Box Office: 'Midway' Battles Past Comatose 'Doctor Sleep' With $17.5M

Midway and Doctor Sleep Split- Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Reiner Bajo

'Doctor Sleep' stalled out at $14.1 million, while 'Playing With Fire' topped 'Last Christmas' in the weekend's second upset.

Veterans Day weekend was a washout at the North American box office as an army of new movies disappointed.

Roland Emmerich’s pricey World War II epic Midway may have topped the chart with a better-than-expected $17.5 million from 4,086 theaters in a surprise upset over the horror-thriller Doctor Sleep, but it was somewhat of a hollow victory considering Midway's $100 million budget (luckily, U.S. and U.K. distributor Lionsgate carved out a deal that will leave the studio in the black).

Warner Bros.' Doctor Sleep — a sequel to The Shining — had been expected to easily win the weekend with $25 million or more. Instead, the Stephen King adaptation debuted to a drowsy $14.1 million domestically from 3,855 locations. It is also faring poorly overseas, where it earned $13.1 million from 68 markets for a foreign tally of $20 million and a global cume of $34.1 million.

A big chunk of frequent moviegoers aren’t well-versed in the mythology of The Shining, which opened in theaters 39 years ago, and felt no urgency to see the R-rated follow-up, which cost north of $50 million to produce and stars Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Danny Torrance. There also was the issue of Doctor Sleep's running time of roughly 151 minutes, and a post-Halloween release.

Midway, which chronicles the famous WWII battle in the Pacific between American and Japanese forces, is billed as one of the most expensive indie projects ever made. The film is produced by Emmerich's company Centropolis and financed by Chinese money and foreign sales arranged by AGC International.

Emmerich is hopeful that Midway — fueled domestically by a strong turnout in America's heartland — will follow the course of Mel Gibson's World War II pic Hacksaw Ridge (2016), which grossed $175.2 million globally, including a robust $62 million in China, where audiences were drawn in by the scenes of the Japanese being defeated. (One difference: Hacksaw Ridge was a key player in the Oscar race.

Midway has earned a subdued $21.8 million so far internationally, including a China debut in the $15 million to $16 million range for local distributor Bona. The film stars Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas. Lionsgate, also home of Hacksaw Ridge, timed the film's U.S. release to Veterans Day, and the studio is predicting a four-day gross of $20.1 million. Heading into the weekend, Midway was tracking to open in the low- to mid-teen millions domestically.

In a second upset of the weekend, Paramount's family-friendly Playing With Fire beat Universal's early holiday rom-com Last Christmas, which stars Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke.

Playing With Fire grossed an estimated $12.8 million from 3,125 theaters. The PG-rated film, directed by Andy Fickman, stars John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo and Tyler Mane as a group of firefighters who face their most challenging job yet: babysitting.

Internationally, Playing With Fire grossed $2.5 million from its first 10 markets for a global total of $15.3 million.

Last Christmas debuted on the low end of expectations with $11.6 million from 3,448 locations. The pic, directed by Paul Feig from a script by Emma Thompson, cost a modest $30 million to produce. Last Christmas, inspired by the George Michael-penned Wham! song, also stars Thompson and Michelle Yeoh. Females made up 65 percent of ticket buyers.

The Universal film debuted to $3.1 million from 10 overseas markets, including a first-place finish in Australia with $1.6 million, for a global start of $14.7 million.

In terms of audience grades, Midway earned an A despite being savaged by many critics. Doctor Sleep and Playing With Fire each received by a B+, while Last Christmas garnered a lukewarm B-.

Elsewhere, Terminator: Dark Fate, which rounded out the top five, fell a steep 63 percent in its second weekend to $10.8 million domestically. It earned another $29.9 million offshore for a foreign total of $150.9 million and a troubled $199.4 million globally. The big-budget tentpole will easily lose $120 million or more for partners Skydance, Paramount, Fox/Disney and Tencent.

Warners' box office sensation Joker followed with another $9.2 million all the way in its sixth weekend as it races toward the $1 billion mark globally. Its worldwide tally through Sunday stands at $984.7 million.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which crossed the $400 million mark globally late last week, earned another $8 million domestically over the weekend for a North American total of $97.3 million. The sequel has been largely powered by the foreign box office, where it has earned $333 million to date for a worldwide cume of $430.5 million through Sunday.

At the specialty box office, Amazon Studios opened Honey Boy in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Filmmaker Alma Har'el's critically acclaimed film, written by and starring Shia LaBeouf, posted a strong theater average of $72,206, one of the best showings of the year for a specialty pic.