John Wick wasn't far behind with an estimated $870,000 on Thursday night. That number essentially guarantees that the movie earns over $10 million this weekend, and points to a likely finish north of $15 million.
Forecast: After a few busy weeks at the box office, look for things to quiet down a bit this weekend.
Horror movie Ouija—based off the "game"—should open in first place with around $20 million. Meanwhile, John Wick will likely open behind holdovers Fury (2014) and Gone Girl.
At 2,858 theaters, Ouija is poised to do solid business with teen moviegoers this weekend. The movie revolves around a group of teens who try to connect with their deceased friend via a Ouija board, and inadvertently summon an evil spirit instead. The low-budget horror movie is from Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes and Jason Blum's Blumhouse; that's the same pairing that recently put together the two Purge movies.
The marketing material has been suitably creepy, though it's nothing that hasn't been seen before. Ouija is still going to avoid the fate of 2014 horror duds like Deliver Us From Evil and The Quiet Ones, though, thanks to its strong brand. The boards have been around since the early 20th century, and most people have some kind of experience with them (that experience might be making fun of the crazy kid who thinks it's real, but still). Add in the PG-13 rating, and this is a strong option for groups of teen moviegoers.
The weeks leading up to Halloween have historically been a good place to release a horror movie. For years, that frame belonged to the Saw franchise, until it was usurped by the Paranormal Activity sequels. Most of these movies opened over $20 million, with two of the Paranormal Activity movies going above $45 million.
Without a Saw or Paranormal Activity movie on the calendar last year, the Carrie remake was the sole Halloween horror movie. It earned a decent $16.1 million in its first three days. Fandango reports that Ouija is out-selling Carrie, and Universal is publicly expecting a debut in the high-teen-millions.
Horror movies tend to be very front-loaded, as do movies targeted toward teens: since Ouija fits both of those criteria, look for it to open big on Friday and fall off quickly through the weekend.
Opening at 2,589 theaters, John Wick finds Keanu Reeves back in action star mode. Reeves plays the title character, a former hitman who returns to his old ways to enact vengeance on a set of gangsters who offed his dog.
Lionsgate has done a nice job selling John Wick to action movie fans. Advertisements (which have been running heavily on male-leaning programming) have clearly set up the premise, and showcased plenty of action. They also feature Reeves delivering the very meta line "Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back," which could be viewed as a wink to the fact that he has been largely out of the action movie game since The Matrix trilogy concluded a decade ago.
John Wick should also benefit from some impressive reviews: as of Thursday afternoon, it's at 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Still, the movie can't shake the feeling that it's a for-guys-only affair akin to the work of Jason Statham, whose movies typically wind up in the $7-to-$12 million range on opening weekend. It would be surprising if John Wick opened dramatically higher than that.
After two weeks in limited release, St. Vincent expands to 2,282 theaters this weekend. The movie stars Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, and has received solid reviews (73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
McCarthy is a huge draw, as evidenced by Tammy's $84.5 million haul (she was essentially the only selling point for it). She hasn't really been central to the marketing campaign, though: instead, the movie's true star, Murray, has been front-and-center. It's the first lead role for the comedy icon in quite some time, and die-hard fans of his will likely turn out in the next few weeks.
The movie does appear to toe the line between comedy and drama, which makes it a tougher sell than a straightforward comedy. Still, with a decent marketing push and a 2,000-plus theater release, it should be in line for at least $5 million this weekend.
Football drama 23 Blast opens at 617 theaters this weekend. The movie is inspired by the true story of Travis Freeman, who went blind as a teenager and still managed to play on his high school football team. Freeman is now a pastor, and credits his faith with helping him get through this traumatic experience. The movie does appear to have a faith angle to it, and is being marketed to that potentially lucrative audience.
This year has turned out a handful of major faith-based hits, though there have also been a number of misses: The Identical and Persecuted both opened nationwide, and both closed with less than $3 million. In each of those cases, the faith angle wasn't at the forefront of the marketing. That appears to be the case with 23 Blast as well: the tagline "Vision Comes From Within" might be a reference, but it's unclear.
Faith-based sports movies like Home Run, Facing the Giants and Seven Days in Utopia all managed to open over $1 million via a moderate release (300 to 600 theaters). Look for 23 Blast to also hit that level—though it probably won't go much higher.
After averaging a stellar $31,633 at 11 theaters last weekend, Dear White People is expanding to 384 locations on Friday. It will be interesting to see if the movie's great reception in these select markets can translate in to a strong run outside of major cities.
Forecast (October 24-26)
1. Ouija - $22 million
2. Fury - $14.9 million (-37%)
3. Gone Girl - $13 million (-26%)
4. John Wick - $12.5 million
5. The Book of Life - $11.5 million (-32%)
-. St. Vincent - $6 million
Bar for Success
Ouija should at least be matching last year's Carrie remake ($16.1 million). John Wick gets a pass if it cracks $10 million.
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• Last Weekend's Forecast: 'Fury' to Invade Top Spot This Weekend
• Last Weekend's Report: 'Fury' Topples 'Gone Girl,' 'Birdman' Soars in Limited Release