Box Office: ‘Haunted Mansion’ $9.9 Million Opening Day Can’t Scare ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’
By J. Kim Murphy
J. Kim Murphy
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“ Barbie ” and “ Oppenheimer ” ain’t afraid of no ghost.
Disney’s new “ Haunted Mansion ” is settling for third place behind the formidable pair of blockbusters. The reimagining earned $9.9 million from 3,740 locations on its opening day, a figure that includes $3.1 million in Thursday previews. The family-friendly funhouse feature was projecting an opening between $25 million and $30 million, a range that some rivals predict the debut will end up falling short of.
No doubt that a swath of family audiences have kept their attention on “Barbie.” “Haunted Mansion” simply doesn’t have the critical buzz to keep up, turning in a low 27% approval rating from top critics on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences are more friendly with a “B+” grade through research firm Cinema Score, but the Disney remake could certainly use some stronger sentiment than that.
Directed by Justin Simien, who showed teeth with “Dear White People” and the horror satire “Bad Hair,” “Haunted Mansion” draws inspiration from the Disneyland theme park ride of the same name. The attraction spawned a feature starring Eddie Murphy in 2003, which flipped a $90 million production budget for a $180 million global gross. This new entry recruits a substantial cast that includes LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Dan Levy, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jared Leto.
Also opening this weekend, A24 is putting its latest horror play “Talk to Me” in 2,340 locations. The Australian ghost story was acquired by the indie banner after a buzzy screening at the Sundance Film Festival. With some positive reviews on its side, the film is projected to open in sixth place with a solid $10.1 million gross.
It’s impressive for a film like “Barbie,” which opened north of $150 million, to be projecting a drop of less than 50%. Most blockbusters with that immediate impact face a sharper tumble in their sophomore outings. It all speaks to the superlative one-two punch behind the Greta Gerwig-directed feature: ubiquitous build-up marketing and the perception of quality that delivered.
The hot-pink fantasia will push its domestic total beyond $350 million this weekend, already making it the fourth-highest grossing North American release of the year in just 10 days. It’ll likely pass “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” ($377 million) and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” ($358 million) within the next week, only leaving “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($574 million) ahead of it on 2023 charts.
Universal’s “Oppenheimer” is maintaining second place, projecting a $46 million haul from 3,647 theaters. That’d notch an impressive 44% drop from its opening and would be enough to rank as the fifth-biggest sophomore outing ever for an R-rated release.
The Christopher Nolan feature would probably have landed an even stronger hold if it wasn’t playing strongly throughout the week. On Thursday, “Oppenheimer” became the first R-rated release to sell more than $10 million in tickets for seven days in a row. A big factor to that is the film’s play in Imax. Audiences believe that a Nolan feature demands a huge screen; that’s left consumers motivated to set aside time during the week to land a ticket for one of those premium large formats.
“Oppenheimer” should push its domestic haul to $173 million through Sunday, enough to slot it as the eighth-highest grossing North American release of the year after 10 days of release. It’s already the biggest non-IP production of the year too.
“Sound of Freedom” looks to take fourth, with rivals projecting another slim drop (-31%) this weekend, for a $13 million gross through the three-day frame. The film was acquired by Angel Studios from 20th Century Studios after the acquisition of Fox by Disney; it’s proven a wise investment. Rolling Stone has deemed “Sound of Freedom” a “QAnon-tinged thriller” that targets “the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer” — but controversy has likely only gotten more eyeballs on the film as religious and conservative media groups rally behind it.
With a total domestic gross likely reaching $150 million this weekend, a finish above $200 million and among the top 10 highest-earners of the year does seem to be in the cards. Angel Studios has instituted an unconventional “Pay It Forward” system, allowing people to donate money to the distribution banner so that the studio can purchase tickets for its own movie and distribute them for free. The company touts the initiative as a tool to raise awareness on child trafficking. Regardless of what fraction of those admissions end up redeemed, that’s all still money in the pocket for exhibitors.
The Paramount release will hit $139 million through Sunday, still tracking behind what its predecessor “Fallout” earned through the same stretch of time ($161 million). With a production budget skirting $300 million, “Dead Reckoning” has been dealt a tough hand at the box office, facing stiff competition for viewers by contending against “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” and even “Sound of Freedom.”
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