Illumination/Universal’s “The Grinch” has struck a chord with family audiences, earning a strong $66 million opening weekend from 4,141 screens to take the top spot on the box office charts. Universal reports that it is the largest opening weekend for a Christmas themed film in box office history.
With “Nutcracker and the Four Realms” failing to get any traction with families — it has yet to make back its $130 million budget with $96.7 million grossed globally after 10 days in theaters — “The Grinch” had almost all the attention of its core demographic, thanks in large part to an aggressive ad campaign that featured wisecracking billboards and TV spots that started airing all the way back during the Winter Olympics in February.
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A strong profit for this $75 million animated film is assured, but the big challenge now will be to avoid a large drop-off in the coming weekends as other major family films get ready to enter theaters. Next weekend will see the arrival of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” which may be a PG-13 film but may still gain the interest of younger kids with its connections to the “Harry Potter” films. After that will be “Ralph Breaks the Internet” on Thanksgiving, and that release will definitely be a direct competitor to “The Grinch” for kid interest.
One film that won’t have to worry too much about competition is Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which dropped just 41 percent from last weekend’s $51 million opening for a $30 million total. That means the Queen biopic is less than $600,000 away from a $100 million 10-day domestic total, and will hit that mark either after Monday’s box office rolls in or possibly after actual weekend totals are reported.
Below “Grinch” and “Bohemian” are Paramount’s “Overlord” and Sony’s “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” two films that are hitting tracker projections but are falling short of the mid-teens opening they really needed for a solid start. “Overlord” is third on the charts with $10 million from 2,859 screens against a $38 million budget.
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While the grisly WWII horror film has J.J. Abrams as a producer and solid reception with an 80 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and a B from CinemaScore polls, it doesn’t seem to have build much interest beyond hardcore horror fans the way Paramount’s previous horror hit, “A Quiet Place,” did earlier this year.
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” meanwhile, is in danger of failing to finish in the top five, falling below fourth place “Nutcracker” ($9.9 million) and at risk of losing the No. 5 spot to “A Star Is Born.” Both “Spider’s Web” and “Star” are estimated to gross $8 million this weekend, even though “A Star Is Born” is in its sixth weekend.
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While Sony projected an $8 million opening, the $42 million “Spider’s Web” still faces an uphill climb to turn a profit. Just as “The Grinch” will face competing family films in the coming weeks, “Spider’s Web” will face new releases competing for adult audiences.
Next week sees the arrival of Fox’s “Widows,” which features Steve McQueen as director, an all-star cast led by Viola Davis, and rave reviews to the tune of 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. After that comes “Creed II” on Thanksgiving, which stars Michael B. Jordan in his first leading role since exploding in popularity thanks to his breakout performance in “Black Panther.”
Next weekend, “Fantastic Beasts 2” is expected to top the charts with an opening similar to “The Grinch,” with independent tracker projections averaging in the high $60 million range and topping out at $73 million. To reach that mark, it will have to follow in the path of “Venom” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a series of films that have seen their brand recognition overcome tepid reviews, as the Potter spinoff has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 57 percent.