Weekend Box Office Forecast: 'Girl on the Train', 'Birth of a Nation' and 'Middle School'

by Brad Brevet

October 6, 2016

SATURDAY AM UPDATE: As expected, it will be Universal and DreamWorks's The Girl on the Train at the top of the weekend box office as the film brought in an estimated $9.35 million on Friday and is heading toward a $26+ million opening. Reviews for the film, unfortunately, settled in around a 43% rating on RottenTomatoes and the CinemaScore from opening day audiences was only a "B-", which doesn't bode all that well for its future prospects.

Fox Searchlight's The Birth of a Nation is also right on track to match expectations. The Oscar hopeful earned an estimated $2.6 million on Friday and is looking at a $7.5-8 million three-day opening. The film also performed just as well with opening day audiences as it did with critics, scoring an "A" CinemaScore.

Finally, the trend continues as Lionsgate and CBS's Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is also right on track to match expectations, pulling in an estimated $1.95 million on Friday and heading toward an opening right around $6.5-7 million. The film scored an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

You can check out all the Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete weekend wrap-up.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Universal and DreamWorks's The Girl on the Train brought in $1.23 million from Thursday late night shows in 2,401 theaters. This is a strong start as it is just behind the $1.25 million Gone Girl brought in from Thursday screenings before opening with $37.5 million two years ago. It's also just ahead of what Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children brought in last weekend before opening with $28.8 million.

Additionally, Fox Searchlight's The Birth of a Nation brought in ~350,000 from 1,500 theaters last night. This keeps the film well within expectations as that total is just $15,000 behind what Free State of Jones brought in on Thursday night earlier this year.

We'll be back tomorrow morning with a look at Friday estimates. You can read our weekend preview directly below.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: For a second week in a row, North American multiplexes welcome three new wide releases into theaters. This weekend that includes Universal and DreamWorks's The Girl on the Train along with Fox Searchlight's Sundance pickup and Oscar hopeful The Birth of a Nation. Meanwhile, Lionsgate and CBS will be targeting family audiences with the adaptation of Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. Overall, the weekend is, once again, looking to be down compared to the same weekend last year with the top twelve hovering right around $97 million altogether, but there is one additional factor to take note of.

Estimates have suggested a -5% effect could be had on the weekend box office due to Hurricane Matthew which has intensified to a Category 4 with winds of at least 140 miles per hour. Yesterday governors of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina declared a state of emergency and today Florida Governor Rick Scott told 1.5 million people to evacuate their homes. The hurricane is already being blamed for over 100 deaths in Haiti and is looking to have a significant impact on the Atlantic coast. reports chains including AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Cobb Theaters have announced they will be closing venues from Florida to South Carolina.

As for our box office forecast, Universal and DreamWorks are looking at a #1 finish with the release of The Girl on the Train, an adaptation of Paula Hawkins' best-selling novel starring Emily Blunt and directed by Tate Taylor (The Help). Early reviews have been mixed-to-negative with the film currently holding a 45% rating on RottenTomatoes. However, audience interest seems to be on an uptick with IMDb page view data showing it outperforming Prisoners ($20.8m opening) at the same point in the release cycle while at the same time trailing Gone Girl ($37.5m opening). Based on the data available, an opening weekend range around $26-28 million seems apt.

Before getting to the rest of the week's new releases, last weekend's two new releases should land in the #2 and #3 slots, beginning with last weekend's #1 film, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Tim Burton's latest feature finished just shy of $30 million last weekend and earned a "B+" CinemaScore to go along with a 64% RottenTomatoes score, as such we're looking at a drop right around 49% for a $14.7 million sophomore session.

Lionsgate's Deepwater Horizon conjured up a $20.2 million opening last weekend to go along with strong reviews (83% on RT) and an "A-" CinemaScore. The film has been playing well so far this week and, as a result, we're forecasting a slightly smaller drop, somewhere around 44%, and a $11+ million second weekend and we wouldn't be surprised to see it end up a little higher.

It isn't until fifth place where we find the biggest question mark of the weekend and the second of this weekend's three new wide releases. Fox Searchlight picked up world rights to writer, director and star Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation at this year's Sundance Film Festival for a Sundance-record $17.5 million. Since then the film has been mired in controversy, largely stemming from Parker's involvement in a 1999 rape case to which Birth of a Nation co-star Gabrielle Union responded in the "Los Angeles Times", laying bare her "stomach-churning confusion".

Heading into the weekend, even more fuel has been thrown on the fire with a new story at The Hollywood Reporter headlined "How 'The Birth of a Nation' Dishonors Rosa Parks and Black Female Activists" while rape activists will be holding a silent candlelight vigil at the Arclight Hollywood on Thursday night. Critics have already shown their approval of the film (77% on RT), but there is clearly a group of people online that have decided to show their disapproval as the film currently holds a 4.8 User Rating on IMDb. All of which leads to the question, How much of an effect will the controversy have on the film's box office performance?

Industry tracking is suggesting an opening around $7-8 million and that would appear to be spot on based on the IMDb page view comparisons we're examining, which includes Free State of Jones and Dope, as well as the wide releases of Fruitvale Station and St. Vincent. If anything, a weekend around $9 million would seem to be the ceiling and $6 million something of a worst case scenario.

The last of the weekend's new wide releases is Lionsgate and CBS's Middle School. The film, which is targeting family audiences with children ages 6-12, is based on James Patterson's "New York Times" bestselling novel that served as the beginning of his "Middle School" series. As such, the immediate comparison that comes to mind is Fox's Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, which has already spawned three films with a fourth set for release next May. The "Middle School" series, however, doesn't necessarily carry the same weight as "Wimpy Kid", which does make an apples-to-apples comparison a little more difficult and tells us a $20+ million opening such as the first Wimpy Kid movie saw is not in the offing.

In fact, other comparisons such as The DUFF and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day would suggest an opening weekend range of $10-18 million, but IMDb page view data shows Middle School trending well below both films at the same point in the release cycle. Overall, a three-day around $6.8 million might be the best bet with an off-chance it pops a little higher.

In limited release, Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time hits IMAX theaters this weekend; Well Go will release Phantasm: Remastered; The Orchard will premiere Blue Jay in one theater; Mirzya will be released in 95 theaters; and Rialto is releasing a remastered version of Battle of Algiers into three theaters.

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • The Girl on the Train (3,144 theaters) - $26.5 M
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (3,705 theaters) - $14.7 M
  • Deepwater Horizon (3,259 theaters) - $11.5 M
  • The Magnificent Seven (3,696 theaters) - $9.5 M
  • The Birth of a Nation (2,105 theaters) - $7.7 M
  • Storks (3,608 theaters) - $7.3 M
  • Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (2,822 theaters) - $6.8 M
  • Sully (3,058 theaters) - $5.1 M
  • Masterminds (3,042 theaters) - $2.9 M
  • Don't Breathe (1,066 theaters) - $1.5 M

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.

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