With Halloween days away, the box office took a turn for the supernatural with "Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween," taking hold of the top spot and leaving other new releases and holdovers behind.
The Lionsgate picture scared up an estimated $27.6 million for the weekend in the U.S. and Canada, well above the studio's projections of $15 million and industry expectations of $15 million to $20 million. It is the third-highest debut for a Madea film, behind 2009's "Madea Goes to Jail" and 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion."
"That's a testament to the timing, the movie itself, and the power of Tyler Perry," said David Spitz, Lionsgate's distribution head. "With this property, everything aligned properly."
"Boo!" features writer-director Perry donning his signature dress, wig and pearls on Halloween while watching over a group of misbehaving teens. That job becomes difficult when ghosts and zombies and killers show up. The film also stars Cassie Davis, Bella Thorne and Patrice Lovely.
The $20-million picture took its inspiration and title from a joke in Chris Rock's critically acclaimed comedy "Top Five." In the 2014 flick, Rock's character is faced with the prospect of his more serious movie losing at the box office to a Halloween-themed film featuring the volatile matriarch.
Perry and his film's featuring the Madea character have been consistent crowd pleasers since the franchise's inception in the early 1990s, when it began as stage plays. This latest iteration is no different, receiving an A grade from moviegoers according to CinemaScore. Critics, however, as usual, felt the film left something to be desired, with only 31% of the Rotten Tomatoes reviews being positive.
Such a vibrant box office performance for "Boo!" rebuffs beliefs that the Madea schtick was played out or no longer entertaining, as some believed the 2013 holiday offering "A Madea Christmas" proved. (The film only collected $52 million after a relatively soft opening of $16 million.)
Additionally, "Boo!" is a bona fide crossover hit, Spitz said, noting how the past Madea films have usually been overwhelming supported by African American audiences (upwards of 80% consistently). This movie's audience was only about 60% supported by black people, with whites and Latinos making up about 33%. Such numbers are most likely due to the casting of a number of social media stars like Yousef Erakat, Kian Lawley and Jc Caylen.
Coming in second was another new release, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," from Paramount, with $23 million, also beating both studio ($17 million to $19 million) and analyst expectations ($15 million to $20 million). Internationally, the picture took in an impressive $31 million, bucking a trend of sequels struggling at the box office this year.
"[Sequels] have been a challenge all over the world," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's distribution chief, noting the latest film's 20% growth globally over the original. "It's a big number, and we did that without drastically increasing the production budget. We're very pleased."
The follow-up to the 2012 "Jack Reacher" stars Tom Cruise, again, as a former U.S. Army MP investigating suspicious and dangerous situations. It also stars Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge and Danika Yarosh.
The 2012 original was a robust performer for Paramount. It opened with $15.2 million and eventually grossed $80 million domestically, though it did even better overseas with $138 million.
"Never Go Back" garnered mixed reviews from moviegoers (57% male; 42% between ages 25 and 49) and critics alike. While it received a B-plus CinemaScore (an A-minus from those 25-34), the picture has a 40% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
International ticket sales are a big focus for the new PG-13 movie, which cost $60 million to make. It was the No. 1 movie in a number of markets this weekend, including Russia, Taiwan, India and Hong Kong. Colligan noted that the film still has a long life ahead internationally with openings to come in locales where Cruise is popular, such as Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Japan.
"I don't think [this movie] would work without him," she said. "He's the secret sauce."
Continuing the supernatural trend led by "Boo!," Universal's "Ouija: Origin of Evil" took the third spot with $14.1 million, falling below expectations of $15 million or more. But it also pulled in $7.9 million internationally.
"Origin of Evil" is a followup to 2014's surprise horror hit based on the Hasbro board that purports to let users communicate with the beyond. Whereas the original "Ouija" was a critically reviled present-day teen thriller, the sequel is set in 1967 Los Angeles and has earned some positive early reviews. The new picture follows a family that runs a scam seance business that turns all-too-real.
Produced by Jason Blum and Michael Bay and directed by indie horror maestro Mike Flanagan, the film cost about $9 million to make.
The film received the highest critic's praise of new releases this weekend, with an 81% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences (even split male-female; 57% under 25) however only gave the picture a C CinemaScore.
Rounding out the top five were holdovers, Warner Bros.' "The Accountant," with $14 million in its second week, and Universal's "The Girl on the Train," with $7.3 million in its third week.
The final new release of the week, Fox's "Keeping Up With the Joneses," landed in seventh with $5.6 million, well below expectations of an already soft $7-million-to-$9-million bow. It stars Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher as a suburban couple who get wrapped up in a dangerous plot when their neighbors (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) turn out to be spies.
On the limited release front, Lionsgate released "American Pastoral," starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and Uzo Aduba, in 50 locations to $151,000. The picture follows a father on a mission to find his daughter who disappears after being accused of committing a violent act.
A24 released festival darling "Moonlight," from director Barry Jenkins, on four screens in New York and Los Angeles to a formidable $414,740. That's a per-screen average of $103,685. "Moonlight" is a coming-of-age black, queer love story that's received rave reviews from audiences and critics alike (it has a 99% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Next week, the picture expands to Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
STX Entertainment's "Desierto" expanded to 168 locations, bringing in $474,000 this weekend. Its gross to date is $1.1 million.
Next week, Sony's thriller "Inferno" will compete with a host of holdovers for the top spot.
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9:55 a.m.: This article was updated with studio comment.