‘It’ To Scare Away Jennifer Lawrence Pic ‘Mother!’ & Dylan O’Brien Pic ‘American Assassin’: Box Office

3rd update, Friday 9:48PM Well, it’s clear: Moviegoers officially hate Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! The film scored a rare F grade from CinemaScore audiences tonight, and there were many rivals heading into the weekend who were expecting that type of reaction. As we heard at noon, the bold Jennifer Lawrence pic is crashing well below its projections with an estimated $8M in third.

Paramount has been in this situation before with 2012’s The Devil Inside which also earned an F (in fact that year had two more F grade films: the Brad Pitt gangster pic Killing Them Softly and Open Road’s Silent House). But with Devil Inside, Paramount was able to buck the audience reaction on that $1M budgeted genre pic and make loads of cash with a $33.7M opening, final domestic $53.3M and global of $101.8M. Many attribute that win to a massive TV spot spend. Mother! is a different beast at a reported $30M before P&A (some believe it’s much higher: Lawrence is known to get $15M alone with actors like Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer earning $3M-$5M each). Oy vey.

Paramount

It’s very simple what happened here: Paramount backed an audacious auteur’s twisted genre film and aimed to sell it to a mass audience. You could say it’s high art and that only specialty houses would appreciate it, but then — would they like it? It’s obvious why Paramount went wide with this movie and didn’t roll it out: They knew it would greatly divide moviegoers. Going wide was the only means to make any amount of money, especially with Lawrence as headliner. There’s no winning in a platform release, because bad word of mouth would have crept up fast. Paramount’s marketing team was passionate about the movie, worked closely with Aronofsky on crafting something cool, and they knew the best place to tee the film off was the fall festival circuits where it was greatly embraced by critics (70% certified fresh). While we’ve dinged Rotten Tomatoes continually for impacting a wide release’s ticket sales, that’s not the case here. What Mother! is an example of is the disconnect between RT and moviegoers’ habits. RT organically favors auteurs. We saw this with Alien: Covenant this past summer which was 70% certified fresh and wasn’t one of the marquee tentpoles of the summer, falling short with a $74.3M domestic take.

I’m informed that there was a lot of last minute TV spot spend by mother! in an effort to hopefully spur a Devil Inside type of B.O. halo. Last weekend, Paramount had a custom in-theater trailer for Mother! on It telling moviegoers “In one week, in this theater, one movie will mess you up for life…You will never forget where you were the first time you saw mother! After the movie, visit the box office to get your tickets.” One rival marketing head told Deadline, “If I was a horror fan and then went to see Mother! I’d be pretty pissed because it’s not your run of the mill Screen Gems film.” What could Paramount do? How else could they sell this movie? Mother! is largely a silent movie and then gets really gonzo toward the end and goes off the rails. Lawrence and Aronofsky say it’s all allegory. There is a gripping, ‘WTF is going on now?’ sensibility to the film, and in that sense, the quick clip, suspenseful marketing arguably didn’t betray.

Some will argue that it was suicidal for Paramount to put Mother! right behind It. True, horror films are generally spaced out on the calendar by four weekends or more, but it really didn’t matter if you put Mother! in the dregs of August: People were still going to hate it. These edgy auteur films are meant to be made as works of bold cinematic art; any distributor is lucky to make a buck off of them, and they never make money, read Nicolas Winding Refn’s Neon Demon ($1.3M), David Lynch’s Lost Highway ($3.7M) and even earlier Aronofsky works like The Fountain ($15M global B.O., $35M production cost). It’s just about who is brave enough to invest in them.

Another problem with Mother! was that Lawrence was playing against type as a frightful woman versus the heroic kickass we know her for in Hunger Games, Joy and American Hustle. Her fans, who turned out at 38%, didn’t appreciate that and gave her an F tonight. Forty-three percent came out because they thought Mother! was a horror film, and they gave it an ‘F’. Females showed up at 56% with 82% over 25. Both demos gave mother anF’. Aronofsky fans provided Mother! with its best score of C+, and they repped 10% of Friday night’s crowd. Oh, Paramount, can’t you catch a break?

