The Spool / Box Office Report
Box Office Report: “Doctor Sleep” Loses the War to “Midway”
The Stephen King sequel checks out with a disappointing opener, but Roland Emmerich's WWII epic flies high.
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The Stephen King sequel checks out with a disappointing opener, but Roland Emmerich’s WWII epic flies high.

Before this weekend, everyone was certain Doctor Sleep would be the domestic box office victor by a considerable margin. However, in a twist as surprising as one you may find in a horror novel, Doctor Sleep came up extremely short, allowing Midway to score a surprise box office victory. The Roland Emmerich war movie topped the domestic box office with $17.9 million. That’s one of the smallest hauls in recent years for a movie topping one of the first two weekends of November, but for this frame, it was enough. Midway is the fourth Lionsgate movie to top the domestic box office in 2019 and a return to financial form for Roland Emmerich after four consecutive box office duds.

Though it became a surprise box office victor for this frame, Midway’s opening is, admittedly, still far from ideal for a $70 million war movie. Among past films of this type, it only opened 17% better than the considerably cheaper Hacksaw Ridge, for instance. But given that Midway didn’t have much in the way of positive reviews or massive A-list stars, it ended up doing fine. Releasing over this title over Veteran’s Day weekend was a genius move, while the better-than-expected numbers for Midway make this the newest recent movie to show that non-tentpole mid-budget movies can thrive at the domestic box office.

Meanwhile, Doctor Sleep only opened to $14.1 million over the weekend. Numerous recent horror films have managed to achieve massive box office success that the genre usually doesn’t achieve. Doctor Sleep didn’t have to only hit those numbers to be successful (a more moderate $22-26 million bow would have been just fine) but it is surprising that a sequel to one of the most acclaimed horror movies of all-time didn’t hit bigger numbers.

The more obscure nature of the Doctor Sleep novel may have held it back from success, and general moviegoers may have written it off as just a cash grab attempting to cash in on the Shining brand name. While not a box office disaster, Doctor Sleep is certainly one of the bigger box office disappointments in recent memory.

Playing with Fire actually was the one new release of the weekend to significantly break out of its box office tracking. This family movie title wasn’t expected to make above $8 million this weekend yet it ended up opening to $12.7 million. 

That’s still not a great opening for a major family movie, but Fire only cost $29 million to make, so it’s well on its way to profitability. Paramount was smart to release a new family movie over this three-day holiday weekend, even if the extremely juvenile nature of the marketing campaign ensured it’d never break out financially to an excessive degree.    

Finally, among this weekend’s new wide releases was Last Christmas, which opened to $11.4 million. This is one of those bows that’s neither all that great nor all that bad. Costing just $30 million to make, Last Christmas will end up making some money for Universal in the long run, especially since Christmas-themed movies always end up rerunning on cable for all of eternity.

However, among past Christmas-themed titles, this debut is far from holly jolly. Twenty-eight other Christmas movies opened better than this, including all-time box office duds like Deck the Halls. It’s also hard to tell if Last Christmas will have the sort of long-term box office legs traditional Christmas titles have; given how many movies are about to open up in the marketplace, all that competition could hinder it significantly. Last Christmas will probably end its domestic run in the $35-40 million range, a final total that would make it one of the lower-grossing Christmas films of recent years.

Most holdovers had sub-40% dips this weekend, but Terminator: Dark Fate was the big exception to that trend, as it fell a harsh 63% from opening weekend. Taking in another $10.8 million, this mega-budget blockbuster has only grossed $48.4 million after ten days of domestic release. 

Right outside the top five was Joker, which kept on dancing on that staircase to a sixth-weekend haul of $9.2 million, a 32% dip from last weekend, for a domestic total of $313.4 million. Joker will surpass the $330 million domestic haul of Batman v. Superman by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil fell 35% in its fourth weekend of release, grossing another $8.4 million for a domestic total of $97.7 million, putting it on track for a $115-120 million final domestic total. Meanwhile, Harriet dipped 36% in its second weekend of release to add $7.4 million to its domestic haul that now stands at $23.6 million.

