“Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters.
Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. Directed by Lorene Scafaria, the R-rated heist thriller is based on Jessica Pressler’s 2015 New York magazine article about a group of strippers who turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street clientele after the 2008 recession hits.
“Hustlers” arrived in second place on box office charts behind Warner Bros.’ “It: Chapter Two,” which claimed the No. 1 spot for the second weekend in a row. The terrifying sequel pocketed another $40 million this weekend, marking a 55% decline from its inaugural outing. The follow-up to 2017’s “It” has earned $153 million in North America and $323 million globally. Between “It: Chapter Two” and its predecessor, the franchised based on Stephen King’s horror novel has generated over $1 billion worldwide.
At a time when Netflix and other streaming services are diluting audiences’ desire to see smaller comedies and dramas in theaters, STX’s motion picture group chairman Adam Fogelson points to a number of factors for the success of “Hustlers.”
“It was the reviews, the level of audience response and a great script from a filmmaker who had a spectacular vision,” Fogelson said. “The filmmaking team was almost entirely made up of strong women who had a really smart artistic and entertaining eye for how to tell this story. Never for a moment do you feel its inauthentic to the world of strip clubs and the women who work there. It’s so clearly not told through a male gaze.”
For that reason, young women turned out in force for “Hustlers.” Among opening weekend crowds, 67% were female and 69% were over the age of 25. The female-led ensemble also includes Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo and Cardi B.
“Hustlers,” costing $20 million to produce, is a needed win for STX after the studio’s string of summer flops including “Uglydolls,” “Poms” and “The Best of Enemies.” Prior to “Hustlers,” the company’s biggest opening weekend was “Bad Moms” with $23.8 million.
Not all newcomers were as fortunate. Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch,” adapted from Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, misfired with a disastrous $2.6 million from 2,542 locations. Those ticket sales, coming in well behind projections that estimated an opening weekend near $12 million, mark one of the lowest launches of the year for a nationwide release. The mystery drama, which cost $40 million to produce, stars Ansel Elgort as Theo, a young man who turns to art forgery after losing his mother in a freak tragedy. “The Goldfinch” was skewered by critics after it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Amazon co-financed “The Goldfinch,” which helped mitigate potential losses for the studio.
“I think the audience wasn’t interested in seeing this literary work on-screen,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution. “There were many things that didn’t work, but the biggest was probably the marketplace. The gap between the have and the have-nots is growing even bigger.”
While Warner Bros. continues to thrive in the horror space, the studio has struggled this year as mid-budget fare like “The Kitchen” and “Blinded by the Light” have gone all but ignored by moviegoers. If tracking holds, Warner Bros. should have another win in October with “Joker,” a very R-rated origin story about the notorious Batman villain.
Lionsgate’s “Angel Has Fallen” slid to third place on box office charts, adding $4.4 million in its fourth weekend of release. The third entry in the Gerard Butler-led action series has made $60 million to date.
At No. 4, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys” picked up $4.2 million, taking its bounty to a solid $73 million in North America. Rounding out the top five is Disney’s “The Lion King” with $3.5 million. After nine weeks in theaters, the remake has amassed a mighty $534 million at the domestic box office and $1.6 billion globally.
In other milestones, Sony’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” hit $329.4 million worldwide, surpassing “Inglourious Basterds” ($323.4 million) to become the second-highest grossing film of director Quentin Tarantino’s career. “Django Unchained” remains his biggest movie to date with $425 million globally.
Among specialty releases, A24’s “The Farewell,” a comedic drama directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina, crossed $17 million in box office receipts, an especially impressive showing for a film that is mostly subtitled. Meanwhile, Amazon Studios’ “Brittany Runs a Marathon” collected $1.5 million from 757 theaters as it continues its slow nationwide expansion. The feel-good comedy has earned $3.8 million so far.
In all, year-to-date box office is down 5.7%, according to Comscore. Over the coming months, “Joker,” “Frozen 2” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” are expected to lift ticket sales.