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World Box Office: Smile grinned it’s way to the top


Smile, a horror film that was originally headed for a streaming-only release, grinned its way to the bank as it topped the domestic box office and earned way more than predicted.

In his feature directing debut, Parker Finn found a gold mine in his 2020 short, Laura Hasn’t Slept, and adapted it into a sleeper hit for Paramount, Smile. The supernatural psychological movie, planned to go straight to Paramount+, got such positive feedback at test screenings that the studio changed its mind and released the film theatrically.

Smile did not only lead last weekend’s race; it drew higher than expected ticket sales: $22 million. Made for $17 million, the film, also written by Finn, stars Sosie Bacon in the lead role of a therapist who witnesses the suicide of a patient and then goes through a series of harrowing experiences.

The creepy feature also stars Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Kal Penn, Rob Morgan, Caitlin Stasey, and Robin Weigert.

The industry is buzzing about Finn as a new filmmaking talent with only one feature and two shorts to his credit. He grew up loving horror flicks in Bath, Ohio. His second short, Laura Hasn’t Slept, won a special jury award at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, which was the chart frontrunner the previous weekend, took the second spot with $7.3 million. The thriller featuring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, and Wilde herself earned $32.8 million after two weekends.

Viola Davis’ The Woman King and her fierce all-female warriors continue their charge at the box office. With only a 36 % drop on its third frame, the historical epic, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, rallied for a take of $7 million and third place.

Bros, described as the first gay romantic comedy to be released in theaters by a major studio (Universal Pictures), bowed in fourth place and drew only $4.8 million.

Billy Eichner, who stars with Luke Macfarlane in the Nicholas Stoller-directed movie, tweeted about Bros’ less than stellar box office debut: “That’s just the world we live in, unfortunately. Even with glowing reviews, great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore, etc., straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is.”

The fifth place showing of the Avatar re-issue augurs well for the December release of James Cameron’s eagerly awaited Avatar: The Way of Water. Thirteen years since it debuted, the Avatar re-release, featuring a sneak peek of The Way of Water, grabbed $4.696 million.

A huge percentage (a whopping 93 %) of the re-release’s grosses came from 3D theaters.

Making it to number six was Ponniyin Selvan: Part One, an Indian Tamil-language epic period action drama which scooped $4.1 million.

One of several movies from India that have cracked the domestic top ten in recent years, Ponniyin Selvan I, as the film is also called, top bills Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Karthi, and Jayam Ravi and is directed by Mani Ratnam. India’s latest blockbuster is part of a planned two-movie project.

Comprising the rest of the magic ten were, in order, Barbarian, $2.8 million; Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train, which collected $1.4 million and hit the $100 million benchmark ($101.3 million, to be exact); DC League of Super-Pets, $1.3 million; and Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick, finally at the bottom rung after a spectacular 19-week run, $1.23 million.

Internationally, Paramount executives had a reason to grin broadly as their Smile also debuted at the top with $14.5 million in nearly 60 territories. Worldwide, the horror flick that was supposed to be for streaming only has picked up $36.5 million.

Helping to catapult Smile as an offshore leader were its strong performances in Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

The appetite for an Avatar sequel is also evident internationally where the remastered original has managed to take another $12.3 million for an offshore total of $39.5 million so far.

Ticket to Paradise, the rom-com which reunites George Clooney and Julia Roberts, is still drawing crowds overseas, with recent ticket receipts of $9.4 million increasing the Bali-set movie’s tally to $45.3 million. The movie does not open in North America until October 21.

Don’t Worry Darling drew $6.4 million for cumulative grosses of $21.9 million. DC League of Super-Pets, one of this year’s biggest animated hits, celebrated an offshore milestone as its earnings surpassed $100 million ($101.6 million).

Ponniyin Selvan I, which notched a record for claiming the biggest offshore IMAX debut for an Indian release, did very well in its home country, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. The movie’s worldwide total is now $28 million.

The Woman King is just starting to be rolled out in various territories, with Brazil already reporting strong ticket sales of $2 million.

In the meantime, in China – the world’s biggest film market – director Rao Xiaozhi’s Home Coming netted $60 million. The drama, led by actors Zhang Yi, Wang Junkai, and Yin Tao, narrates the story of two unarmed Chinese diplomats attempting to rescue more than 100 Chinese nationals in an African nation.


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