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David Fincher‘s R-rated film adaptation of Gone Girl may have lost the Friday race to a demonic doll, but the dark adult drama is expected to overtake Annabelle Saturday and win the weekend with $36.5 million or more — the biggest opening of Fincher’s career.
It would also mark one of the top North American openings for Ben Affleck, who stars opposite Rosamund Pike in 20th Century Fox and New Regency’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn‘s popular novel. Fincher’s top opening is Panic Room, which opened to $30.1 million in 2002.
Mircobudgeted horror film Annabelle, a prequel to box-office hit The Conjuring, is also prospering and won Friday with $15.5 million from 3,185 theaters for a projected $34 million weekend. That’s a sizable victory for New Line and Warner Bros., considering Annabelle cost just $6.5 million to make. Gone Girl earned $13.2 million Friday from 3,014 theaters.
Some box office observers caution that with the Yom Kippur holiday, the landscape could shift, making for a closer race between the two films, which are each providing a needed boost for the North American box office following the worst September in six years.
It’s not a surprise that Gone Girl received a B CinemaScore, considering its polarizing subject matter. The film, about the torments of marriage, has plenty of pedigree between Fincher, the cast and Flynn’s novel, which has sold more than 6 million copies in hardcover. Flynn also wrote the adapted script for the movie, which opened the New York Film Festival Sept. 26, sparking immediate debate as to whether it will be an awards contender.
Adult dramas generally don’t open big but can have impressive legs. That holds true for virtually all of Fincher’s films. The Social Network opened to $22.5 million domestically on its way to earning $95 million. And two years before that, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, benefiting from stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, debuted to $26.9 million on its way to earning $127.5 million domestically.
Ben Affleck‘s Argo also built slowly, opening to $19.5 million on its way to winning the Oscar and earning $136 million domestically.
Heading into the weekend, Fox predicted that that Gone Girl, also starring Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris, would open in the $20 million to $22 million range.
New Line and Warner Bros. were likewise cautious, saying they’d be thrilled if Annabelle crossed $20 million, considering the film’s tiny budget. The movie earned a B CinemaScore (horror titles often get a C).
Returning John R. Leonetti in the director’s chair, Annabelle stars Alfre Woodard, Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton. The film has garnered strong interest among younger moviegoers, who tend to turn out en masse on opening weekend.
The weekend’s other new nationwide offering, Nicolas Cage‘s faith-based thriller Left Behind, is expected to come in No. 6 for the weekend with $7.3 million from 1,825 locations. Freestyle is distributing the independently financed film.
Reese Witherspoon‘s Sudanese refugee drama The Good Lie is only opening in 461 theaters and is off to a slow start. The film, from Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros., may only earn $1 million for the weekend. The good news: It received an A+ CinemaScore, so could benefit from word-of-mouth and build slowly.
Oct. 4, 7:45 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers.
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