It was a bad, bad weekend at the box office overall, with ticket sales down 28% from a year ago with $121.6M. The Veterans Day frame either goes one of two ways: It’s a great place to launch a blockbuster, i.e. 2012’s Skyfall ($88.3M), 2013’s Thor: Dark World (2013), or last year’s Universal/Illumination pic The Grinch ($67.5M); or it’s a great launch pad for pics which look to be solid counter-programming in the first wave of the holiday season, i.e. Arrival ($24M) or Dumb and Dumberer ($36.1M).
Let’s go back in time for a minute: November 2019 was originally set to be a gangbusters time with Wonder Woman 1984 originally on Nov 1 and MGM’s Bond 25 on this weekend. But both of those pics moved. Instead, Lionsgate rolled the dice on putting Roland Emmerich’s Midway here, betting that Bond would move, and their timing the WWII pic to Veterans Day weekend paid off, with a surprise $17.5M No. 1 opening, well ahead of $12M-$14M projections.
The big shock here this weekend is how Warner Bros, which goes toe-to-toe with Universal/Blumhouse when it comes to commanding the horror space at the B.O., was completely blindsided here by a disastrous performance of its well-reviewed (73% fresh), well-received (B+ CinemaScore and 4 stars on Screen Engine/Comscore PostTrak, 60% definite recommend) Stephen King sequel Doctor Sleep, a mid $50M-ish production that was expected to come in north of $25M and is way short in No. 2 with $14.1M. Warner Bros. is frankly baffled as to what went wrong here. How does an old property like King’s 1986 novel It go gangbusters on the big screen, and a 2013 tome that’s a sequel to The Shining not work? It has more brand equity than Doctor Sleep; the former pic’s elevator pitch –a clown terrorizing kids– easier to sell.
And to be beat by a WWII movie like Midway, a pic which received bad reviews (40% rotten), but solid exits, with an A CinemaScore and 4 Stars, 58% definite recommend on PostTrak. Lionsgate gets bragging rights here for delivering a $20.5M opening over the 4-day holiday. In a crowded holiday marketplace, being the No. 1 pic helps. Midway‘s surprise notch of No. 1 will go a long way in Lionsgate holding screens on this pic in the coming weeks.