‘Midway’ Flies Over Rivals

The worst November for the movie business in nearly two decades continued to limp along this weekend as four new films –Midway, Doctor Sleep, Playing With Fire and Last Christmas- arrived on the scene only to be greeted with box office indifference from the public. Of the four, only Lionsgate’s Midway managed to show the slightest bit of life, which really isn’t saying much.

With the Veterans Day holiday coming up this Monday -a major thanks to all who have served-, it was the ideal time for Lionsgate to release its new World War II epic Midway into 3,242 venues. Directed by Independence Day helmer Roland Emmerich, the $100 million production had enough box office firepower to overcome sour critical notices to score an estimated $17.5 million in its debut.

While ticket buyers were on board for Emerich’s all-star fictionalized account of the decisive Pacific Theater battle that took place in June of 1942, critics opted to give the movie a dishonorable discharge. Midway scored an unpatriotic 41% on Rotten Tomatoes and an equally weak 48/100 on Metacritic. Opening day patrons, on the other hand, saluted Midway with an “A” rating on CinemaScore.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that releasing a horror film the week after Halloween into theaters isn’t the best of ideas. That bit of obvious logic, however, didn’t seem to enter the mind of anyone at Warner Brothers as that is exactly what they did this weekend with their sequel to 1980’s The Shining, Doctor Sleep. Not surprisingly, this perplexing bit of scheduling resulted in the well-received thriller collecting a less-than-shiny $14.1million from 3,855 screens in its debut.

The latest adaptation of a Stephen King novel –the third this year following Pet Sematary and IT: Chapter Two- scored mostly positive feedback from the press and public, which might help in sustaining its box office life until Thanksgiving weekend. Doctor Sleep scored a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 60/100 on Metacritic and a “B+” on CinemaScore. Overseas, the $50 million production has pocketed a comatose $20 million after two weeks of release.

In third place was Paramount’s John Cena comedy Playing With Fire. The critically derided offering arrived on 3,125 screens Friday to muscle its way to an estimated $12.8 million. Fire scored a smoky 24% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 24/100 on Metacritic. Viewers were a bit kinder to the film, giving it a “B+” on CinemaScore.

About as welcome as Christmas decorations in retail stores at the start of October, Universal Pictures’ Last Christmas opened Friday and got off to a bah-humbug start with an estimated $11.6 million from 3,448 theaters. The Paul Feig-directed romantic comedy –one inspired by the songs of George Michael- found its box office stocking filled with coal from critics and even the public, who could get the same level of schmaltz out of the Hallmark Channel at home. Christmas earned a 49% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 51/100 on Metacritic and a low “B-” on CinemaScore.

Rounding out the top five was Paramount’s fast-fading Terminator: Dark Fate. The sixth –and dare we hope, final- installment in the 35-year old franchise dropped a steep 63% in its second weekend on 4,086 screens to bring in an estimated $10.8 million. Ten days into its latest mission, Terminator 6 has earned a meek $48.4 million so far and will be lucky to finish with $65 million domestically. Overseas, the film has pulled in $151 million.

  1. Joker (Warner) $9.2 million (-32%); $313.5 million
  2. Maleficent 2 (Disney) $8 million (-38%); $97.3 million
  3. Harriet (Focus) $7.23 million (-38%); $23.4 million
  4. Zombieland: Double Tap (Sony) $4.3 million (-42%); $66.7 million
  5. The Addams Family (2019) (MGM) $4.1 million (-50%); $91.3 million

The November box office woes should continue next weekend as Sony’s Charlie’s Angels, Fox’s acclaimed Ford v Ferrari and Warner’s The Good Liar all debut. While Ford v Ferrari could very well emerge as a long-running sleeper hit, its near three-hour runtime could curtail its opening numbers just a bit. Charlie’s Angels, on the other hand, will be lucky if it does $20 million and The Good Liar is going to be yet another Warner box office misfire.

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