Warner Bros.

New Line/Warner Bros.’ It is the obvious champ with an estimated $54m, -56%, still a great hold in weekend two. That estimate is based off East Coast cash registers, so by the time the West clicks in, we could be seeing a bigger number. Current B.O. through Sunday is now at $212.7M, and It will become the highest grossing September release ever, stepping over 1984’s Crocodile Dundee at $174.8M. This horror film is headed to $280M-$300M final stateside. When Warner Bros. insiders Monday morning quarterback the success of It, they chalk it up to not only an intriguing marketing campaign, but finally delivering a faithful feature adaptation (the first part, anyway) of the 1,000-page Stephen King’s classic novel, 1990 miniseries aside. Another big deal for WB this weekend is that its August horror movie Annabelle: Creation is close to hitting $100M.

CBS/Lionsgate’s American Assassin is staying safe with an opening of $15.2M, at the high end of its tracking estimates and a solid B+ CinemaScore. CBS insiders are happy with the result, comping it to such pics as The Mechanic ($11.4M) and John Wick ($14.4M opening), but rivals aren’t jumping up and down. They think it’s OK. The Dylan O’Brien-Michael Keaton action film drew 55% men to 45% women. The acting combo drew 28% of the crowd.Fifty percent came out because it’s an action movie, and they gave it an A-. Eighty-five percent were over 25. The O’Brien under 25 fans loved the pic the best with an ‘A’ CinemaScore, ditto for under 18 (6%) and 18-24 (9%). So perhaps, all this good word of mouth will translate into a better Saturday night. Word is CBS, which gets its TV spots comped on its parent network, put more O’Brien in them, and while he’s promoted the film to his 4.6M Twitter fans, he’s been reserved in his tubthumping especially when you compare him to a star like Dwayne Johnson. RelishMix observes that fans are shouting out to O’Brien on social. Keaton has been promoting frequently to his 440K Twitter followers, retweeting promos and stunts such as  O’Brien meeting the New York Mets. Lionsgate is also seeing its August action comedy survivor The Hitman‘s Bodyguard crossing $70.5M on Sunday.

Industry estimates for the weekend of Sept. 15-17 as of late Friday night:

1.) It  (NL/WB), 4,148 theaters (+45) / $18.5M Fri. (-63%) / /3-day cume: $54M (-56%)/Total: $212.7M/Wk 2

2.) American Assassin (CBS/LG), 3,154 theaters / $5.6m Fri. (includes $915k previews) /3-day cume: $15.2M /Wk 1

3.) Mother! (PAR), 2,368 theaters / $3.2m Fri. (includes $700k previews) /3-day cume: $8M /Wk 1

4.) Home Again (OR), 3,036 theaters (+96) / $1.67m Fri. (includes $300k previews) /3-day cume: $5.5M (-44%)/Total: $17.3M/Wk 2

5.). Hitman’s Bodyguard (LG), 3,272 theaters (-50) / $1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.7M (-22%)/Total: $70.5M /Wk 5

6.) Wind River (TWC), 2,619 theaters (-271) / $772K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.5M (-20%)/Total: $29.1M/Wk 7

7.). Annabelle: Creation (NL/WB), 2,117 theaters (-886) / $734K Fri.  /3-day cume: $2.3M (-43%)/Total: $99.6M/Wk 6

8.) Spider-Man: Homecoming (SONY/MARVEL), 1,436 theaters (-221)/ $487K Fri./3-day cume: $1.92M (-5%)/Total: $330.3M/Wk 10

9.). Leap! (TWC), 2,416 theaters (-275)/ $406K Fri.  /3-day cume: $1.9M (-22%)/Total: $18.5M/Wk 3

10.) Dunkirk (WB), 1,478 theaters (-632)/ $418K Fri.  /3-day cume: $1.45M (-53%)/Total: $185.3M/Wk 8

2nd Update, Friday 12:09PM: As forecasted, New Line’s It is prevailing with an estimated $55M second weekend, -55% for a running total by Sunday of $213.7M. Again, that’s a record because’s it’s the second best weekend in September ever following It’s mind blowing $123.4M three-day. Today alone, It will make an estimated $17.5M per industry estimates.

