On paper, Warner Bros./New Line's "The Kitchen" seemed to have a lot going for it, especially with box office draws Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish on board. But after poor reviews, Andrea Berloff's directorial debut is flopping hard at the box office, grossing only $5.5 million from 2,765 screens in its opening this weekend.
Heading into the weekend, analysts who spoke to TheWrap said that an opening of around $10 million was expected. While far from a strong opening, it was at least projected to outperform Fox's "The Art of Racing in the Rain," which opened this weekend to just $8.1 million.
There were a lot of reasons for audiences, particularly female moviegoers, to be intrigued. It was the first film directed by Berloff, who earned an Oscar nomination for her "Straight Outta Compton" screenplay. And "The Kitchen" featured three actresses on a roll: McCarthy, fresh off her Oscar-nominated performance in "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"; Haddish, who was making her dramatic debut after a series of successful comedies; and Elisabeth Moss, who is still receiving acclaim for her work in "The Handmaid's Tale" as well as recent film performances in "Her Smell and "Us."
But then the reviews came in. Critics panned "The Kitchen" with a 20% score on Rotten Tomatoes, praising the cast but criticizing the plot for relying on gangster movie cliches and failing to flesh out both character and plot.
"Last year McCarthy wonderfully personified a desperate turn toward illegality in "Can You Ever Forgive Me," but [her "The Kitchen" character] is too thinly drawn to make an impression as a feathered, ferocious antihero," Robert Abele wrote in his review for TheWrap.
"Haddish looks great in costumer Sarah Edwards' ("Ocean's Eight") era-specific get-ups and delivers plenty of .38-caliber stares and fierce exit lines, but Ruby's armor is all she has," Abele continued. "Moss, meanwhile, is no stranger to inner darkness, but Claire's arc is simply hollow, never resonating as either trauma case or the birth of a stone-cold killer."
With films like "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" and "The Farewell" serving as an alternative for older female audiences and "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" attracting younger ones, "The Kitchen" was lost this weekend. As a result, the $5.5 million opening is a career low wide-opening weekend for both McCarthy and Haddish.
For McCarthy, this is particularly bad as her previous low box office opening came just one year ago with "The Happytime Murders," which opened to $9.5 million. Haddish's previous low in a leading role also came last year with the Paramount comedy "Nobody's Fool," which opened to $13.7 million in November.
While Warner Bros. distribution officials tell TheWrap they are disappointed by the results, the studio's fortunes are expected to turn around in a big way next month with "It: Chapter Two," the sequel to the highest grossing horror film ever with $700 million grossed worldwide.
As for Haddish and McCarthy, they will be heading back to comedies this winter: McCarthy will star in "Superintelligence," another collaboration between her and her husband, director Ben Falcone, and Haddish will star in the Paramount comedy "Like a Boss" alongside Rose Byrne. Both comedies are expected to have little impact on a winter box office that will be led by blockbusters like "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" and prestige films like "Little Women."