No Surprises Again at the Box Office; Hart, Affleck Mediocre
By John Hamann
October 16, 2016
The box office this weekend is AGAIN frustratingly mediocre, devoid of winners or losers, as moviegoers bide their time, waiting for either Newt Scamander, Rogue One, or Tom Hanks with a funny haircut.
Way back on August 5th, Suicide Squad opened to $133 million over three days. Since then, the biggest openers at the box office have been Sausage Party ($34.3 million), Sully ($35 million), and The Magnificent Seven ($34.7 million). We've gone more than two months without a $40 million opener, and while other seasons have seen similar stretches, this one feels particularly blasé. Why? Because the reverse is true as well. In the last nine weekends, flops have been as rare as hits, as Ben Hur, which debuted on August 19th to $11.2 million, was the only out and out disaster, earning less than $100 million worldwide against a $100 million budget. Deepwater Horizon with its $110 million budget is the season’s other big disappointment, as it doesn’t look like it’s going to get picked up overseas the way that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children did.
Our number one film this weekend is The Accountant, a film that sounds as boring as its box office gross, at least until you look under the hood. The film stars Ben Affleck as the title character, one part mathematician and one part hit man. Affleck seems to be going for the high points of his pal Matt Damon’s career, hitting the Good Will Hunting and Jason Bourne films in one comparator. Box office wise, this is Affleck without a comic book character backing him up, or taking advantage of the post-Oscar glow from Argo, which makes The Accountant a bit of a risk. This is the Affleck of old, trying to open a film with no net. The risk becomes a result like Runner Runner ($7.7 million opening) or State of Play ($14 million opening), with Warner Bros., the distributor on The Accountant, hoping for a result like The Town ($23.8 million). Tracking was looking for something between The Town and Sate of Play, with a result approaching $20 million, but likely not crossing it.
The Accountant got started on Thursday night, earning $1.4 million from previews. The preview amount was as blah as everything else this fall, not really pointing to success or disaster, but a sub-$15 million debut seemed out of the question. The combined Thursday/Friday number eliminated any sign of a flop (or breakout), as it came in at a combined $9.1 million. That’s better than the $8.3 million The Town saw on opening day, and is a great start for a film that cost $40 million to make.
The weekend total for The Accountant came in at a better-than-expected but still bloody boring amount of $24.7 million. Warner Bros. opened The Accountant at 3,332 venues, and Ben Affleck achieved a middle-tier success in a career that has been all over the map. Everything was middling about The Accountant - except the only thing that can still help it, the Cinemascore. Reviews for The Accountant were split down the middle; at Rotten Tomatoes, 67 were positive and 64 were not, so the Gavin O’Connor flick earned a 51% fresh score. The Cinemascore was much better, coming in at an A, slicing Argo’s A+ and Gone Girl’s B. That’s a solid score for a film that is polarizing critics and could keep legs going next weekend, when four films clog up almost 12,000 venues. Affleck will take the checkmark for The Accountant and move on to his awards season flick, Live by Night, where he stars and also directs.