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Box Office: ‘Girl on the Train’ Speeds Past ‘Birth of a Nation’ on Friday

Girl on the Train Emily Blunt
Courtesy of Universal Studio

“The Girl on the Train” is tracking for a $26.5 million opening weekend after earning $9.4 million on Friday at 3,144 locations. Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” meanwhile, is not faring as well.

Friday totals show Fox Searchlight’s controversial film about Nat Turner earned $2.6 million at 2,105 theaters, and is heading for an opening weekend of about $8 million.

Lionsgate and CBS’s “Middle Schoool: The Worst Years of My Life” opened to $2 million at 2,822 locations on Friday, which should grow to $6.4 million by the end of the weekend.

“The Girl on the Train” stars Blunt as a woman whose post-divorce life slowly disintegrates amid murder accusations. The film is directed by “The Help” helmer Tate Taylor, and also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez and Lisa Kudrow. Produced by DreamWorks Pictures, “The Girl on the Train” is the first film to be released under Universal’s new partnership with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners. It carries a production budget of about $40 million.

The thriller is based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, which was frequently labeled as “the next ‘Gone Girl'” when it was released in 2015. In fact, two years ago during the first weekend in October David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” adapted from Gillian Flynn’s novel, reaped a $37.5 million opening.

“The Birth of a Nation” is co-written, directed and stars Nate Parker as Nat Turner, who led a slave revolt in 1831. The film has a 79% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Fox Searchlight purchased rights to “The Birth of a Nation” at Sundance for $17.5 million — the largest deal ever made at the festival.

Since the acquisition Parker has embarked on a treacherous press tour, rife with controversy over the 1999 trial of Parker and his former Penn State roommate and “Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin, who were accused and later acquitted of raping a fellow student. The unidentified woman committed suicide in 2012.

“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is based on the 2011 novel by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. Steve Carr directs the film from a script written by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Kara Holden. Griffin Gluck and Lauren Graham star in the comedy about a middle schooler (Gluck) who discovers that school is not as glamorous as he expected, and becomes determined to stand up to and humiliate his strict principal played by Andy Daly.

The second weekend of 20th Century Fox’s “Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children” is expected to finish second overall behind “The Girl on the Train” at about $15 million. The second weekend of Lionsgate’s “Deepwater Horizon” is expected to take third with $11 million.