If you were looking for surprises, October certainly dished up a few at the multiplex this year. Headlining the month in a big way is Warner Bros. latest big screen concept for the Joker, a character who has appeared in four big movies recently, played by four different people (I am including Zach Galifianakis in The LEGO: Batman Movie). Fitting for this ghoulish month, however, the entire docket of films released these past thirty one days have a plethora of creepy characters and premises. As if the horrors of September’s It were not enough, October has tapped into a who’s who of made-up and masked figures, including the youthful mask of a man named Willard Carroll Smith Jr. With $778.6 million in domestic earnings, this was the second largest October of all time, a tad behind last year’s record finish with Venom at the top. It would appear October is now the anti-hero month.
October 2019 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
November 14, 2019
Opening Weekend: $96.2 M
Monthly Box Office: $285.7 M
At this point there are few superlatives left to laud Joker with. How did this film, ostensibly an offshoot of Batman and DC properties, achieve such incredible box office feats? Joker’s existence runs counter to common movie sense. First of all, the character has been done to death, and yet there is apparently still endless fascination with him and his story. Second, a movie about a character from comic books won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. I could certainly see a film starring Joaquin Phoenix winning that award, but not this one. Third, Joker is a very serious film, by the director of Old School. Fourth, every aspect of a film that could be labeled as originating in a “comic book” has been excised from Joker, save the character’s name, meaning we cannot simply say that this film succeeded by being a “comic book movie”. I have to hand it to Warner Bros., though, they certainly take risks with their properties, and it sometimes pays off handsomely.
Joker debuted with a new record opening for October, beating last year’s Venom by $16 million. After a great opening weekend for a film with a $100 million budget, a steep drop would usually be expected, especially for a film that would appear to be polarizing. Yet, Joker had one of the best second weekends ever, dropping only 41% to $55 million. The only films that earned more over opening weekend and dropped less in their second are Shrek 2, The Jungle Book , Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the original Spider-Man. And Joker is an R-rated film! Now, records are falling like dominoes. Joker will likely become the first billion dollar R-rated film worldwide, eclipsing Matrix Reloaded’s $829 million; it will likely become the fifth highest grossing R-rated film stateside; it could make a run at Aquaman’s $1.15 billion worldwide total to become DC’s biggest film ever (it could also beat Dark Knight Rises $1.08 billion total, meaning Joker might out-earn any actual Batman movie); it is Warner Bros. highest grossing film of the year, and their biggest title since Aquaman, and if it is able to beat that it will be their second biggest film of all time behind the final Harry Potter film. I could understand all of this with a Joker film directed by Christopher Nolan, or a Joker film that looks like a huge bombastic entertaining showpiece. But this Joker? You’ve got to be...kidding...me.
2) The Addams Family
Opening Weekend: $30.3 M
Monthly Box Office: $76.8 M
We have not seen much of the Addams Family since their last adventure in theaters over twenty five years ago. There was a straight-to-video sequel, an animated series, and a few other odds and ends, but really it was more the characters that were imprinted on us. As such, the property has proven rather lucrative for the relatively unknown animation studio Cinesite. With a decent opening weekend and tiny drops averaging 36%, this one could definitely creep or crawl past $100 million domestic. With Dreamworks’ and Universal’s Abominable doing poorly, this was really the best animated offering in theaters during the Halloween season. Last year had a few Halloween-themed films to bring in the business, and this year Addams Family would appear to be the winner, somewhat. At least it can boast of beating number three on the list.
3) Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Opening Weekend: $36.9 M
Monthly Box Office: $72.1 M
Another film headlined by an anti-hero. Maleficent, giving Angelina Jolie a reason to indulge her cheek and jaw bones, was a surprisingly large hit, earning $241 million domestic, and over $750 million worldwide. It was this powerhouse performance that arguably began Disney’s trend of reimagining older properties, although Alice in Wonderland certainly did not hurt. How painful it must be, then, that the sequel should perform so poorly. It’s opening weekend was barely half of the original’s, and the domestic total is disappointing, with around $110 million in its sight. There is some silver lining in that the weekend drops are becoming smaller, although it may be too little too late. Disney has the rare miss, and this will be a Dumbo instead of Aladdin. At least the worldwide total should eclipse $400 million, but it’s still going to lose some money. Remember when all Disney sequels used to go straight to video? Maybe now that Disney+ has debuted, sequels will start get dumped there.
