On Wednesday, Star Wars: The Force Awakens became North America’s highest-grossing movie of all time, overtaking Avatar in only 20 days. But by Friday the box office behemoth was itself overtaken, and by a somewhat unlikely challenger. The Revenant, from director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, caught many by surprise with its nationwide expansion. The survival drama, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, earned an estimated $14.4 million on Friday, including $2.3 million from Thursday previews. That was more than enough to send Star Wars to second place and indicates a weekend take of about $38 million – doubling The Revenant’s pre-release projection of $19 million.
The Revenant originally opened over Christmas weekend in four locations and earned an impressive per-theatre average of $118,640. But as we all know, a strong run in limited release is no guarantee of box office success when a film opens wider. The Grand Budapest Hotel claimed 2014’s best per-screen average in 4 locations, only to see that average drop precipitously as the film neared 1,000 screens. The best counter example is American Sniper, which set a new box office record for January when it expanded from four theatres to 3,555 one year ago.
Clearly, The Revenant is opening closer to the American Sniper side of the equation, aided by strong reviews and four Golden Globe nominations. In fact, Friday’s strong showing is casting doubt on whether The Force Awakens will be able to hold on to first place for a fourth frame. The current weekend projection for Star Wars is $40 million – a steeper drop than originally anticipated. It would only take a little extra momentum for The Revenant to take first place on the weekend chart. I honestly don’t expect that to happen, but I am often incorrect. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.
The only new wide release this weekend is The Forest, distributed by Focus Features. The PG-13 thriller, starring Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer, also appears to be exceeding expectations. From 2,451 locations, The Forest earned an estimated $4.9 million on Friday. That suggests a weekend total of at least $11 million, beating the $9 million that was originally projected.
Here’s Friday’s top five, based on studio estimates:
|2.||The Force Awakens||$10,760,000||$781.1|