We told you yesterday that this weekend’s two big releases, Gone Girl and Annabelle, would come out strong but that David Fincher’s drama would come out on top. That’s exactly how it played out, though the estimates for the two films were much closer than expected. Annabelle, a prequel to last year’s The Conjuring, had a better Saturday hold than your typical horror franchise feature, earning an estimated $37.2 million for the three day frame. Fox’s Gone Girl estimate is only slightly higher at $38 million. This is good news for both films but great news for the box office, which is trying to bounce back from September’s near-record lows.
|5.||The Maze Runner||$12,000,000||$73.9|
|7.||This Is Where I Leave You||$4,000,000||$29|
|8.||Dolphin Tale 2||$3,530,000||$37.9|
|9.||Guardians of the Galaxy||$3,034,000||$323.3|
|10.||No Good Deed||$2,500,000||$50.1|
Full story after the jump.
September is never a great month for the domestic box office, but in 2014 its performance was especially disheartening. The lowest single month in more than five years, only The Maze Runner and The Equalizer showed any strength in September. No surprise then that both films have sequels in the works. There’s also Guardians of the Galaxy, which became the first film of the year to earn over $300 million last month. But GotG opened at the beginning of August, so the fact that it remained one of the highest grossing films of September doesn’t speak well for the month’s overall performance. Hopefully, this weekend is a sign of good things to come for 2014’s final quarter. Lord knows the box office could use some more hits, and Mockingjay and The Hobbit shouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
In that vein, the opening of Gone Girl couldn’t be more promising. Though Fox claimed it was expecting the drama to open in the low to mid 20’s, anyone paying attention could see that Gone Girl had the potential to go much higher. Based on Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel (a book that has sold 8 million copies since 2012) and directed by the man who brought The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Zodiak to the screen, Gone Girl came pre-loaded with awards-season buzz. It didn’t hurt that critics also endorsed the film, giving it a Rotten Tomato score of 87%, or that September’s lackluster box office left so much room for an October release to break out. That’s certainly what happened this time last year, when Gravity surprised everyone by opening to over $55 million – $20 million higher than its pre-release projections.
Of course, Gravity was rated PG-13 and had 3D and other large format venues to boost its grosses. Much of the reason that Fox lowballed its projection this weekend is that recent R-rated dramas – even those that went on to play well throughout the fall like The Town and Argo, failed to open above $24 million. That makes Gone Girl something special. Not only does it have the potential for a leggy run leading into awards season, its opening already ranks as the highest ever for an original, R-rated film, topping the $36.2 million of 2002’s Red Dragon.
With $37.2 million, Annabelle also topped most R-rated October openings. But as a horror film (and a franchise title at that) its debut ranks third after Paranormal Activity 2 & 3 for the month. Still, there is no denying that the Warner Bros./New Line release came out stronger than expected, even in light of the box office triumph that was The Conjuring. The film that inspired Annabelle opened with $41.8 million last July and played well for the next four weeks. That is unusual for horror: a genre that typically burns off its biggest grosses on its Friday opening. Another unusual factor in the success of The Conjuring was its critical reception. The film received a Rotten Tomato rank of 86%, which made it one of last summer’s most critically-acclaimed releases.
Annabelle hasn’t been as lucky. The prequel received a ‘B’ CinemaScore from audiences (equal to Gone Girl) but a rotten 31% from RT critics. That suggests the film’s better than expected Saturday hold won’t translate into a strong second weekend, although that hardly matters at this point. Annabelle cost under $8 million before marketing so it is already a box office winner.
The weekend’s final new release is pretty far from a winner, though to be fair, it could have been a lot worse for Left Behind. The faith-based remake starring Nicolas Cage actually came out stronger than expected: earning an estimated $6.85 million from 1,800 locations instead of the $4 million that was projected. That’s about what the original Left Behind, which opened in 2001 with Kirk Cameron in the lead, made it its entire theatrical run. Of course, Christian-themed movies have come a long way in the years since Cameron’s Left Behind was released. This year alone, Son of God, God’s Not Dead and Heaven is for Real all made waves at the box office, with the latter topping $100 million in global sales.
Safe to say that Left Behind 2014 is not going to be the next Heaven is for Real. The film cost a reported $16 million but has little chance of breaking $20 million before it leaves theatres. Arguing for a hasty box office exit is the fact that Left Behind is rocking a 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes: lower than noted 2014 disasters like The Legend of Hercules (3%) and I, Frankenstein (4%).
Cage’s folly aside, this weekend’s box office brought a welcome respite from the lows of September. The frame came out ahead of 2013’s total by over 15%, which is especially impressive given the fact that Gravity took off on this same weekend last year. The outlook for next weekend is not so clear. Three new wide releases will hit theatres, though none is expected to top $20 million. Given the general lack of family-friendly options, Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Awful, Very Bad Day has the best shot at hitting that mark, though if Gone Girl holds well enough, it could easily find itself on top for a second frame. We’ll let you know how it all plays out.