‘Smile’ Overperforms With Great $22 Million, But It Can’t Turn The Box Office Frowns Upside Down As ‘Bros’ Flops
Paramount’s cleverly promoted horror film Smile may be full of terror and trauma, but it is the sole bright spot in the box office this weekend, opening to $22 million and coming in first place by a huge margin. The $17 million budgeted scarefest nabbed the best opening since Bullet Train nearly two months ago, beating out bigger budget and more hyped titles such as The Woman King and Don't Worry Darling. This is all from a film that was once planned to go straight to Paramount+, only changing direction and ultimately getting a 3,645 theater launch after a strong response from test audiences. Time will tell if it has the legs that The Black Phone had (grossing $89.9 million from a $23.6 million opening) and Barbarian is having (opening to $10.5 million and now at $33.1 million after four weekends, and that’s off a budget of just $4 million), but this is a great opening even if it it plays like a more typically frontloaded horror film from here. The better than expected hold following its $8.2 million Friday-plus-previews gross bodes well for its long term potential, as do the pretty good reviews (75% on Rotten Tomatoes) and the not bad for a horror film B- CinemaScore. Internationally the film grossed an additional $14.5 million for a global cume of $36.5 million.

Unfortunately, the rest of the box office has little to celebrate. The $63.4 million overall weekend box office is the best since August 19-21, but it is still the sixth weekend in a row to have the distinction of being worse than any pre-pandemic weekend in over two decades. One pretty good opening each weekend is not enough to sustain the box office, and the blockbusters can’t come soon enough, though a stronger turnout on smaller films, especially from adult audiences, would also be necessary for the numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Last week’s champ Don’t Worry Darling came in second place, following up its respectable $19.4 million opening with a lackluster $7.3 million weekend two. The film was expected to be frontloaded, with its opening being driven by Harry Styles fans, but the weekend two drop of 62% and the domestic cume of $32.8 million is still underwhelming here. The $35 million budgeted thriller is holding better abroad, down 40% in holdover markets and bringing the global total to $54.7 million.

The Woman King took third place with $7 million, down just 36% in its third weekend and bringing its cume to $46.7 million. As expected, the killer word of mouth is leading to strong holds, though it still has a long road to make back its $50 million budget. The international footprint has been limited so far, bringing in just $3.4 million, but it ramps up its piecemeal expansion next weekend with Germany and U.K.

The biggest disappointment this weekend came from Universal’s Judd Apatow-produced Bros. The film had a lot going for it, being touted as the first major studio LGBTQ rom-com and winning over both critics (91% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (A CinemaScore) alike. Unfortunately, hardly anyone showed up, with the Billy Eichner-starring film grossing just $4.8 million from 3,350 screens. This is a worse debut than the summer’s sole studio live action comedy Easter Sunday, which had a $5.4 million opening and went on to gross just $13 million. Bros could do better when it’s all said and done with good word of mouth, but it's a dismal opening not just for the $22 million film but for the comedy genre as a whole, which is beginning to look like an endangered species. 10+ years ago, this likely could have done a mid to high teens opening a la director Nicholas Stoller’s earlier films Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, which both went on to gross $60+ million domestically. Nowadays, comedies are a much tougher sell without major stars and wall to wall special effects in the mix.

Fifth place went to the re-release of Avatar, which grossed $4.7 million this weekend, down 55% from the last frame. This is a good hold for a re-release, and the post second weekend cume is $19 million domestically and $58 million internationally. The highest grossing movie of all time worldwide may not need more money, but the interest here is a great sign for this December’s release of Avatar: The Way of Water, the 13 years in the waiting sequel.

The biggest per-theater average ($8k) in the top ten came from the Indian historical epic Ponniyin Selvan: I, grossing $4 million from 500 theaters via Sarigama for a sixth place finish. The Tamil language film is the first of a two-parter, with the second half expected to come out next year.