LOS ANGELES, Feb 26 (Variety.com) - "Get Out," a trenchant horror film about race relations, rode critical raves to a smashing box office debut. The low-budget film was the weekend's top-grossing domestic release, earning $30.5 million, and propelling its director and writer Jordan Peele onto the Hollywood A-list. The film, which centers on a black man who discovers that his girlfriend's liberal, lily-white hometown is guarding a sinister secret, marks a departure for Peele, who is best-known for his work on the Comedy Central series "Key & Peele." It proves he can handle scares, as well as laughs, supplying sly social commentary in both genres.
"Get Out" also extends Blumhouse Productions' hot hand. The film company scored earlier this year with "Split," a thriller about a man with a personality disorder that racked up $130.8 million stateside on a $9 million budget. Universal distributed, marketed, and partnered on both movies.
"Get Out" benefited from being embraced by reviewers, earning a rare 100% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the likes of the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern hailing its "explosive brilliance" and the New York Times' Manohla Dargis praising it as "exhilaratingly smart." Not the kind of notices most horror films enjoy. Its success comes as most of the movie business' gaze is affixed on the Dolby Theater, where the Academy Awards will unfold on Sunday, with "La La Land" expected to be the night's big winner.
With "Get Out" galvanizing multiplexes, two other new releases, "Collide" and "Rock Dog," collapsed.
As the newcomers stumbled, "The Lego Batman Movie" continued to show strength, racking up $19 million in its third week to push its domestic gross to $133 million.