shines, But This Stephen King Sequel Is A Mixed Bag

Paramount’s John Cena comedy Playing With Fire also had 7PM previews last night. We’re waiting on those. Pic drew 60% families and 40% general audiences last night. Kids under 12 like the film at 4 1/2 stars with girls outnumber boys 55% to 45%. Adults wish they were some place else with parents giving it 2 stars and general audiences 3 stars. Overall audience demos here were females under 25 (30%), men and females over 25 at 24% each and males under 25 at 23%. Critics poured gasoline on this pic and threw a match at it with a 25% Rotten score.

Among regular pics in release, Paramount/Skydance Media/Fox’s Terminator: Dark Fate led Thursday with $1.4M, -16% from Wednesday and an estimated first week of $37.6M. Warner Bros./Bron/Village Roadshow’s Joker saw $1.1M, -1% and a five week amazing total of $304.3M. While Joker is the highest grossing R-rated pic at the global box office on its way to $1 billion, stateside, the Todd Phillips-directed movie currently ranks 6th on the domestic list which is topped off by Passion of the Christ ($370.8M). Who would have projected the dark R-rated DC villain drama could get that high? Focus Features’ Harriet saw $890K, -4% with a first week of $16.2M.


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