‘American Assassin’ also beats ‘mother!,’ an elevated horror film earning an F CinemaScore and marking the worst wide opening of Jennifer Lawrence’s career with $7.5 million
Darren Aronofsky’s mother! stalled in its domestic box office debut, grossing an estimated $7.5 million from 2,368 theaters after receiving a rare F CinemaScore and facing competition from blockbuster It.
mother!, an elevated psychological horror-thriller, supplants The House at the End of the Street ($12.3 million) to mark the lowest nationwide launch of Jennifer Lawrence’s career. The Paramount title, costing $30 million to produce, came in No. 3 for the weekend behind It and new offering American Assassin. (In a sign that summer is over, all three titles are rated R.)
Warner Bros. and New Line’s It continued to make history in its second weekend, declining a scant 51 percent to $60 million from 4,103 theaters, the biggest sophomore outing ever for a horror title. It is the latest commercial horror title to prosper following Annabelle: Creation, Get Out and Spit in a huge boost for the genre.
It has already achieved numerous milestones. In its first 10 days, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel has earned $218.7 million domestically, passing up Get Out ($175.5 million) to become the No. 2 R-rated horror film of all time behind The Exorcist, not accounting for inflation. And it’s already the top-grossing September release in history. At this pace, It will finish its North American run with north of $300 million.
It is also scaring up big numbers overseas, grossing $60.3 million in its second weekend from 56 markets for a foreign tally of $152.6 million and a stunning $371.3 million worldwide against a $35 million budget. Highlights included a record-breaking horror opening of $13.8 million in Mexico.
In North America, It is a needed balm after a troubling summer box-office season. Thanks to the film’s performance, the year-over-year revenue decline has narrowed from nearly 7 percent to 5 percent.
CBS Films and Lionsgate’s American Assassin placed No. 2 with a solid $14.8 million from 3,154 theaters, on par with fellow Lionsgate action pic, John Wick ($14.4 million). The movie cost a net $33 million to make.
Directed by Michael Cuesta, American Assassin stars Dylan O’Brien as a CIA operative who teams with a veteran agent (Michael Keaton) to stop terrorists from starting a world war. The film, also featuring Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar and Taylor Kitsch, is based on late author Vince Flynn’s novel of the same name and earned a B+ CinemaScore from audiences.
Heading into the weekend, American Assassin held only a slight edge over mother! according to tracking. But throughout the weekend, mother! continued to slip.
Getting slapped with an F CinemaScore on Friday didn’t help matters (only a dozen or so movies have ever received the failing grade). The movie skewed older, with 52 percent of the audience over 35, including 22 percent over the age of 50. Comps to Aronfosky’s previous prestige films, including Black Swan, are tough since they launched in select theaters before expanding, prompting some to question why Paramount opened mother! nationwide.
From a script by Aronofsky, mother! is an allegorical tale about a married couple named mother (Lawrence) and Him (Bardem) whose tranquil existence is tested when two mysterious strangers — man (Ed Harris) and woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) — show up at their country Victorian home to meet Bardem’s character, a poet gripped by writer’s block.
“This movie is very audacious and brave. You are talking about a director at the top of his game, and an actress at the top her game. They made a movie that was intended to be bold. Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell. This is our version,” says Paramount worldwide president of marketing and distribution Megan Colligan. “We don’t want all movies to be safe. And it’s okay if some people don’t like it.”
mother! opened to $6 million overseas from its first 16 markets. It placed third in France with $1.3 million, followed by a third-place finish in the U.K. with $1.1 million and a second-place finish in Russia with $1.1 million.
The $30 million film made its world premiere earlier this month at the Venice Film Festival before screening at the Toronto International Film Festival to generally good reviews, with a current fresh score of 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics, however, were divided in their reaction, and audiences, even more so.
Home Again, a romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon from first-time director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, placed No. 4 with an estimated $5.3 million for a muted 10-day domestic total of $17.1 million for Open Road Films. The movie declined a narrow 38 percent.
Lionsgate’s Hitman’s Bodyguard, rounding out the top five with an estimated $3.6 million, jumped the $70 million mark in its fifth weekend. The action comedy stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.
At the specialty box office, filmmaker Mike White’s Brad’s Status, starring Ben Stiller, Michael Sheen, Jenna Fischer, Luke Wilson and Austin Abrams, scored the top location average of any film when earning $100,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for an average of $25,000. The Amazon Studios’ dramedy is the second release from Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, and made its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. The story follows a an anxious father who takes his son on a tour of New England colleges.
Overseas, Fox’s War for the Planet of the Apes made headlines in China, where it opened to a strong $62.3 million despite competition from Spider-Man Homecoming. War for the Planet of the Apes came in 42 percent ahead of the last film and 20 percent ahead of Logan. The threequel’s foreign total is $287.9 million for a worldwide cume of $433.7 million.
Spider-Man: Homecoming, from Sony and Marvel Studios, tumbled 79 percent in China to $14.7 million for a 10-day cume of $105 million in the Middle Kingdom and worldwide haul of $861.3 million (such declines can be commonplace in China).
Universal’s American Made, starring Tom Cruise, continued its foreign rollout ahead of its Sept. 29 domestic launch, earning another $12 million from 53 territories for a total $48.8 million, including a $1.9 debut in South Korea and $1.8 million from France.