Cheap scares and violent crime seemed to resonate with audiences this weekend, with action and horror films coming out on top of the domestic box office. Meanwhile, "Logan Lucky," the return of vaunted film director Steven Soderbergh, had a relatively modest arrival.
Lionsgate's "The Hitman's Bodyguard" debuted at No. 1 this week, bringing in $21.6 million in its opening weekend. The action comedy, starring Samuel L. Jackson as an imprisoned assassin who needs the help of bodyguard Ryan Reynolds when he agrees to testify against a genocidal Belarusian dictator (Gary Oldman), was a dud with critics. The Times' Justin Chang labeled it an "insanely violent live-action cartoon."
Yet the film bested expectations, as it went into the weekend predicted to gross $16 million to $19 million, according to analysts.
"We're very pleased," said David Spitz, president of theatrical distribution for Lionsgate. "The audience reaction to the film has been fantastic. And we have a clear runway through the rest of August into September."
The audience for the film, which was 52% male and largely 25 and older (70%), had a significantly more positive take than critics, who gave it a stale 39% rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Filmgoers graded it with a positive B+ rating on CinemaScore polling service.
Soderbergh, who in 2013 hinted at retirement, returned with the $29-million action comedy "Logan Lucky," distributed by Fingerprint Releasing and Bleecker Street. It brought in $8 million to debut No. 3 in its first weekend.
The "Traffic" and "Ocean's Eleven" director released the film, which stars Channing Tatum and "Girls" star Adam Driver as siblings who try to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race, without the help of a traditional studio.
To release "Logan Lucky," Soderbergh launched distribution company Fingerprint Releasing with the help of Dan Fellman, the former president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. who now runs a consulting operation. Fingerprint teamed with small New York distributor Bleecker Street to help with marketing and distribution, and funded the marketing budget by selling post-theatrical rights to other companies, including streaming giant Amazon.
"Lucky" received a B rating on CinemaScore and an impressive 93% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes and Hilary Swank also appear in the film. Reviewing for The Times, Kenneth Turan called it a "slick, smart, impeccably executed" film that could be summed up as "a highbrow heist movie involving some lowbrow folks."
Despite a 56% drop since last weekend, Warner Bros.' horror flick "Annabelle: Creation" wavered only slightly to the No. 2 spot after debuting at the top of the box office last weekend. The film earned $15.5 million this week for a cumulative total of $64 million.
The origin story of a possessed doll that terrorizes families, Annabelle was first introduced in "The Conjuring" series, and the doll received its own standalone movie in 2014. "Annabelle: Creation" has a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a B rating on CinemaScore.
Warner Bros.' World War II picture "Dunkirk," now in its fifth weekend, added $6.7 million to its earnings for a to-date total of $165.5 million in the U.S. and Canada. Despite losing 491 locations, the film's 38% decline was among the smallest of the top five.
Open Road's PG-rated animation "Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature" rounded out the top five, bringing in $5.1 million in its second weekend for a cumulative total of $17.7 million. The sequel, whose first installment opened in 2014 and went on to earn $64.2 million, features the voices of Katherine Heigl, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph as talking squirrels.
On the limited release front, the Weinstein Company's "Wind River" in its third week landed at No. 10 on the box office chart, bringing in $3 million to bump its total earnings to $4.1 million.
The crime thriller set on a Native American reservation in Wyoming added 649 theaters for a total of 694 and saw a 386% increase since last week. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (screenwriter of "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water"), the film stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.
Fox Searchlight's drama "Patti Cakes" opened in 14 locations this weekend, earning $66,000 for a per-screen average of $4,714. Starring newcomer Danielle Macdonald as an aspiring New Jersey rapper, the film earned a 74% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Wide releases this upcoming Friday include Sony's drama "All Saints," BH Tilt's martial arts pic "Birth of the Dragon" and the Weinstein Co.'s animated film "Leap!"
FIP's action flick "A Gentleman" is set to open in limited release.