Box Office: Roland Emmerich’s MIDWAY pulls a shocking upset over DOCTOR SLEEP

Welcome to the Beat’s Weekend Box Office Recap!

Mama told me there’d be weekends like this at the box office, but ay-yi-yi, we’re into November, and it’s supposed to be the start of the holiday movie season, and movies are not doing well. If anyone has money to spend on entertainment right now, they’re obviously not using it to go see movies.

Yes, it was another disappointing weekend at the box office, but at least it was one with a few surprises, the biggest one being that filmmaker Roland Emmerich, one of the top 30 highest-grossing directors ever,  somehow managed to have a #1 movie that opened with just $17.5 million. You read that right. The top movie this weekend made less than $20 million.  That’s the worst #1 movie since Labor Day weekend, but at least that weekend has some historical precedent for movies not doing well. Once November hits and the weather gets colder (as it certainly was this past weekend in the East), going to the movies becomes more viable than outdoor activities… usually.

Emmerich’s Midway, a movie he’d been wanting to make for twenty years, had an all-star cast that included Woody HarrelsonPatrick WilsonDennis QuaidAaron EckhartMandy MooreEd SkreinLuke Evans and even Nick Jonas.  Lionsgate released Midway into a healthy 3,242 theaters on Friday,  timing it for the Veterans Day holiday on Monday, yet it was never expected to be #1. In fact, if you read my Box Office Preview on Wednesday, I honestly didn’t think it would make more than $15 million. Tracking was all over the place but mainly looking at the movie’s downside.  It certainly didn’t help that the late reviews hitting Wednesday were fairly abysmal, even if not the worst for the weekend’s new movies.

Midway ended up making under a million dollars in Thursday previews, less than the $1.5 million made by New Line’s Stephen King adaptation, Doctor Sleep, which was expected by most to be the top movie of the weekend.

Midway pulled ahead of Doctor Sleep on Friday with $6.3 million, leading to that $17.5 million opening.  Midway‘s “A” CinemaScore proves that audiences liked it more than critics, but that is actually Emmerich’s worst opening ever for a wide release, and the movie will probably struggle to make $50 million domestically.

Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and newcomer Kyleigh Curran and directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House), Doctor Sleep was expected to make upwards of $25 million, and reviews were solid. In fact, it was the only of this week’s new wide releases to be deemed fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. As mentioned earlier, Doctor Sleep made $1.5 million in Thursday previews, though once it was expanded by New Line into 3,855 theaters nationwide, it fell behind Midway with $5.2 million for Friday (including Thursday previews). Doctor Sleep ended up with an estimated $14.1 million for second place, about $10 million short of the lowest predictions last week. The superntural thriller also received a “B+” CinemaScore, the same as last week’s Terminator: Dark Fate.

Doctor Sleep also ended up not too far ahead of John Cena‘s family comedy Playing with Fire, released by Paramount Pictures into 3,125 theaters – the least wide of the four movies. That was still enough for the comedy to take in an estimated $12.8 million (a little over $4,000 per theater) after making $3.5 million on Friday. That’s not great for the movie co-starring Keegan Michael KeyJohn LeguizamoJudy Greer and Brianna Hildebrand from the “Deadpool” movies, but it’s much better than some of the lowball predictions, such as my own. The movie received a “B+” CinemaScore, not great and not terrible, but definitely better than the reviews. (There’s really no surprise on that last bit.)

Last Christmas
Universal Pictures

Fourth place went to Paul Feig‘s holiday rom-com Last Christmas, starring Emilia ClarkeHenry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and co-writer Emma Thompson, which Universal opened into 3,448 theaters. This was expected to be a solid holiday movie for the masses, but the critics thrashed it earlier in the week, and audiences didn’t seem too enamored either, rewarding it with a fairly bad “B-” CinemaScore. These two things could have been what accounted for its estimated $11.6 million opening with the worst per-theater-average for the four new movies.