CBS/Lionsgate’s American Assassin is looking at $6M today and $16M for the weekend in second place. The pic was co-financed by CBS and Lionsgate for $33M. Paramount’s mother! is looking at $4.2M today and $9M-$11M this weekend. Many believe it’s going lower because audiences since last night have been hating on the Darren Aronofsky-Jennifer Lawrence team-up. mother! was sold like a Screen Gems horror film, but when moviegoers finally get inside the theater, they find out it’s something completely different. PostTrak results reveal a 51% overall positive and a 33% definite recommend, which is as bad as its gets. American Assassin has better results, but not super hot with 67% overall positive and a 43% recommend.

We’ll have more updates for you later.

1st UPDATE, Friday AM: With mother!  preview figures. CBS/Lionsgate’s American Assassin grossed $915K last night in previews at 2,400 locations. American Assassin grossed $915K last night in previews at 2,400 locations. The Dylan O’Brien-Michael Keaton counter-terrorism pic moves to 3,154 sites today. American Assassin‘s Thursday night is right in line with its comp, which is John Wick, which made $870K in previews and posted a three-day of $14.4M.

Tracking has American Assassin in the $12M-$15M range, while one rival estimate believes the movie will outperform that with an upper-teens take. Paramount also has the Darren Aronofsky genre twister mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence in 2,368 theaters today. Pic drew $700K in previews last night which is below the $855K previews of Crimson Peak, another auteur horror pic which played the fall two years ago. Tracking has the film opening around $11M. We reported on why Paramount decided to go wide with what appears to be a specialty title, fresh off the fall festival circuit.

American Assassin follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), a CIA black ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together the three discover a pattern in the violence leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a World War.

Paramount

mother! follows newlyweds in a new country house that they’re rebuilding, Jennifer Lawrence playing a young wife to Javier Bardem’s accomplished author. Guests played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer start coming over to the house unexpectedly, specifically fans of Bardem’s character. And there’s more guests. And that’s when the hell begins, specifically for Lawrence. Pic carries a reported cost of $30M with an estimated domestic P&A spend in the $30M range.

American Assassin has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 41% Rotten while mother! has the critics on its side with a 73% certified fresh rating.

New Line

However, the weekend’s real box office story belongs to New Line/Warner Bros.’ It which put up weekday figures that the month of September has never seen before: Monday ($8.76M), Tuesday ($11.4M), Wednesday ($7.9M) and Thursday ($7.2M). All of the obstacles we’ve mentioned before about the autumn box office — that it’s the start of the school year, the start of NFL — just throw those excuses out the window, for It clearly shows that product rules. The Andy Muschietti-directed movie is bound to hook another all-time record again as it notches the best second weekend that September (and potentially even October) have ever seen at the domestic box office as analysts are predicting a three-day in the $50M-range.  To date, the biggest second frame in September belongs to Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 2 with $33.2M. In October, the second best frame belongs to Gravity ($43.1M). To date, It has accumulated $158.7M, and without a doubt will clear $200M this weekend joining other rare-air horror pics as The Exorcist ($232.9M). With the exception of The Exorcist, It has essentially beaten all previous textbook horror films. When you start getting up in the $200m range, there’s a bunch of tentpole horror-hybrids, i.e. suspense-horror The Sixth Sense ($293.5M), Jaws ($260M), Will Smith’s sci-fi zombie pic I Am Legend ($256.4M) and Brad Pitt’s World War Z ($202.4M).

Just like It‘s ticket sales have exploded, so has its social chatter.  The Stephen King pic’s social media universe across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook has jumped 31% over the last week from 273M to 357M. Per social media monitor Relish Mix, the increase is overwhelmingly driven by YouTube views, which were at 226M in last week’s report. So, It has gained 82M new YouTube views in a week.

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