At the box office, Jordan Peele is in rarified company as a director who needs only his name to draw audiences to the big screen. Even more impressive, it took only one film, 2017’s social thriller “Get Out,” to achieve that cachet.
After the breakout critical and commercial success of “Get Out,” which opened to $33 million and tapped out with a mighty $176 million domestically, Peele electrified the box office again with 2019’s “Us,” which smashed expectations by debuting to $70 million and ended its North American run with an impressive $175 million. Put simply, moviegoers want whatever Peele is selling.
So it’s reasonable to believe the director will hit the box office trifecta with his next nightmarish vision “Nope,” which stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun and opens in theaters on Friday. The Universal Pictures science-fiction horror film is expected to collect $45 million to $55 million from 3,700 North American theaters in its box office debut.
That would be a solid result for a horror film, but there’s reason to believe “Nope” could fly higher in its opening weekend. After all, box office projections have shortchanged Peele before. In the case of “Us,” tracking services suggested the movie would enjoy a similar start to “Get Out,” in the $35 million to $40 million range. But the hype around Peele’s sophomore feature put industry projections to shame when “Us” debuted to nearly double that amount in North America. So while Universal would be pleased with a debut at or around $50 million, few would be surprised if ticket sales were able to sail past that threshold in its first weekend.
“Nope” cost $68 million, which is significantly more than “Get Out” (with its slender $4.5 million budget), “Us” (with its $20 million budget) and most R-rated horror movies. That means it’ll require a little more coinage than Peele’s past films to turn a profit. “Get Out” and “Us” each earned $255 million at the global box office, making those films wildly profitable.
Box office experts believe reviews (which remain under embargo) will play a big factor in opening weekend returns. Like Peele’s past movies, the plot of “Nope” is shrouded in mystery, which only adds to the hype. Kaluuya and Palmer play siblings on a gulch in California who bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.
Studios and theater operators hope that “Nope” will continue a strong summer season, one that has been fueled by the success of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “Elvis” and, of course, “Top Gun: Maverick.” With those commercial wins, the all-important summer box office has generated $2.5 billion between May 1 and July 17, according to Comscore. Those figures are 162% above the same period in 2021 (when cinemas were still attempting to recover from COVID-19) and only 10.2% behind 2019 (when the mighty “Avengers: Endgame” propelled the summer to box office glory).
Though “Nope” is this weekend’s only new nationwide release, Hollywood is banking on the remaining summer slate — the Warner Bros. family film “DC League of Super-Pets” (July 29), Brad Pitt’s “Bullet Train” (Aug. 5) and Idris Elba’s “Beast” (Aug. 19) — to pull off a surprise… or two.