This weekend, it was a showdown between Marvel's newest Avenger, aliens, and trolls. And all three won.
"Arrival," a cerebral movie about aliens starring Amy Adams, was not expected to beat Benedict Cumberbatch's "Doctor Strange" in its second weekend. The Marvel sorcerer's film held on remarkably well, declining less than 50 percent to finish with an estimated $43.0 million. And last week's other new hit, "Trolls," had even better staying power, losing less than 25 percent of last week's business and holding on to second place with an estimated $35.1 million. That is very good (and rare) for an animated film.
"Arrival" opened at No. 3 with a stronger-than-expected $24.0 million, according to studio estimates, which amounts to a very good $10,358 per screen. Maybe Paramount is kicking itself right now for releasing "Arrival" in only a modest 2,317 theaters; another thousand, and it could have beaten "Trolls" for second place. Nonetheless, this was a good weekend for nearly everyone at the multiplex, with an overall gross of about $157 million. Here's who, besides Cumberbatch and Marvel, came out on top.
1. Disney and Marvel
On Saturday, Marvel's step-parent company announced it has beaten its own domestic record and sold $2.3 billion worth of movie tickets in North America this year. (Disney is also having a record year in international ticket sales.) "Strange" is a major contributor to that total, with $153 million earned stateside so far and a global take of $493 million.
So far, $54 million of "Strange's" worldwide take comes from the giant screens, as viewers cough up premium fees to catch the film's spectacle in all its eye-grabbing glory.
3. Fox Knows Kids Movies
With $94 million earned in 10 days, "Trolls" has already surpassed this fall's fellow family toon hit "Storks" ($70 million) and will soon overtake "The Angry Birds Movie" ($108 million). The movie's strong holding power is also good news for Fox, since "Trolls" has less than two more weeks to hoard cash before Disney's "Moana" opens.
4. Amy Adams
She's an acclaimed actress, but she doesn't usually sell movie tickets unless she's part of an ensemble ("Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," "American Hustle"). But with her newest film coming in almost $7 million higher than predicted, the numbers suggest she really can carry a movie.
That bodes well for her thriller "Nocturnal Animals," opening next weekend, unless audiences feel Adamsed-out.
The studio has had a terrible 2016, with such massive flops as "Ben-Hur" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," as well as box office disappointments like "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" and "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back." No wonder Paramount was too wary to give "Arrival" a release on 3,000+ screens.
Still, it spent just $20 million to acquire "Arrival," and if the movie finishes around $80 million in North America, that modest investment will be money well spent.
The producer of seemingly every hit African-American ensemble comedy in recent years that didn't feature Tyler Perry, Packer scored another modest hit this weekend with "Almost Christmas."
The holiday-themed family-reunion comedy opened in fourth place with an estimated $15.6 million, about what was predicted. That's not "Strange" money, but with a budget of just $17 million, and with Christmas on viewers' minds for the next few weeks, the film looks like a profitable hit in the making. It's certainly a crowd-pleaser, judging by the healthy A- it earned from ticket buyers surveyed by CinemaScore.
Box office pundits have been wondering throughout the fall where all the adults are who've been expected to show up for the season's prestige dramas and thoughtful thrillers. They finally showed up this weekend, it seems, with "Arrival" drawing 85 percent of its crowd from viewers 25 or older.
The 25+ audience made up 60 percent of "Almost Christmas" viewers. And of course, it's also older viewers who've been coming out to see World War II drama "Hacksaw Ridge," in fifth place in its second weekend with an estimated $10.8 million (down just 22 percent from a week ago) and a total so far of $32.2 million. The grown-ups are out there; they just didn't much care for Hollywood's offerings this fall, until now.
One movie that did not benefit from the weekend? Naomi Watts' new thriller, "Shut In." It premiered in seventh place with a poor $3.7 million. This is one movie grown-ups didn't flock to see, maybe because the critics found it more laughable than thrilling. Paying customers seemed to agree, judging by the film's dismal C grade at CinemaScore.
Still, some pundits were predicting that the much-ridiculed "Shut In" would open as low as $1 million, yet it did nearly four times as well as expected. So it's a victory of sorts for Watts. A cup of holiday cheer for everyone!