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    Horror pic ‘Smile’ happy at No 1; ‘Bros’ starts in fourth

    Lindsey Bahr

    AP – Moviegoing audiences chose the horror movie over the romantic comedy to kick off the month of October. Paramount’s Smile topped the North American charts with USD22 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates on Sunday, leaving Billy Eichner’s rom-com Bros in the dust.

    Universal’s Bros launched with an estimated USD4.8 million to take fourth place behind Don’t Worry Darling (USD7.3 million) and The Woman King (USD7 million). But opening weekends likely aren’t the final word on either Bros or Smile. Horror movie audiences are generally front-loaded, dropping off steeply after the first weekend, while something like Bros, which got great reviews and an A CinemaScore, suggesting strong word-of-mouth potential, is a movie that could continue finding audiences through the fall. It is not unusual for R-rated comedies to open modestly and catch on later.

    “Everyone who sees it absolutely loves it,” said Universal’s President of Domestic Distribution Jim Orr. “Billy Eichner, (director) Nick Stoller and Judd Apatow have created a movie that’s heartwarming and hysterically funny.”

    Bros is significant for being the first rom-com given a wide theatrical release by a major studio. Since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, the film has gotten stellar reviews from critics and also been the target of “review bombs” on IMDB. The site last week removed hundreds of one-star reviews for Bros that were logged before the film was released.

    It’s also hard to compete with a new horror movie in October. Smile, written and directed by Parker Finn in his directorial debut, stars Sosie Bacon as a therapist haunted by smiling faces after a traumatic event.

    Sosie Bacon (L) and and Jack Sochet in a scene from ‘Smile’. PHOTO: AP

    According to exit polls, 52 per cent of the audience was male and 68 per cent were ages 18-34 for the R-rated film. Playing in 3,645 locations, Smile started strong with USD2 million from last Thursday night previews, too, and had a four per cent uptick last Saturday, which is almost unheard of for genre films that usually decline after the first night. Smile also cost only USD17 million to produce.

    “It’s remarkable, particularly when you take the budget into account. It’s just a terrific result and validated our thoughts about the movie as a whole,” said Paramount’s President of Domestic Distribution Chris Aronson. “That Saturday uptick bodes well for the long-term playability.”

    The Smile marketing team last weekend planted smiling actors at baseball games around the country as a marketing stunt, which Aronson said helped push the movie over the top.

    “Smile just shows once again that the horror genre should be put on a pedestal by theatre owners,” said the senior media analyst for Comscore Paul Dergarabedian. Second place went to Don’t Worry Darling in its second weekend in theatres, with USD7.3 million, down 64 per cent from its opening. The mid-century-styled psychological thriller starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles has earned USD32.8 million domestically against a USD35 million production budget.

    And The Woman King was close behind in third place in its third weekend, with an estimated USD7 million, down only 36 per cent from last weekend. The historical war epic directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood stars Viola Davis as an Agojie general and has made USD46.7 million.

    Rounding out the top five was the re-release of Avatar, with USD4.7 million from 1,860 locations.

    Notably, the film with the highest per-theatre average was the Indian epic Ponniyin Selvan: I, which earned USD4.1 million from just 510 theatres. It’s one of several Indian blockbusters to perform well in North America recently, including RRR and Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva.

    “It was a solid weekend,” Dergarabedian said. “We’re not going to get into the USD100 million-plus weekends until Black Adam, but audiences are getting a really diverse slate of movies to see on the big screen.”

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