4) Zombieland: Double Tap
Opening Weekend: $26.8 M
Monthly Box Office: $52 M
Zombies are certainly creepy, so this continues the trend October has seen so far. When the original Zombieland debuted, The Walking Dead had yet to premiere, and zombies were still basking in the nerdy glow of Shaun of the Dead and the Dawn of the Dead remake. Therefore, advertising Woody Harrelson as dishing out some bloody heroics on the undead was bound to stick some butts in seats, mine included. Bringing back the gang over ten years later seems to have changed...nothing. The opening weekend is a couple million higher, and the domestic finish should be right around the original’s $75 million. The original did have better reviews, so the shine has worn off a bit, but maybe ten years from now Woody will still feel the urge to purge some zombie blood.
5) Gemini Man
Opening Weekend: $20.6 M
Monthly Box Office: $45 M
Poor Ang Lee. Any time he tries to step out and create a more commercial picture, it seems to bite him in the ass. Given that his artistic fare can earn as much as $609 million in the case of Life of Pi, I am not sure what motivates him to continually attempt genre fare. Also, Gemini Man was co-written by David Benioff, so he’s having a rough year, too...as much as the co-creator behind the biggest TV show of all time can have it rough. Nevertheless, Ang gave it the college try, employing one of the most lovable actors, Will Smith, as an assassin trying to kill himself. Nice. Although Smith could easily be said to be past his prime, he was not the problem with this film, as the horrific reviews spelled its doom. With an awful opening weekend for a film that cost well over $100 million, and a steep 60% drop in weekend two, the writing is on the wall for this one. Give Gemini Man $50 million if it’s lucky, and pray we never see Scorpio Man. Aside from Aladdin, Will Smith has had a rough time recently, so hopefully he and Ang Lee can get back on the horse soon.
Monthly Box Office: $35.2 M
Running Total: $57.4 M
Our first holdover in October happens to be the film that got kicked by The Addams Family reboot. After opening a few days in September, Abominable should have been able to achieve the same marks as last year’s Smallfoot. Alas, was not to be, and Abominable will be the smaller foot of the two. Eerily enough, they also had similar budgets around $75 million, will earn similar amounts worldwide, and had very similar critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. You know, if someone actually went and watched both of them...could they possibly be the same film? Give Abominable a $60 million domestic finish, not enough to make it worth it.
7) Downton Abbey
Monthly Box Office: $33.3 M
Running Total: $93.3 M
It’s holdovers all the way down now. After a very successful run for a British show, especially on this shore, Downton was probably not the show everyone was clamoring for an epilogue on. Never mind that El Camino has not lit the world on fire like it’s parent show, the film Downton Abbey essentially was ready to dish out more of the same to anyone who loved the show. Obviously, that was a good deal of people, as the movie has become Focus Feature’s biggest movie in their twenty year history. Brokeback Mountain has finally been broken, by seven million and counting. With about double it’s domestic take earned abroad so far, Downton has proven very lucrative for a film with a teeny tiny $17 million budget. I wonder if further adventures with the Crawleys are in the works?
Monthly Box Office: $22.3 M
Running Total: $103.9 M
Last month’s number two movie sticks around, as Hustlers runs up a very nice domestic total. Since this movie is exactly like Downton Abbey, it makes sense that it also has a tiny $20 million budget, and will earn around $100 million domestic. After having modest drops in September, the weekend declines actually increased a bit in October, mostly due to the shedding of screens. Still, that allowed it to cross the nine digit line, and become Jennifer Lopez’s biggest movie ever.
Monthly Box Office: $19.1 M
Running Total: $22.3 M
Coming up from the bottom, Judy has quietly been making a few million every week, leading this Renee Zellweger starrer to chart ninth for the month, even though it’s daily position has rarely been above slot five. With good reviews and a small budget, Judy is hoping to have a seat at the table come Oscar time with these box office numbers. A nice return to form for Zellweger, after having been absent much of the past decade.
10) It Chapter Two
Monthly Box Office: $16.5 M
Running Total: $211.1 M
Finally, we have our number one film from last month, coasting on the Halloween vibes to squeeze out a few million dollars more. Before it hands the horror batton to the ghost of Stanley Kubrick, It will have a amassed a treasure chest of money compared to it’s $80 million budget. With about double it’s domestic take in worldwide grosses, Chapter Two will fall well short of the original’s $700 million haul. Not to mention much of its thunder having been stolen by a certain other clown. We all float down here.
Just outside the top ten we have holdover Ad Astra struggling a bit with $13.2 million, Countdown with $11.9 million, Black and Blue with $11.4 million, Rambo: Last Blood (no, really!) with $10.7 million and Jexi with $6.5 million. Overall this was a great month for box office, mostly due to Joker, although 2019 is still pacing about 6% behind last year. As ever, Disney is ready and chomping at the bit, so we shall see just how well Frozen 2 does this month.