‘Smile’ To Bring Screams & ‘Bros’ To Bring Laughs In Another Slow Weekend
This weekend and next weekend are the last two before Halloween Ends arrives to kick off the fall/winter blockbuster season and revive the box office, but until then the smaller titles are doing their best to keep the box office afloat. Last weekend’s $61.8 million overall box office cume may not have been good in absolute terms (before the pandemic it would have been the worst in decades), but it was the best weekend in over a month, and this weekend could see similar numbers with two new studio films leading the way. We’re almost out of the slump, and it turned out to not be as bad as expected.

In first place this weekend should be Paramount’s horror film Smile, which is looking at the biggest opening of the many post-summer scary movies. From first time writer/director Parker Finn, this supernatural chiller starring Sosie Bacon turns a friendly facial gesture into the creepiest sight imaginable. Once planned to come out on Paramount+, Smile was deemed worthy of a theatrical release after strong test screenings, and the critical response is as good as the word from the test audiences, with 82% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes praising it. The opening weekend gross could match the $17 million budget if not go higher, and it should continue a nice run from there given the likely positive word of mouth.

If there’s one genre that’s been conspicuously missing from the marketplace in recent years, it is the live-action comedy, and here to rectify that is Universal’s Bros. The Judd Apatow produced film is the first major studio LGBTQ romantic comedy, complete with a predominantly LGBTQ cast led by Billy Eichner in his first starring role. Eichner co-wrote the script with director Nicholas Stoller whose film Neighbors is one of the most successful comedies of the past decade with $271 million worldwide. That kind of success for a live action comedy became increasingly rare even before the pandemic, and since the pandemic the genre has begun to look like an endangered species.

This year had a strong showing from the rom-com The Lost City, which grossed $105 million, but that had an action-adventure element and Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in the lead roles. Beyond that, there was the Channing Tatum starring, $61.8 million grossing Dog, which was a lower key buddy dramedy, and the $57.7 million grossing slapstick-umentary fourquel Jackass Forever. The next highest grossing live-action comedy this year was the J.Lo/Owen Wilson rom-com Marry Me with $22.4 million, and that was better than any comedy last year excluding the ones laden with special effects (i.e. Free Guy and Ghostbusters: Afterlife). Bros does not look like it be a return to the Apatow heyday (the Stoller directed films Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek both opened around $17.5 million and finished above $60 million, and those were standard rather than unusually strong comedy showings), but it could open in the double digits, and its theatrical release is in itself a good sign. It has a terrific 96% Tomatometer, so it could have decent legs with little else on the upcoming slate to cater to those looking for a laugh. The $22 million could be hard to recoup theatrically, but it isn’t a huge burden.

Notable in limited release is A24’s latest God’s Creatures, which played in the Director’s Fortnight section at Cannes this year. Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer direct the drama which stars Emily Watson as a mother in an Irish fishing village who covers for her son when he is accused of sexual assault. Critics are calling this one a winner (94% on Rotten Tomatoes), but it doesn’t look like it will be one of A24’s breakouts.

The limited release titles most likely to crack the top ten are two new Indian films releasing ahead of the country’s Gandhi Jayanti holiday which falls on Sunday. The Hindi language action-thriller Vikram Vedha, which stars Hrithik Roshan (whose last film War grossed $4.65 million in North America) and Saif Ali Khan, has solid potential, but it will likely be bested by the Tamil language historical epic Ponniyin Selvan: I. Director Mani Ratnam’s adaptation of the iconic novel is said to be one of the most expensive Indian films ever made, and the film, which has a large ensemble that includes Aishwarya Rai, will be getting an IMAX release.