NEW YORK (AP) – The North American box office had one of its slowest weekends of the year, due in large part to “Dune: Part Two’s” absence from the line-up.
Moviegoers had many other options to choose from. The video game adaptation “Five Nights at Freddy’s” repeated its first-place ranking, followed by “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” still going strong. Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla ” expanded nationwide and “Oppenheimer” returned to IMAX screens. Several well-received indies opened as well.
But this was the weekend that Warner Bros. and Legendary’s ” Dune: Part Two” was supposed to open, before the SAG-AFTRA strike prompted many studios to shuffle release dates in anticipation of a lengthy dispute that has stopped movie stars from promoting their films. The “Dune” sequel starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya was pushed to March 2024, and no major blockbusters moved in to take its November 3 spot.
Even with “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” still bringing Swifties to the multiplex, and prestige offerings including Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” overall ticket sales are likely to be around USD64 million for the weekend, making it one of the slowest of the year.
“It’s hard to reverse engineer, but ‘Dune 2’ would have certainly been the No 1 movie and it would have been a bigger overall weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “The strikes have had a profound impact on this marketplace. But this left a lot of opportunity for films like ‘Priscilla,’ ‘The Holdovers’ and ‘Radical’ to get more of a spotlight.”
In its second weekend, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” picked up an additional USD19.4 million to take first place, according to studio estimates Sunday. It’s a hefty 76 per cent drop from its first weekend. That’s not unexpected given that the movie is also streaming on Peacock and that viewership for films targeting intense and niche fandoms are often wildly frontloaded. But taking in USD217 million globally against a reported USD20 million production budget makes it a hit for Universal Pictures and Blumhouse.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” took second place, with fourth weekend earnings at an estimated USD13.5 million for the AMC release. Playing only on Thursdays through Sundays, the film has made an astonishing USD231.1 million globally to date.
In third place, “Killers of the Flower Moon” was down only 25 per cent in its third weekend, with USD7 million from 3,786 screens, which brings its domestic total to USD52.3 million. The USD200 million film was financed by Apple Original Films with Paramount overseeing its theatrical run.
After a healthy opening in New York and Los Angeles last weekend, “Priscilla,” based on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me,” expanded to 1,359 screens where it earned USD5.1 million over the weekend to take fourth place. Coppola’s well reviewed film starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi attracted an audience that was predominately younger (75 per cent under 35) and female (65 per cent). The hope is that A24 release will have a long life into awards season.
” The Holdovers,” a Focus Features release, also expanded slightly to 64 theatres this weekend, where it grossed an additional USD600,000. Next weekend the New England-set period drama starring Paul Giamatti as a curmudgeonly prep school teacher will expand to over 800 locations.
A handful of smaller films made their theatrical debuts this weekend, including Meg Ryan’s “What Happens Later,” released by Bleecker Street; and Sundance gems ” Radical ” and ” All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt.”
The biggest of the batch was ” Radical,” which is based on a true story about a teacher in a Mexican border city and stars Eugenio Derbez. The warmly reviewed Pantelion release opened in 419 locations and made USD2.7 million.
“‘Radical’ is a big winner this weekend and a big win for Eugenio Derbez,” Dergarabedian said. “He’s becoming a global superstar.”
“What Happens Later,” a rom-com starring Ryan and David Duchovny as exes stuck in an airport, made USD1.6 million from 1,492 screens. Raven Jackson’s “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” meanwhile, opened on three screens and earned USD12,529, according to A24.
“The overall box office is rather quiet, but there are so many interesting films out there,” Dergarabedian said. “Independent film can really shine right now.”
The effects of the ongoing strike at the box office are not easily quantifiable. Up to this point, it’s mainly meant that stars without interim agreements haven’t been able to promote their films. “Priscilla” was one of the exceptions and Elordi and Spaeny have been able to do interviews and appear on talk shows to drum up awareness.
Next weekend will be an interesting test, as Marvel and Disney release “The Marvels” without months of appearances from stars like Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Lashana Lynch preceding it. It is possible a resolution between the actors’ guild and the major entertainment companies may come this week, but it’s unclear if that will have any impact on “The Marvels.”
“All eyes will be on ‘The Marvels,’ not only what it represents during the strikes, but what it means for Marvel as a whole, which is always compared to their past successes,” Dergarabedian said. “But the opening weekend isn’t everything anymore. Hopefully it’ll provide an infusion of that blockbuster feeling going into the holiday season.”