It was a case of haves and have-nots for box office newcomers this weekend, with Paramount’s “Smile” beating box office expectations with a $22 million opening from 3,645 theaters while Universal’s “Bros” fell well short of its projections with just $4.8 million from 3,400 locations.
“Smile,” which was projected for an opening in the high teens against its $17 million production budget, actually saw a slight 4% increase in grosses from Friday to Saturday, beating industry estimates which had predicted a slight decrease after the film earned audience scores of B- on CinemaScore and a 69% positive rating on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak.
While those scores could signal a more frontloaded box office run, the word-of-mouth among hardcore horror fans still seems to be running pretty strong and giving “Smile” a chance to match the $23.6 million opening of Universal/Blumhouse’s “The Black Phone” from earlier this year if Sunday numbers also beat projections. Internationally, the film also earned $14.5 million, giving “Smile” a global launch of $36.5 million.
Chalk “Smile” up as another victory for Paramount, which has enjoyed an excellent 2022 at the box office capped by the top film of the year, “Top Gun: Maverick,” earning $1.47 billion worldwide while films like “Scream,” “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “Jackass Forever” and “The Lost City” all turned a profit. While Paramount has been quiet in the third quarter of the year — save for the studio’s lone 2022 dud, the animated acquisition “Paws of Fury” — “Smile” will provide another modest win ahead of the limited Christmas Day release of the studio’s Oscar hopeful, Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon.”
On the other hand, Universal has suffered a flop with “Bros,” the first LGBT romcom from a major studio with an entirely LGBT principal cast. Projected for an $8-10 million opening against a $22 million budget, “Bros” grossed just $4.8 million with turnout coming primarily from the nation’s top three markets: New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The only hope for “Bros” will be its strong critical and audience reception. It has Rotten Tomatoes scores of 91% critics and 92% audience, with an 80% positive rating on PostTrak and an A on CinemaScore.
But given the small size of this opening weekend audience, “Bros” is very unlikely to break-even even if word-of-mouth spread is substantial. Expect this film to hit digital platforms in a few weeks as part of Universal’s windowing agreement with major theater chains.
“Bros” opened in fourth place on the box office charts, with holdovers “Don’t Worry Darling” and “The Woman King” in between it and “Smile.” “Darling,” from Warner Bros. and New Line, is in second with $7.3 million, a stiff 62% drop from the thriller’s $19 million opening. But with a 10-day total of $32.8 million and $54.7 million worldwide, “Don’t Worry Darling” should start turning a theatrical profit after next weekend.
“The Woman King,” which is a TriStar/eOne co-production, had a solid hold in its third weekend, dropping only 36% for a $7 million weekend total and a $46.7 million domestic cume. Sony’s other big release in theaters, “Bullet Train,” has also crossed the $100 million mark domestically after adding $1.4 million in its ninth weekend.
20th Century’s re-release of “Avatar” completes the Top 5 with $4.7 million, bringing the film’s limited engagement domestic total to $18.6 million domestic and $58.1 million worldwide. That brings the lifetime gross of “Avatar” to approximately $2.9 billion, the highest of all time before inflation adjustment.
Just behind “Avatar” is “PS-1: Ponniyan Selvan Part One,” an Indian Tamil-language historical epic that has earned $4.1 million from just 500 screens. With a per-theater average of $8,200, it’s a strong result for a specialty market that has had few successes in 2022 and follows the $11.1 million run of S.S. Rajamouli’s “RRR” this past spring.