Boosted by strong reviews and a genre-bending story, Jordan Peele's socially conscious horror movie, "Get Out," got a big, neighborly welcome at the box office this weekend.
The movie from the comedian-turned-director obliterated industry expectations with a studio-estimated $30.5 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada from Friday through Sunday, easily unseating "The Lego Batman Movie" as the No. 1 domestic film.
Most optimistic analysts had predicted the movie would open to $20 million to $24 million. But thanks to rave reviews, anticipation was high for the directorial debut of Peele, previously best known for his role in the Comedy Central sketch-comedy duo behind "Key & Peele."
"Get Out," about a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya of "Sicario") whose trip to meet his white girlfriend's parents turns deeply sinister, has received unanimous praise from film critics, achieving a rare 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
While it's a stellar debut for Peele as a writer and director of a feature film, the low-budget movie also marks the latest success from Universal Pictures and Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions, which had a winner earlier this year with M. Night Shyamalan's "Split" ($130 million in domestic receipts so far). "Get Out," which also happens to be the big-screen debut of "Girls" star Allison Williams, cost only $5 million to make. The movie begins its international rollout next month.
"Get Out," praised for its use of the horror genre to tackle race relations, had a healthy demographic split among its debut audience, which was 39% black, 36% white and 17% Latino. Sales were split evenly between men and woman.
The film's innovative use of the well-worn scary movie format for social commentary follows other topical horror films such as 2016's "The Purge: Election Year."
Audiences responded positively, according to exit polling firm CinemaScore, giving it an A-minus. That's a rare feat for a horror movie, and it bodes well for the film's future prospects — and perhaps for Peele's future as a writer-director.
"This may be Jordan Peele's first directorial effort, but there's a tremendous amount of craft in this movie," said Nick Carpou, president of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures. "This is a talent we all know, but in a different way. When creative people can make that jump, it's particularly noteworthy."
Warner Bros.' "The Lego Batman Movie" settled for No. 2 after back-to-back weeks at the top of the charts, adding $19 million to its formidable haul for a total of $133 million domestically for the $80-million animated comedy. Adding in $93 million from other countries, the irreverent take on the caped crusader has grossed $226 million worldwide.
Third place went to Lionsgate's "John Wick: Chapter 2," starring Keanu Reeves as a highly efficient killer. The action thriller collected $9 million this weekend for a total of $74.4 million in the U.S. and Canada after three weeks in theaters.
With the exception of "Get Out," newcomers suffered badly this weekend. "Collide," an action thriller that was orphaned by the Relativity Media bankruptcy in 2015 and ended up with Open Road Films, collapsed at the multiplex with just $1.5 million. Lionsgate's musical animal cartoon "Rock Dog" crashed with $3.7 million. Both finished outside the top 10.
Many moviegoers decided to catch up with the Oscar nominees still in theaters rather than seek out the new releases.
20th Century Fox's real-life NASA tale "Hidden Figures" held on as the highest-grossing best picture nominee domestically. It finished in seventh place with $5.9 million for the weekend and a powerful $153-million total domestically. "La La Land," Lionsgate's hit movie musical nominated for 14 awards, was right behind with $4.6 million and a cumulative total of $140 million. The Weinstein Co.'s "Lion" earned the tenth spot in the rankings with $3.8 million, raising its haul to $42.8 million.
10 a.m.: This article was updated with a quote from Universal Pictures' distribution chief and box office details for "John Wick," "Lego Batman" and Oscar-nominated films.