Fellow holdover Zombieland: Double Tap fell 42% this frame, giving it a fourth-weekend haul of $4.3 million and a $66.6 million domestic total. Rounding out the top ten was The Addams Family, which grossed another $4.1 million, a 49% drop from last weekend, bringing it up to $91.4 million domestically.

Jojo Rabbit expanded into wide release this weekend and grossed $3.95 million from 802 locations for a fantastic per-theater average of $4,952. Jojo Rabbit clearly has mainstream appeal that ensures it won’t just be an arthouse hit and if it can hold onto its screens through Thanksgiving, this Taika Waititi directorial effort could really go the distance at the domestic box office. For now, Jojo Rabbit has grossed $9.1 million domestically. 

Moving into mainstream releases for a moment, Countdown fell 50% this weekend to add $2.8 million to its domestic gross, which now stands at a solid $22.3 million. 

Like Jojo Rabbit, Parasite also expanded into wide release this weekend and also managed to do solid numbers as Parasite grossed $2.59 million 602 locations for a per-theater average of $4,298. Having grossed $11.3 million to date despite only playing in wide release for just three days, Parasite is well on its way to becoming only the fourth limited release of 2019 to crack $20 million domestically. Depending on how it holds over Thanksgiving, there’s a chance it could even exceed the $30 million domestic total of I, Tonya to become the biggest NEON release ever domestically.

Motherless Brooklyn actually didn’t have a terrible hold this frame as it dropped 38% from its opening weekend. Unfortunately, it only opened to $3.5 million, so that dip brought it a second-weekend of only $2.17 million for a ten-day domestic haul of $7.3 million. Not an absolutely horrendous haul for a movie playing in just 1,342 locations, but that’s the highest compliment you can pay it. 

Black and Blue fell 54% this weekend and grossed another $1.87 million for a domestic gross of $19 million while Arctic Dogs plummeted 63% (an abnormally large second-weekend drop for an animated family movie) for a second-weekend gross of $1.07 million and a domestic haul of just $4.8 million. 

Better Days made its domestic debut this weekend and managed to gross $989,536 from 70 locations for a per-theater average of $14,136. In its second weekend of wide release, The Lighthouse grossed another $918,630, a 53% drop from last weekend, for a domestic gross of $8.91 million. Pain & Glory expanded into 266 locations this weekend, its largest theater count to date and grossed $395,573 for a per-theater average of $1,487 and a domestic total of $2.6 million.

Honey Boy opened this weekend to an excellent $301,065 from just 4 locations for a per-theater average of $75,266.  If Amazon Studios handles the release of this title properly over the lucrative holiday weekends to come, it could become one of their biggest titles yet as a self-distributing studio. Jay & Silent Bob Reboot continued on its national tour and grossed another $278,754 from 15 locations for a per-theater average of $18,583.  

No Safe Spaces has apparently already run its course at the domestic box office, as it grossed just $65,738 from 38 locations for a poor per-theater average of $1,729 and a domestic gross of only $207,692. The Kingmaker also opened this weekend and managed a $19,523 bow from 2 locations for a per-theater average of $9,761.

The top twelve movies this weekend grossed a total of $100.4 million, sharply down from most other November weekends at the same point. For instance, it’s down 35% from this same weekend last year when The Grinch debuted and only two other 45th weekends fared worse than this past 2019 frame in the 21st-century. 

Given how October 2019 was exploding with business, this is clearly an issue with the titles in the marketplace than an issue related to people not going to the movies. More Terminator and Shining movies just don’t have as much appeal to general audiences as past early November blockbusters like Big Hero 6 or Thor: Ragnarok. Let’s see if Ford v. Ferrari, Frozen II, and Daniel Craig as a Southern detective can help get November 2019 out of this box office funk.