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411 Box Office Report: 1917 Dethrones Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker With $36.5 Million Start

January 12, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
1917 Star Wars

1917 knocked Star Wars out of the top spot at the box office this weekend, scoring a $36.5 million opening. The Sam Mendes-directed war film blew past expectations that had it at $30 million or so to win the weekend. Outside of his Bond films, which aren’t a fair comparison, this marks the best start for a Mendes film to date, eclipsing Jarhead’s $27.7 million opening in 2005. It’s also the best start for a World War I film not called Wonder Woman which was of course more of a superhero film than a war movie.

The great performance for 1917 was a good example of how awards credibility can boost a film’s performance. The movie was a big winner at last weekend’s Golden Globes, taking home the Best Drama award as well as Best Director for Mendes. That provided a big boost in awareness for the movie and added weight to the positive reviews; it has a 90% score on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. This was essential for a film that was being sold without any major stars in lead roles; instead, the likes of Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch were filling in the supporting characters. Marketing around the film’s gimmick of appearing to be done as a continuous single shot was also a big key, bringing in audiences curious to see how that played out.

1917 is, unsurprisingly, playing out the usual award season drama route of strong holds throughout the weekend. That’s thanks to good word of mouth with an A CinemaScore and an impressive 71% “definite recommend” via PostTrak. This all means good things for the film, which will continue to ride momentum assuming it scores the Oscar nominations that it is expected to on Monday morning. Universal is looking forward to the long legs on this film, which cost $100 million before marketing. Thus far it has $39.2 million domestic and $60.4 million worldwide, and should be able to top $150 million in the US by the time it’s all said and done.

Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker slipped 56% in its fourth weekend to bring in $15.1 million. The final “Saga” film is now trailing well behind The Last Jedi with $478.2 million domestically and $989.6 million worldwide against a $275 million budget. There’s no tears being shed at Disney over the grosses even with the money left on the table; it will likely cap out in the US at around $550 million to $575 million and still be a hit for the studio without breaking a sweat.

Jumanji: The Next Level slipped 47% in its fifth weekend with $14 million. The action-adventure sequel’s totals now stand at $257.1 million domestically and $671.1 million worldwide. Those are good numbers for a film that will top out at around $300 million domestically, making it a franchise-continuing hit against a $130 million budget.

Coming in at #4 was Just Mercy, which expanded wide to start with $10 million. That’s slightly above the high single digits that most expected it to do and reps a solid start. The film, which is based on the true story of Walter McMillian’s murder conviction appeal, is building its case to audiences via both good reviews (82% on RT) and great word of mouth (the elusive A+ CinemaScore). The start is better than the $6.1 million wide release opening of the legal true story On the Basis of Sex that arrived in the same weekend last year.

Just Mercy is not expected to be a big awards contender; at best there is a chance that Jamie Foxx scores a nod for Best Supporting Actor as he earned a SAG nomination. But it should be a solid performer and could get to $40 million if enough word of mouth gets out. There’s no word on its budget, but it will have to rely on domestic grosses as its overseas prospects are somewhat limited.

Running neck and neck with Just Mercy is R-rated comedy Like a Boss, which also came in with a $10 million estimate and could flip places with the legal drama once final numbers come in on Monday. The Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayek-starring film performed right around expectations coming into the weekend. Paramount has been pushing this film strongly as a counter-programming option to the waning days of the holiday blockbusters and the awards fare, which appears to have paid off. The start is only slightly below the $13.7 million start of Haddish’s Nobody‚Äôs Fool in November of 2018.

Comedy has been a hard sell at the box office as of late unless it comes wrapped in another genre like animation, action or horror. Like A Boss wasn’t helped by reviews, which generally disdained it (21% on RT), and audiences were moderately amused at a B CinemaScore. Those aren’t fabulous indications for the movie’s future prospects, but it also wasn’t incredibly expensive at $29 million. Like a Boss is lacking in direct competition and that could boost its prospects toward $35 million domestically. It will need international grosses, not a strength of Haddish’s but one of Hayek’s, to see any profit.

Little Women was down 44% in its second third, bringing in $7.7 million. The Great Gerwig-directed adaptation of the classic novel is performing well, with $74 million domestically and $94.2 million worldwide against a $42 million budget. The film is currently looking at a $90 million gross or so by the end of its domestic run, which will make it a hit for Columbia against a $42 million budget.

20th Century Fox’s latest film was DOA in Underwater. The sci-fi thriller brought in $7 million, which while met expectations was still a sad sight for a moderately expensive film. Chalk this one up as the latest casualty to Disney cutting their losses on several Fox carry-overs. The studio didn’t do a ton to promote the film and considering the mild reaction (52% on RT, a C CinemaScore) it isn’t surprising. Disney has shown a willingness to sell the films they inherited from Fox short; Dark Phoenix famously had little effort put into its marketing and that was the case here.

The big problem with this film is its cost at an estimated $65 million, which is already insurmountable. The film is also not doing great overseas, where it got off to a $7.1 million start for $14.1 million worldwide. This one should vanish from theaters quickly and probably won’t get too far about $20 million, if that.

Frozen II slipped 51% in its seventh weekend with $5.8 million. The animated sequel is losing steam but has already banked plenty of cash; it sits at $459.4 million domestically and $1.371 billion worldwide. It looks likely to end its run around $475 million domestically or so and is of course a massive hit. The budget was $150 million.

Knives Out eased 36% in its seventh weekend to bring in $5.7 million. The Rian Johnson-directed ensemble mystery has run up $139.6 million domestically and $256.5 million worldwide against a budget of just $40 million. The film looks likely to stay on course for $160 million by the end of its run.

Spies in Disguise followed Frozen II’s lead, down 51% in its third weekend with $5.1 million. The Will Smith and Tom Holland-voiced animated comedy sits at $54.6 million domestically and $115 million worldwide against a $100 million budget. It is still on the path to break-even with a US final total around $70 million and overseas numbers making the difference.

Next weekend should see Bad Boys For Life take the top spot, as it’s aiming for $30 million to $40 million. Also opening is Robert Downey Jr’s Doolittle, which is likely to hit the low $20 million range.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. 1917 – $36.5 million ($39.2 million total)
2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – $15.1 million ($478.2 million total)
3. Jumanji: The Next Level – $14 million ($257.1 million total)
4. Just Mercy – $10 million ($10.4 million total)
5. Like A Boss – $10 million ($10 million total)
6. Little Women – $7.7 million ($74 million total)
7. Underwater – $7 million ($7 million total)
8. Frozen II – $5.8 million ($459.4 million total)
9. Knives Out – $5.7 million ($139.6 million total)
10. Spies in Disguise – $5.1 million ($54.6 million total)