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Sam Mendes’ World War I epic 1917 conquered the box office battlefield with a stellar $36.5 million weekend, one of the best nationwide starts ever for the month of January and well ahead of projections.
The victory was fueled by the movie’s top Golden Globe wins on Jan. 5 for best motion picture for a drama and best director, along with word of mouth generated by the film’s limited run in select theaters. (Including those grosses, its domestic tally through Sunday stands at $39.2 million).
Overseas, 1917 also marched to strong numbers on the eve of Monday’s Oscar nominations, earning $19.9 million from its first 30 markets for an early foreign tally of $21.1 million and $60.4 million globally. The U.K. led with a stellar $9.5 million, a bigger bow than that of such hits as The King’s Speech and Darkest Hour, not adjusted for inflation.
Heading into the weekend, the Amblin and Universal release — filmed to appear as if it were unfolding in one continuous shot — had been expected to earn $20 million to $25 million, considering it is a period war pic with no A-list stars in the lead roles.
The film, which received an A- CinemaScore, drew an audience that was 60 percent male and skewed older (50 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 35). 1917 cost Amblin a reported $90 million to produce before marketing; partners included New Republic Pictures and eOne.
The Mendes effort wrested the box office crown from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which finally fell to No. 2 in its fourth weekend with $15 million as it prepares to join the billion-dollar club globally. The Disney and Lucasfilm pic grossed another $24.2 million offshore for a worldwide cume of $989.6 million.
Holiday holdover Jumanji: The Next Level followed with $14 million in its fifth outing for a domestic tally of $257.1 million and $414 million overseas, including $22.6 million for the weekend. The sequel’s worldwide total stands at $671.1 million.
Paramount’s Like a Boss had to settle for fourth place in its debut with $10 million. The first studio R-rated comedy of 2020 stars Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek and tells the tale of two best friends whose beauty company is targeted by a cosmetics titan.
Like a Boss was lambasted by critics, but it fared somewhat better with audiences, who gave it a B CinemaScore. Roughly 60 percent of ticket buyers were female, while 64 percent were age 18 to 34.
Warner Bros. is also reporting a $10 million weekend for the legal drama Just Mercy, although most box office analysts believe Like a Boss will prevail when final numbers are released Monday.
Similar to 1917, Just Mercy first opened in select theaters on Christmas Day. The film, however, was shut out of the Globes race. Just Mercy stars Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, and received an A+ Cinemascore. Almost half of ticket buyers were 50 and older, while 60 percent were female.
Little Women came in at No. 6 with another $7.7 million for a strong domestic total of $74 million. The Sony pic has crossed the $100 million worldwide mark after finishing Sunday with an early foreign total of $33.2 million.
The big misfire among the weekend’s new offerings was the $50 million sci-fi thriller Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart. The pic debuted to an estimated $7 million for Chernin Entertainment and financing partner TSG and is almost sure to lose money. Disney took over distribution duties upon acquiring 20th Century Fox.
Overseas, Underwater earned $7.1 million from 22 markets for a global bow of $14.1 million.
The movie, about a group of stranded scientists who discover mysterious creatures at the bottom of the ocean, was lambasted by critics and audiences alike, evidenced by a dismal C CinemaScore.
Underwater is the second high-profile miss in a row for Stewart, following Charlie’s Angels (nor did Haddish have a good weekend; her last film was The Kitchen). The pic’s cast also includes Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie and T.J. Miller.
Holdover Knives Out followed at No. 8 with $5.7 million for $139.6 million domestically and $265.4 million worldwide.
Frozen 2, which came in ninth domestically, finished Sunday with $1.371 billion in global ticket sales to become the No. 11 movie of all time after passing Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($1.333 billion), the final Harry Potter pic ($1.342 billion) and Black Panther ($1.348 billion).
Fox and Disney’s Christmas animated pic Spies in Disguise rounded out the top 10 with $5.1 million for a global haul of $115 million in a win for Blue Sky Studios. Chernin Entertainment produced.
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