The Spool / Box Office Report
Box Office Report: “Hustlers” Isn’t Clowning Around
"It: Chapter Two" holds the top spot for a second week, while "Hustlers" breaks some records.

“It: Chapter Two” holds the top spot for a second week, while “Hustlers” breaks some records.

This weekend, a wide release newcomer broke out with an impressive opening weekend that helped to revive a struggling studio and proved the appeal of non-tentpole theatrical cinema But first, the number one movie in America, which was once again It: Chapter Two. This horror sequel grossed another $40.7 million this frame, a 55% drop from its opening weekend, a slightly bigger drop than the 51% second-weekend decline that the first It experienced. Having now grossed $153.8 million after ten days of release, It Chapter Two looks assured to finish its domestic box office haul in the $210-220 million range, bigger than any other R-rated horror movie in history save for the first It movie.

Now let’s get to the exciting box office development of the weekend, Hustlers, which opened to an outstanding $33.2 million. That’s the biggest opening weekend ever for Jennifer Lopez, the biggest opening weekend ever for an STX Films release and the thirteenth biggest September opening weekend in history. Made on just a $20 million budget, Hustlers is, needless to say, a massive hit in a number of regards. For one thing, STX Films has been desperate for a hit after a string of box office duds, and they got just that with Hustlers. Like their other biggest hits The Upside and Bad Moms, Hustlers shows that STX tends to thrive best when they make titles major American movie studios don’t produce as heavily, whereas the biggest STX duds have been titles like Uglydolls and Mile 22 that have been derivative of major studio fare.

Meanwhile, this is also yet another sign that audiences will still show up in droves for non-tentpole fare in a theatrical setting so long as the film’s marketing is appealing and promises a good time. General moviegoers tend to go to the movie theater for escapism, even back in the 1980s the likes of broadly appealing comedies like Three Men and a Baby, rather than arthouse masterpieces like Desert Hearts, were the ones making big bucks at the box office. Hustlers had distinctive and fun marketing that made it look like a good time unlike anything else in the marketplace, just the kind of escapism moviegoers show up for in droves.

Finally, it’s very much worth mentioning that one of the biggest sleeper hits of 2019 is a non-sequel written and directed by a woman and starring women of color. Sometimes the domestic box office makes you shake in head in disbelief. But this weekend, the success of a high-quality movie like Hustlers that defies so much conventional wisdom (namely that a movie starring women of color can’t generate major box office) gives me some hope for the future.

Thanks to Hustlers being the only new title of note at the domestic box office, holdovers this weekend predominately held extremely well, as seen by Angel Has Fallen, which dipped only 27% this frame to generate another $4.4 million for a $60.3 million domestic total. Right behind it was Good Boys, which eased only 22% this weekend for a fifth-weekend gross of $4.2 million and a great domestic gross of $73.3 million. Rounding out the top five was The Lion King, which kept on roaring with a ninth-weekend haul of $3.5 million and a domestic gross of $533.9 million. Meanwhile, Hobbs & Shaw dipped only 27% this weekend and added $2.77 million to its domestic haul of $168.3 million while fellow holdover Overcomer was right behind Hobbs & Shaw with $2.73 million, a 26% drop from last weekend. Overcomer has now taken in $28.9 million.

The only other major new wide release this weekend was The Goldfinch, which had its wings clipped as it grossed only $2.6 million from 2,542 locations, the sixth-worst opening weekend in history for a movie opening in over 2,500 locations. Though the book was mighty popular, The Goldfinch was handicapped by a marketing campaign that rendered the basic premise of the movie incomprehensible to those who weren’t aware of its source material. Compare that to the marketing for past fall titles like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, which made their basic premises clear to both fans of the source materials and newbies. Dismal reviews out of its Toronto International Film Festival premiere only further sank its box office chances.

The Peanut Butter Falcon had the smallest weekend-to-weekend decline in the top twelve this weekend as it dipped only 9% from last frame. Grossing another $1.9 million this go-around, this sleeper hit has now grossed $15 million domestically and looks likely to finish its domestic box office run as only the second limited release title of 2019 to gross over $20 million domestically. Dora and the Lost City of Gold rounded out the top ten with $1.8 million, a 21% dip from last weekend for a domestic gross of $56.7 million while fellow August 2019 holdover Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark dipped 25% this weekend for a sixth-weekend gross of $1.7 million and a domestic gross of $64.4 million.

After three weekends of strong limited release business, Brittany Runs a Marathon stumbled into wide release this frame with only $1.55 million from 757 locations for a per-theater average of $2,048. Brittany has grossed $3.8 million domestically to date and appears on track to become the third-biggest title ever from Amazon Studios. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood dropped 29% this frame for an eighth-weekend gross of $1.5 million and a domestic gross of $136.9 million. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice expanded into 220 locations this weekend and did solid business as it grossed $734,363 for a per-theater average of $3,339 and a domestic gross of $889,879. Expanding to less successful numbers was Official Secrets, which went into 330 locations this weekend but grossed only $571,560 for a per-theater average of $1,732 and a current domestic gross of $957,071.

In terms of limited release newcomers, Monos opened to $43,285 from 5 locations for a per-theater average of $8,657. Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements opened to $7,120 from a single location, One Cut of the Dead opened to $6,200 from two locations for a per-theater average of $3,100 while The Sound of Silence bowed to $6,148 from two locations for a per-theater average of $3,074.  Cracked Up also bowed this weekend and grossed $5,580 from a single theater while, finally, Desolation Center opened to $5,356 from three locations for a per-theater average of $1,785.

The top twelve movies this weekend grossed $101.7 million, the second-biggest weekend ever in this timeframe. To date, September 2019 has grossed $373.9 million, ahead of all other Septembers at the same point. Could September 2019 end up surpassing the $697.6 million haul of September 2017 to become the biggest September in history at the domestic box office? It actually seems very possible, especially since Downton Abbey and Rambo: Last Blood seem poised for strong opening bows next weekend.