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‘Smile’ scares up best box office since August, while ‘Bros’ flops

Close-up of a woman with an unnervingly broad grin and a scar
Caitlin Stasey as Laura Weaver in “Smile.”
(Paramount Pictures)

Paramount Pictures’ “Smile” enjoyed a frighteningly good debut at the domestic box office this weekend, opening in first place with $22 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

Coming in at the high end of box-office expectations, the horror flick is the first title to launch with more than $20 million since Brad Pitt’s “Bullet Train” opened to $30 million the first weekend of August. Meanwhile, Universal Pictures’ rom-com “Bros” underperformed in North American markets this weekend, debuting in fourth place with $4.8 million.

Rounding out the top five this cycle are Warner Bros.’ “Don’t Worry Darling,” which collected $7.3 million in its second weekend for a steep decline of 62% and North American cumulative of $32.8 million; “The Woman King,” which added $7 million in its third weekend (down 36%) for a North American cumulative of $46.7 million; and 20th Century Studio’s rerelease of 2009’s “Avatar,” which grossed $4.7 million during its second weekend (down 55%) for a North American cumulative $18.6 million.

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The horror movie “Smile,” in which a therapist catches a curse from a patient, expands its simple premise by focusing on genre tropes and trends.

Written and directed by Parker Finn, “Smile” stars Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) as a therapist who catches a sinister, fatal curse from one of her patients. The cast of “Smile” also includes Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Rob Morgan and Kal Penn.

The scary movie scored a solid 75% fresh rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and a lackluster B-minus grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore. “Smile” — which performed particularly well with moviegoers between the ages of 18 and 34 — also marks Paramount’s sixth No. 1 title this year, following previous blockbuster releases such as “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “The Lost City” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”

“Writer-director Parker Finn’s feature debut, ‘Smile,’ boasts the thinnest of premises based on a laundry list of horror movie trends and tropes, from the historical to the contemporary,” writes film critic Katie Walsh for the Los Angeles Times.

“But Finn fleshes it out with some dizzying cinematography by Charlie Sarroff, a creepily effective score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer, and a believably twitchy lead performance from Sosie Bacon. Oh, and jump scares, a whole lotta jump scares.”

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, Beninese economist and historian Leonard Wantchekon and film professor Racquel Gates push back on the online campaign accusing ‘The Woman King’ of historical revisionism.

Helmed by Nicholas Stoller, “Bros” stars Billy Eichner as a popular podcast host who falls in love with a hunky estate lawyer (Luke Macfarlane). Billed by Universal and heavily marketed by Eichner as the first gay romantic comedy distributed by a major movie studio, “Bros” received a glowing 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a great A-grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

“‘Bros,’ which has little use for straight actors (or tragedy), sets itself up as a meaningful corrective,” writes film critic Justin Chang for The Times.

“Though hardly the only gay romantic comedy of note to emerge in recent months (like Hulu’s ‘Fire Island,’ whose Bowen Yang pops up here as a lofty Provincetown millionaire), it does boast the notable big-studio precedent of an entirely LGBTQ principal cast, albeit one whose racial and sexual diversity happens to prop up a love story between two white, cisgender, gay men — something the movie acknowledges with both a wink and a wince.”

Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane make an endearing pair of Mr. Rights in this funny and knowing romantic comedy directed by Nicholas Stoller (“The Five-Year Engagement,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”).

Still, the highly anticipated film posted the third-lowest opening of the year among titles released in more than 3,000 theaters. (Behind only Universal’s action-thriller “The 355,” which was released in January to $4.6 million, and the studio’s reboot of “Firestarter,” which opened to $3.8 million in theaters day-and-date with its streaming premiere on Peacock.)

On Sunday, Eichner reacted to the underwhelming box-office results by tweeting, “That’s just the world we live in, unfortunately. Even with glowing reviews, great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore etc, straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is.”

“Last night I snuck in and sat in the back of a sold out theater playing BROS in LA,” he added. “The audience howled with laughter start to finish, burst into applause at the end, and some were wiping away tears as they walked out. It was truly magical. Really. I am VERY proud of this movie.

“Everyone who ISN’T a homophobic weirdo should go see BROS tonight! You will have a blast! And it *is* special and uniquely powerful to see this particular story on a big screen, esp for queer folks who don’t get this opportunity often.”

It’s also worth noting that Sony Pictures’ aforementioned “Bullet Train” officially crossed the $100 million mark during its ninth weekend in North American theaters; while Sarigama Cinemas’ historical epic “Ponniyin Selvan: Part One” opened in sixth place with $4.1 million across 500 locations — clinching the biggest per-screen average of the top 10.

Opening in wide release next weekend are Disney’s star-packed ensemble dramedy “Amsterdam” and Sony Pictures’ family friendly “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.”


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