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Jennifer Lawrence’s much-discussed return to studio star vehicles, in a film being pitched as a canary in the coal mine for the theatrical strength of star-driven comedies, got off to a promising start as Sony’s “No Hard Feelings” earned $2.15 million in Thursday previews.
Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City,” meanwhile, expanded into 1,675 theaters with $1.1 million for Focus Features. That’s after shattering records for a per-theater-average for a six-screen (or more) release last weekend.
Both results mark good news for non-tentpole films from studios that would love to depend on more than just franchise flicks.
“No Hard Feelings” stars Lawrence as a down-on-her-luck woman who takes a gig to “date” an introverted 19-year-old so that the kid can sow some oats — or at least come out of his shell before college. The film comes courtesy of Gene Stupnitsky, who directed Universal’s “Good Boys.” That R-rated coming-of-age flick was among the last pre-COVID examples of studio comedies scoring a bullseye, sans star power no less, as the Universal release earned $110 million worldwide on a $20 million budget.
Oh, and it earned $20 million in its debut weekend from a $2.1 million Thursday preview gross. Now “No Hard Feelings,” which cost $45 million, could be more frontloaded due to star power and awareness, but it’s also not the kind of “frothing at the mouth in anticipation” franchise flick that tends to over-index on Thursday. “Ticket to Paradise,” the George Clooney/Julia Roberts rom-com, opened with $16.5 million last October via a $1.1 million Thursday gross. Using that as a loose guide post, it seems likely that the R-rated flick could open with between $17 million and $22 million.
“Asteroid City” earned a jaw-dropping $853,382 in six theaters last weekend, pulling a $142,496 per-theater haul and nabbing the best per-screen average for any film since “La La Land” opened in December of 2016. Evidence both qualitative ($2.254 million thus far) and anecdotal (the Wednesday night 7:00 p.m. AMC Century City open captions showing was almost sold out) suggests this could break out beyond the proverbial art house.
Anderson films tend to score around $6 million on their “opening weekend” when they go semi-wide (1,000 to 1,500 theaters) somewhat quickly, so there is hope that the star-packed film (including Tom Hanks in the role that usually is arguably played by Bill Murray) might end up closer to $8 million over $6 million. Focus is hoping for legs for this mostly gee-whiz, bright and colorful sci-fi romp. It’s pure Anderson to the point of self-parody, but you can absolutely bring your grandparents.
Meanwhile, “The Flash” has earned $72.37 million in its first seven days, or about equal to what “Aquaman” earned in its initial Friday to Sunday domestic debut in December 2018. The only question is how big of a drop it takes after a disappointing $61 million Friday to Monday launch amid mixed reviews, online controversy and soft word-of-mouth.