M. Night Shyamalan’s horror film “Knock at the Cabin” collected $14.2 million in its opening weekend, enough to top box office charts and dethrone “Avatar: The Way of Water” after spending seven weeks at No. 1.
The creepy thriller, from Universal, just barely beat the weekend’s other new wide release, “80 for Brady,” which scored in second place with $12.5 million from 2,912 North American theaters. That’s a major win for Paramount, which backed the sports comedy starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field, because older audiences have been reluctant to go to theaters in pandemic times.
Critics weren’t impressed by “80 for Brady,” which holds a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, but that doesn’t matter. Audiences were charmed by the combined wattage of the four Hollywood icons, who play best friends that travel to the Super Bowl to watch their hero, Tom Brady. It’s possible the film got some extra publicity because Brady announced earlier this week that he’s retiring “for good” from the sport.
The movie, which cost $28 million to produce, landed a promising “A-” CinemaScore from ticket buyers. Women accounted for 68% of opening weekend crowds, while 49% were 55 years or older. The octogenarian comedy was co-produced by Fifth Season, formerly known as Endeavor Content.
“We’re pretty darn happy with the results,” says Paramount’s president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson. “It proves the old adage: you don’t need to make a movie for everybody, but it has to be for somebody.”
It’s possible that more people went to see “80 for Brady” than “Knock at the Cabin,” even though the latter generated more money over the weekend. That’s because some movie theaters offered matinee prices to every screening of “80 for Brady,” meaning the later showtimes were less expensive than usual. However, it’s still ambiguous as to how much variable pricing actually helps a movie like “80 for Brady” since its target audience is probably already more likely to go to afternoon screenings.
Though “Knock at the Cabin” finally toppled “Avatar 2” from the top spot, the film ranks as the lowest opening weekend of Shyamalan’s career. That distinction previously belonged to 2021’s “Old,” which kicked off to $16.8 million as the omicron variant of COVID was surging, and it eventually climbed to $48 million domestically and $90 million globally.
“Knock at the Cabin” added $7 million at the international box office, bringing its global tally to $21.2 million. Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge star in the R-rated film, which follows a family who is suddenly held hostage by strangers who are trying to prevent the apocalypse. It landed a “C-” CinemaScore from audiences, which doesn’t bode well for word-of-mouth beyond opening weekend. However, it cost $20 million to make, so the movie won’t require a ton of coinage to turn a profit.
“‘Knock at the Cabin’ is an intense thriller, and it’s a film that’s best seen in a large theater with an audience,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution.
Overall, it’s been a stronger-than-expected start to the year at the box office. In January, domestic returns were down roughly 36% from pre-pandemic times, but they were encouragingly up around 68% from 2022, according to David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. The major boost from this time last year can be attributed to studios releasing more new movies (there were 10 wide releases in January 2023, compared to five in 2022 and 11 in 2019) on the big screen.
“Comparisons aside, last month showed good underlying energy.” says Gross, pointing to “Avatar 2,” as well as Universal’s horror breakout “M3GAN” and Sony’s tear-jerker “A Man Called Otto.” In the coming weeks, he predicts, “business will go into a higher gear” with the release of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” “Creed III” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.” He adds, “the second half of February through April should be a very good run.”
Disney and 20th Century’s “The Way of Water” fell to third place with a still-mighty $10.8 million from 3,310 cinemas in its eighth outing, declining just 32% from the weekend prior. So far, the blockbuster adventure has generated $636 million in North America and $2.174 billion globally to stand as the fourth-highest grossing movie in history. Over the weekend, “Avatar 2” took down “Titanic” as the third-highest grossing international release of all-time with $1.538 million.
Universal’s kid-friendly sequel “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” landed in fourth place, generating $7.9 million from 3,290 theaters in its seventh weekend of release. To date, the animated movie has grossed $151 million in North America and $368 million globally.
Rounding out the top five is “BTS: Yet to Come in Cinemas,” a cinematic cut of the band’s 2022 concert in South Korea, which collected $5.1 million. Trafalgar Releasing brought the film to 1,111 venues, averaging $4,591 per location.
Elsewhere at the domestic box office, “A Man Called Otto” crossed $50 million in its sixth weekend of release. The adult-driven drama, starring Tom Hanks as a curmudgeonly widower, added $4.175 million over the weekend, boosting its North American total to $53 million. It cost $50 million, so it’s not profitable quite yet, but those results count as another important win for movies aimed at older audiences.