Gone Girl and Annabelle ruled the box office this weekend with stunning debuts. David Fincher’s critically adored adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller earned an estimated $38 million from 3,014 screens for Fox (a career high for Fincher), while Warner Bros./New Line’s Annabelle, a spinoff of last year’s horror hit The Conjuring, took in an impressive $37.2 million from 3,185 screens. Studios and analysts had expected both to open in the mid $20 million range.
It’s striking that both were slapped with underwhelming B CinemaScores, suggesting that, though audiences turned out in droves for both R-rated pics, neither really lived up to expectations. Also, while the weekend earnings are quite similar, and could very well shift slightly by the time Monday actuals come in, these are two very different kinds of successes.
Annabelle, which cost only $6.5 million to produce, has already proven its worth before an inevitable, dramatic drop-off next weekend. Gone Girl still has some work to do to make up its $61 million budget, but it shouldn’t have much trouble doing so considering the critical praise and generally feverish buzz around the thriller. Additionally, R-rated adult dramas rely on the slow build. Argo, which also starred Ben Affleck, opened to $19.5 million on over 3,000 screens in Oct. 2012 before going on to earn $136 million domestically. The Oscar campaign helped Argo out in the end, too, but the initial weekend to weekend drops were all under 40 percent for the first six weeks.
According to polling, Gone Girl‘s audience was 60 percent female, and 75 percent over the age of 25, and 67 percent Caucasian. It also opened in 39 markets internationally to $24.6 million, bringing its worldwide cume to $62.6 million.
“There’s so many superlatives to say about this movie,” says Fox’s distribution chief Chris Aronson. “It’s such a thought-provoking and thoughtful film that’s just hit on all cylinders. It’s become a zeitgeisty film, if you will. Audiences have sought this movie out and want to be part of the conversation.” He added: “This was a very tricky film to market, with the reveals, the twists and turns. It’s a very thin line to walk because you don’t want to give it away. I really have to tip my hat to the Fox team and everyone who made it the cultural event that it’s turning out to be.”
The rest of the top five is populated with holdovers. Amidst the steep R-rated competition, The Equalizer held up well, falling only 44 percent from last weekend. Laika and Focus Features’ The Boxtrolls fell only 28 percent from last weekend (ParaNorman dropped 39 percent in weekend 2, for comparisons sake). And, finally, Fox’s The Maze Runner rounded out the top five with a $12 million weekend, down 31 percent from last.
1. Gone Girl — $38 million
2. Annabelle — $37.2 million
3. The Equalizer — $19 million ($64.5 million domestic total)
4. The Boxtrolls — $12.4 million ($32.5 million domestic total)
5. The Maze Runner — $12 million ($73.9 million domestic total)
Outside of the top five, Left Behind, the Freestyle Releasing rapture pic starring Nicolas Cage that’s based on the bestselling series, took in an estimated $6.9 million from 1,825 theaters. With a B- CinemaScore and dismal reviews, it looks like this one will not reach the heavenly box-office heights of Freestyle’s God’s Not Dead which opened to $9.2 million in only 780 theaters in March and went on to gross over $60.8 million domestically.
The Good Lie, from Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment, also underperformed in its debut weekend with $935K from 461 locations. The Reese Witherspoon-led film about the lost boys of Sudan was supposed to bring in at least $2 million initially. It’ll be interesting to see how this one fares once it gets a wider release, though, since reviews are quite strong.