Oddly, Last Christmas opened on the exact same weekend that both Will Ferrell‘s Elf and Richard Curtis‘ Love Actually (also starring Thompson) opened 16 years ago, well below the $30 million of the former and closer to the $6.9 million opening of the latter. To be fair, Love Actually (also a Universal release) did that amount in just 576 theaters, and it ended up grossing $59.5 million through the following February. It’s doubtful Last Christmas can attain that amount, so what does this prove exactly? That Americans like the Beatles (as seen by the success of Universal’s Yesterday domestically over the summer) more than George Michael? Possibly.

With four new movies in the top 5, it means that almost all the returning films would be dropping out of their comfortable berths in the upper half of the top 10.

Fifth place went to Paramount’s Terminator: Dark Fate with $10.8 million, a tragic 63% from its opening last week, and that’s despite the lack of many strong new movies this weekend. It has grossed $48.5 million domestically and will struggle to make $100 million.

Warner Bros’ Joker is still going strong with $9.2 million in sixth place, down just 32% from last week yet still down four places. It has grossed $313 million in North America alone, which puts it in the same ballpark as other DC movies from Man of SteelBatman v SupermanSuicide Squad and last year’s Aquaman. That’s not bad for a movie that deliberately shied away from being included in that DC “Extended Universe.”

Angelina Jolie‘s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil from Disney took seventh place with $8 million, as it edges closer to $100 million with $97.3 million.

Focus Features’ Harriet dropped 38% from its opening weekend to eighth place with $7.2 million and $23.5 million grossed so far. Not bad for the Harriet Tubman biopic that might put Cynthia Erivo into the awards conversations.

The only other significant box office item of interest was Fox Searchlight expanding Taika Waititi‘s Jojo Rabbit into 802 theaters nationwide. Alhough it did well with $3.9 million, or $4,915 per theater, it still ended up just outside the top 10.

The Chinese drama Better Days was released by Well Go USA into 70 theaters where it made a cool million this weekend, or about $14,775 per theater.

The Shia Labeouf-written semi-autobiographical drama Honey Boy was put in four theaters in New York and L.A. by Amazon Studios. It didn’t do bad, taking in roughly $288,825, or $72,206 per theater. We’ll have to see how far Amazon expands the movie, especially with its Sundance fave The Report opening next week.

This Week’s Top 10: 

Rank Last Week Rank Movie Studio Weekend Gross % Change Total Gross
1 New Midway Paramount $17.5 million N/A $17.5 million
2 New Doctor Sleep New Line/WB $14.1 million N/A $14.1 million
3 New Playing with Fire Paramount $12.8 million N/A $12.8 million
4 New Last Christmas Universal $11.6 million N/A $11.6 million
5 1 Terminator: Dark Fate Paramount $10.8 million -63% $48.5 million
6 2 Joker Warner Bros. $9.2 million -32% $313.5 million
7 3 Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Disney $8 million -39% $97.3 million
8 4 Harriet Focus Features $7.2 million -38% $23.5 million
9 6 Zombieland: Double Tap Sony $4.3 million -42% $66.7 million
10 5 The Addams Family U.A.Releasing $4.1 million  -51% $91.4 million

Last year, things were much better, to say the least. Universal had a massive hit with the animated The Grinch, which opened with $67.6 million, while Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody took a solid second place with $31.2 million. Paramount’s WWII horror film Overlord opened meekly with just $10.2 million, but the big bomb of the weekend was Sony’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web, which opened with just $7.8 million in nearly 3,000 theaters. Even so, last year’s top 10 made $52 million (!) more than this past weekend, maybe not too unexpected with The Grinch making more than all of this weekend’s four new movies put together.

Check back on Wednesday for my weekly Box Office Preview, which will cover the new releases of James (Logan) Mangold‘s Ford vs. Ferrari, Elizabeth Banks’ Charlie’s Angels with Kristen Stewart and the thriller The Good Liar, starring Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen. Let’s pray that things pick up… and that Disney+ doesn’t destroy what’s left of November.