Will lightning strike twice for Jordan Peele?
That’s the big question this weekend as “Us,” the horror maven’s latest undertaking that puts the spotlight on not one, but two Lupita Nyong’os, arrives on the big screen. After Peele’s Oscar-winning directorial debut “Get Out” captured the zeitgeist and became a box office smash, audiences have been foaming at the mouth to see the filmmaker’s next nightmare.
“Us,” a psychological thriller about a family confronted by a band of doppelgangers, is expected to earn between $38 million and $45 million when it debuts in 3,700 North American locations. Some industry trackers anticipate that solid word of mouth could propel numbers closer to $50 million. That would surpass the opening weekend haul of “Get Out,” which launched with $33 million and ended its theatrical run with $176 million in the States and $255 million globally. “Us” is touching down in 48 international markets, including France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Though “Us” will likely pull off a solid start, it doesn’t need to replicate the box office success of “Get Out” to become a hit. The studio spent $20 million to produce “Us,” and while that’s over four times what it cost to make “Get Out,” it’s a number that should still ensure a tidy sum for its backers: Universal Pictures, Jason Blum, and Peele’s Monkeypaw Production.
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“Us” stars Nyong’o and Winston Duke, who both recently appeared in a little film called “Black Panther.” The two play a couple forced to fight off blood-hungry clones while vacationing with their kids along the coast of Northern California. The cast also includes Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker. Similar to “Get Out,” everything beyond the mere premise of “Us” is shrouded in mystery. If this movie is able to pull off a better-than-expected debut, it will prove that Peele has cemented himself as the kind of filmmaker who only needs his name in front of a project to hook moviegoers.
“‘Get Out’ made such an impact on audiences and the world of film that this is his second movie, and he’s already a filmmaker that is a brand unto himself,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. “That’s very rare.”
Moreover, “Us” is trying to prove audiences will come out for a movie that’s not of the superhero genre. So far, Disney’s “Captain Marvel,” with $270 million in ticket sales at the domestic box office, is the only film this year that’s managed to become a certified sensation. “Us” likely won’t rank among this year’s top opening weekends — that distinction belongs to “Captain Marvel” ($153 million), followed by Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” ($55 million) — but it does look to be the kind of film to get moviegoers off their couches and into their local multiplex. The box office could definitely use an assist. Even as “Captain Marvel” continues its mighty run, the domestic market is still pacing more than 19% behind last year, according to Comscore.
“I can’t imagine a better release date for ‘Us,'” Dergarabedian said. “‘Captain Marvel’ has been out long enough that now is a perfect opportunity to grab a big audience and maintain it.”
Judging by the enthusiastic reception after it premiered at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, Peele doesn’t have to worry about a sophomore slump. His second directorial effort, for which he also wrote the screenplay, has a coveted 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
As the only new nationwide release this weekend, “Us” will face the strongest competition from “Captain Marvel” as the female-fronted adventure starring Brie Larson enters its third outing in theaters. The superhero tentpole, which generated over $779 million in ticket sales worldwide in two weeks, could add another $35 million to $40 million to its domestic tally this go-around. On Monday, “Captain Marvel” surpassed “Guardians of the Galaxy” ($773 million) to become the 21-biggest superhero movie ever.
At the specialty box office, Bleecker Street is taking “Hotel Mumbai” to four venues: Lincoln Square and the Angelika in New York, and the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles. Starring Dev Patel and Armie Hammer, the R-rated terrorist thriller centers around the victims and survivors of the 2008 attacks at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India. New Zealand pulled the movie from theaters following the Christchurch shooting.