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A new horror film from Paramount put a grin on moviegoers’ faces this weekend.
Parker Finn‘s debut feature Smile scared up a strong $22 million from 3,645 theaters to top the weekend chart. The horror pic started off with $8.2 million on theaters on Friday — including $2 million in previews. To boot, it cost just $17 million to make before marketing (it was originally intended for streaming) so will be a major profit generator.
From Paramount Players and Temple Hill, Smile is about a therapist (Sosie Bacon) treating a graduate student (Caitlin Stasey) who recently witnessed a gruesome suicide. Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Robin Weigert and Kal Penn co-star.
Nearly 70 percent of the audience was between ages 18-34. The movie also played to an ethnically diverse audience (40 percent Caucasian, 32 percent Latino, 16 percent Black and 12 percent Asian/Other), according to PostTrak.
Smile is the latest box office win for Paramount, and particularly for its marketing department, led by Marc Weinstock (when at 20th Century Fox, he oversaw the maverick campaign for Deadpool). Smile‘s campaign went viral in recent days when Paramount hired several people to maintain the film’s signature creepy smile when sitting behind home base at several major league baseball games.
“It was the exclamation point on a great campaign,” says Paramount president of production Chris Aronson.
Elsewhere, Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling fell off steeply in its sophomore outing domestically. The New Line film earned $2.4 million on Friday from 4,121 locations for a $7.3 million weekend, a 62 percent drop and putting the movie’s 10-day domestic total at $32.8 million.
Overseas, Don’t Worry Darling saw less of a drop in grossing $6.4 million from 67 markets for a global total of $54.7 million. And it narrowly stayed No. 2 in the U.K. with $2.1 million.
Tri-Star’s The Woman King came in No. 3 with $7 million from 3,504 cinemas — down just 36 percent — in its third weekend for a domestic cume nearing $47 million. The movie’s early foreign total is $3.9 million for a worldwide total of $50.6 million. Also this weekend, Sony celebrated Bullet Train crossing $100 million domestically and $235 million worldwide.
One film that isn’t smiling is Universal and Nicholas Stoller’s high-profile Bros, the first gay romantic comedy from a major Hollywood studio (Universal has been widely lauded for taking on the project). The movie, which cost $22 million to make, opened behind already modest expectations with $4.8 million from 3,350 theaters after earning $1.8 million on Friday.
Starring Billy Eichner, Bros was embraced by critics following its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival. It presently boasts a glowing 95 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences agreed, giving it an A CinemaScore. The movie cost $22 million to make.
THR‘s review was slightly more mixed. “And certainly the dearth of mainstream/studio gay rom-coms makes one want to embrace Bros for the representational significance alone,” wrote John DeFore. “But was it wrong to hope for something a little stranger?”
Bros‘ top 10 markets were all in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, while it is underperforming in much of the middle of the country and the south.
Eichner posted a series of tweets on Sunday. One said: “Everyone who ISN’T a homophobic weirdo should go see BROS tonight! You will have a blast! And it is special and uniquely powerful to see this particular story on a big screen, esp for queer folks who don’t get this opportunity often. I love this movie so much. GO BROS!!!.”
The rerelease of Avatar continues to please and earned $4.7 million from 1,860 theaters for a 10-day domestic total of $18.1 million and $58.1 million globally. In North America, 3D screens repped 97 percent of the gross.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was the sweeping Indian epic PS-1: Ponniyan Selvan Part One, which opened to an estimated $4.1 million from only 500 locations in the U.S. The Tamil-language film was dubbed in four other Indian languages. Nearly 30 percent of its earnings came from Imax screens.
PS:1 earned $2.1 million globally for Imax, the third biggest showing every for any Indian title. (Imax also continues to do nicely by the Avatar rerelease, contributing a global total of $10.7 million to date.)
Internationally, the George Clooney-Julia Roberts romantic comedy Ticket to Paradise, from Universal, has amassed $45 million ahead of its domestic debut on Oct 21.
Oct. 1, 8:15 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Oct. 2, 7:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Oct. 2, 11:00 a.m. Updated with foreign and Imax numbers.
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Samuel L. Jackson