John Wick wound up in second place, while Bill Murray's St. Vincent did well in its nationwide expansion.
The top 12 earned $103.2 million this weekend, which is up nine percent from last year. This caps off a very strong month at the box office: October 2014 is already the highest-grossing October ever, and still has five days left to add to its record-setting number.
Playing at 2,858 theaters, Ouija took first place with $19.9 million. This is the second-biggest horror debut of the year ahead of January's Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones ($18.3 million); it's also above recent October releases Sinister ($18 million) and Carrie ($16.1 million).
With its young cast, PG-13 rating, and pre-Halloween release date, Ouija was a strong option for teenage moviegoers. Universal executed a targeted marketing effort that focused heavily on social media, including the first-ever integrated advertising on Snapchat. As a result, the audience for Ouija was 75 percent under the age of 25 (and 61 percent female). Also of note: Hispanic moviegoers made up 39 percent of the audience.
Even with a low budget, though, this is a very modest success. Horror movie tends to be very front-loaded, and this should be no exception: with horrible reviews, poor word-of-mouth ("C" CinemaScore), and an audience that skews very young, look for this to fall off quickly in the coming weeks. It would be surprising if Ouija earned much more than $40 million in the long run.
Opening at 2,589 theaters, John Wick took second place with an estimated $14.4 million. The Keanu Reeves thriller wasn't in the same league as recent revenge movie The Equalizer ($34.1 million), though it's also a much more modest endeavor. It did top 2014 movies like A Walk Among the Tombstones ($12.8 million) and 3 Days to Kill ($12.2 million), and was remarkably close to fellow Lionsgate release The Expendables 3 ($15.9 million).
It's tough to get too excited about a $14.4 million debut, though the fact that John Wick topped so many recent star-driven action movies is encouraging. Lionsgate's marketing did a nice job balancing story, character, and action, and strong reviews (86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) also helped give it a bit of a boost.
The movie was a solid performer in IMAX, as well: $2.5 million, or 18 percent, of its debut came from the large-format, premium-priced screens.
As expected, John Wick's audience skewed male (60 percent) and older (77 percent over 25). It received a so-so "B" CinemaScore, though anecdotally it seems like word-of-mouth is a bit better than that. The movie could theoretically wind up above $40 million, though it's a tough landscape ahead: Halloween is going to suppress business next weekend, while the one-two punch of Interstellar and Big Hero 6 is going to be tough to compete with the following week.
In third place, Fury fell 44 percent to $13.4 million. Considering the movie's positive reviews/word-of-mouth and older audience, it really should have held a bit better than this. Fury has now earned $46.4 million, and is on track for around $70 million total.
Gone Girl added $11.04 million, which was off 37 percent (its steepest drop yet). To date, the movie has taken in $124 million, and will soon pass The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($127.5 million) to become David Fincher's highest-grossing movie ever.
The Book of Life rounded out the Top Five with $10.05 million. That's off 41 percent from last weekend, which isn't a particularly good hold for an animated movie (The Boxtrolls only fell 31 percent at the beginning of the month). Through 10 days, The Book of Life has grossed $30.2 million.
After two weeks in limited release, St. Vincent expanded to 2,282 theaters and earned $7.75 million. That doesn't compare favorably to the typical Melissa McCarthy movie, though the actress isn't the focus in St. Vincent's marketing.
It's tricky to make a call on this movie's success right now. If it had bypassed the platform release entirely, this weekend wouldn't look so hot. But as a nationwide expansion for an indie release, $7.75 million is a very solid number. Ultimately, St. Vincent's fate will be determined in the coming weeks: if positive word-of-mouth keeps it afloat past $30 million, this would be a nice little hit.
After a fantastic New York/Los Angeles launch last weekend, Birdman expanded to 50 theaters and earned $1.38 million. That translates to a $27,593 per-theater average; that's a bit below recent Woody Allen movies Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, which had similar second weekend expansions.
Still, this is a strong figure that reinforces Birdman's broad appeal. Fox Searchlight plans to have the movie in at least 225 theaters next weekend.
Dear White People expanded to 384 theaters this weekend and grossed an estimated $1.31 million. That's essentially on par with fellow Roadside Attractions movie The Skeleton Twins, which earned $1.23 million when it expanded to 385 locations. That movie is on track for over $5 million total, which is a possible outcome for Dear White People as well.
Faith-based football drama 23 Blast opened to an estimated $402,000 from 617 theaters. That's one of the worst nationwide debuts ever (joining last weekend's Men, Women & Children in that club).
Edward Snowden documentary Citzenfour scored an impressive $125,000 from five theaters this weekend. Meanwhile, A24's Laggies opened to $78,500 at five theaters.
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This Weekend's Forecast:
• 'Ouija' Set to Spook 'John Wick' This Weekend
This Weekend in Past Years
• 2013 - Good 'Grandpa,' Bad 'Counselor'
• 2012 - 'Argo' Ahead of Four Dreadful Debuts
• 2011 - 'Puss' Purrs Softly
• 2010 - 'Saw' Sharpens with "Final Chapter," 'Paranormal Activity' Fades
• 2009 - 'Michael Jackson' Strikes Top Spot
• 2008 - 'Zack and Miri,' 'Changeling' Contribute to Bleak Halloween
• 2007 - 'Saw IV' Loses Little Blood
• 2006 - 'Saw' Sharp in Third Outing
• 2005 - 'Saw II' Gores 'Zorro' on Halloween Weekend
• Weekend Box Office Results
• All-Time Domestic