There wasn’t a lot to speak of for the weekend box office. There was only one wide release, Office Christmas Party, and it finished second behind Moana with around $17 million, which — as Scott Mendelson points out — gives it the distinction of having the biggest opening weekend ever for a Christmas movie opening in December (most Christmas films open in November). Otherwise, the terrific (but overwritten) Miss Sloane badly underperformed for Jessica Chastain (a $2 million opening weekend) and LaLa Land made a huge splash, raking in nearly $900K in only 5 theaters, setting it up as one of the year’s leading Oscar contenders.
With an unexciting weekend at the box office, I thought we’d devote this weekend’s box office report to some of the quieter hits of 2017.
Bad Moms $113 million ($179 million worldwide) on a $20 million budget — Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover, 21 and Over, Office Christmas Party) have mastered the The Hangover formula: Take likable actors, slightly upend conventions, and otherwise deliver a safe, conventional R-rated studio comedy. Bad Moms wasn’t a huge hit out of the gate (a $23 million opening weekend), but it appealed to a lot of women who would arrange girls nights out all over the country to see Bad Moms, which kept this movie in theaters for months. It opened in July, but it didn’t leave theaters until nearly November.
Don’t Breathe $93 million ($152 million worldwide) on a $10 million budget — The year’s best horror film was released in the late August dumping grounds, and while it managed to put up a solid opening weekend ($26 million), great reviews and solid worth of mouth kept the intense Jane Levy film in theaters much longer than most horror movies, which typically open big and fall like a rock in their second weekends. It wasn’t until its 9th week of release before Don’t Breathe had more than a 50 percent drop over the previous weekend (compare that to Conjuring 2, for instance, which saw a 63 percent drop in its second weekend).
Sausage Party $97 million ($140 million worldwide) on a $19 million budget — It’s hard to say a film with a $34 million opening is a “quiet” hit, but Seth Rogen’s hard-R rated food orgy opened in August, when the only movie otherwise being discussed was Suicide Squad. I don’t know if another R-rated animated flick will ever do as well as Sausage Party, but the novelty of this one kept it popular in theaters for weeks.
The Purge: Election Year $80 million ($118 million worldwide) on a $10 million budget –Jason Blum’s micro-budget production company, Blumhouse Productions, put out a few bombs this year (Incarnate, Darkness, Viral), but the genius of Blum is that he only needs one The Purge movie to finance three years worth of films. He runs a low risk high reward operation, and Election Year (which tapped into a lot of the fears of our own election year) and Ouija: Origin of Evil will pay for a lot of misfires.
Boo: Madea’s Halloween $73 million ($74 million worldwide) on a $20 million budget — The first Madea film in three years proved the resilience of Tyler Perry’s franchise, as its Halloween entry become the second highest grossing film in the series. These films are never going to be popular with the Internet crowd or with critics, but Tyler Perry has tapped into an otherwise overlooked market and consistently delivers big hits on very modest budgets.
Me Before You $56 million ($207 million worldwide) on a $20 million budget — I had no idea that the Emilia Clarke/Sam Claflin love story — which came in third on its opening weekend — had managed to quietly not just put up $50 million domestically, but $200 million worldwide. The counter-programmed tearjerker clearly filled the same hole in the action blockbuster schedule that The Fault in our Stars filled during the summer of 2014, proving that there is still a place for maudlin weepers in the marketplace.
Light’s Out $67 million ($148 million worldwide) on a $5 million budget — The box office may have been down overall this year, and there are some signs of superhero and sequel fatigue, but cheap and effective horror films continue to scare up huge audiences. This one had an incredible 900 percent profit margin. Lights Out also continues to illustrate James Wan’s magical touch: As director and/or producer, he’s behind the Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring, Annabelle and now Lights Out franchises (it has already received a greenlight for a sequel).
Miracles from Heaven $61 million ($73 million worldwide) on a $13 million budget — Faith-based films are hit and miss, but like the horror genre, it only takes one huge hit to pay for a string of disappointments. The Jennifer Garner film — inspired by a true story — managed some crossover appeal outside of evangelical circles. It’s not a great film, but it hit all the right beats, delivered the tears it was designed to deliver and eroded a fair amount of cynicism among its audience.
The Shallows $55 million ($120 million worldwide) on a $17 million budget — Sometimes, all it takes is a very simple premise and an attractive actress (here, Blake Lively stuck on a rock being circled by a shark) and a seagull named Steven Seagull to deliver great box-office numbers. It came out at just the right time during the summer — in the midst of a few duds like the Independence Day sequel, Free State of Jones and The BFG — to scare up an audience looking to watch Blake Lively fight a shark.
Hell or High Water $27 million on a $12 million budget — Twenty-seven million dollars hardly qualifies as a big hit, but it’s a great example of why platform releasing a film still works. It rolled out slowly — it didn’t reach 1500 theaters until the 7th week — and collected audiences based almost entirely on reviews and great word of mouth. It also may be my favorite film of the year, and I never would have seen it had so many other critics no banged the drum for it. It is terrific, and a nice reminder of what a great actor Chris Pine can be.