DreamWorks Pictures’ thriller “The Girl on the Train” has launched with a solid $1.2 million in Thursday night showings at 2,401 North American theaters.
Showings began at 7 p.m. The film is the first to be released under Universal’s new partnership with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners.
Moviegoing will be held down this weekend in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with Hurricane Matthew delivering punishing winds and flooding.
“The Girl on the Train,” starring Emily Blunt, is expected to win the weekend handily with roughly $26 million at 3,144 theaters — a strong result given its $40 million production budget. It’s opening against Nate Parker’s controversial biopic “The Birth of a Nation” from Fox Searchlight and Lionsgate-CBS Films’ comedy “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.”
“The Girl on the Train,” based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, is directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”) and also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez and Lisa Kudrow.
Blunt portrays a woman whose post-divorce life slowly disintegrates amid the accusation that she murdered her ex-husband’s nanny. Reviews have been mixed with a 46% “rotten” rating on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
“The Girl on the Train” is opening two years after David Fincher’s thriller “Gone Girl,” which starred Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. “Gone Girl” became a solid hit, opening with $37.5 million at 3,014 North American theaters on Oct. 3-5 to wind up with $167 million domestically and $201 million internationally.
“The Girl on the Train” matched the “Gone Girl” gross of $1.2 million gross on its Thursday night previews.
“The Birth of a Nation” is opening nine months after Fox Searchlight bought rights for $17.5 million to the film, based on the 1831 biopic of slave revolt led by Nat Turner, following its Sundance debut. The film’s release has been clouded by controversy in recent months over the 1999 trial of Parker and Jean Celestin, his former Penn State roommate and “Birth of a Nation” co-writer, who were accused of raping a fellow Penn State student after a party.
The unidentified woman committed suicide in 2012. Parker was acquitted of the rape charges in 2001, but Celestin was found guilty of sexual assault. He appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial in 2005, but the case never made it back to court after the woman declined to testify again.
“The Birth of a Nation” is opening at 2,107 locations and is expected to make about $8 million this weekend. Fox Searchlight is required under the terms of the deal to open the film at a minimum of 1,500 screens.
Despite the controversy, critics have supported “The Birth of a Nation,” which carries a 77% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Middle School,” based on the 2011 novel by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, is expected to open with around $8 million at 2,822 sites.
Fox’s second weekend of Tim Burton’s “Miss Perregrine’s School for Peculiar Children” is expected to finish second at about $15 million.