“The Girl on the Train” is heading for a Friday total in the $9 million to $10 million range at 3,144 sites while “Birth of a Nation” should rack up about $3 million on its opening day for Fox Searchlight — both in line with recent forecasts. Lionsgate/CBS’s comedy “Middle Schoool: The Worst Years of My Life” will also open in the $8 million range at 2,822 locations.
“The Birth of a Nation” is opening at 2,107 screens. Fox Searchlight is required under the terms of its deal with the filmmakers — signed at Sundance after it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition — to open the film at a minimum of 1,500 screens.
Moviegoing will be held down this weekend in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with Hurricane Matthew delivering punishing winds and flooding. That could reduce overall attendance by as much as 5%.
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“The Girl on the Train” is from DreamWorks Pictures and is the first to be released under Universal’s new partnership with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners. It’s 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” — which has similar themes of the protagonist facing a murder accusation — 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.
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, has been forecasted to open in the $7 million to $8 million range.
Fox’s second weekend of Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children” is expected to finish second at about $15 million, followed by the second weekend of Lionsgate’s “Deepwater Horizon” at about $11 million. “Miss Peregine’s School” should wind up the weekend with over $50 million in its first 10 days.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, noted that the fall season has been a disappointment so far.
“The industry is in dire need of a big weekend after about a month of down trending box office vs. the comparable period last year when ‘Hotel Transylvania 2,’ ‘The Martian,’ ‘The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,’ ‘Black Mass’ and others lit up a strong post-summer 2015 corridor,” he said. “Of course big time help is on the way with ‘The Accountant,’ ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,’ ‘Dr. Strange’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts’ among other notable titles on the horizon.”
Of the major fall titles, only Warner Bros.’ “Sully” has over-performed with more than $108 million in its first four weeks. Overall moviegoing for the year is up 3.4% through Oct. 5 at $8.67 billion with the first four months of the year fueling the increase.