Warner Bros.' "The Accountant" outperformed fellow new releases, Universal's "Kevin Hart: What Now?" and Open Road's "Max Steel," and holdovers, overtaking the weekend box office.
"The Accountant" pulled in an estimated $24.7 million in the U.S. and Canada, meeting analyst expectations of $20 million to $25 million. Internationally the film grossed an estimated $2.8 million. With a total gross to date this weekend of over $27 million worldwide, Warner Bros. is happy, especially considering they projected a more modest bow of $15 million to $20 million.
"This is such a big win," said Jeff Goldstein, the studio's distribution chief. "The story is compelling and audiences responded."
The film stars Ben Affleck as an autistic CPA with assassin-like abilities whose secret freelance work for criminal organizations draws the attention of someone in the U.S. Treasury Department, played by J.K. Simmons. The movie was directed by Gavin O'Connor, who is best known for the 2011 mixed martial arts drama "Warrior." Anna Kendrick and Jeffrey Tambor also star.
This is a solid start for a movie that cost about $40 million to make, and audiences seem pleased with the product. Moviegoers (58% male, 68% over 35 years old) gave the picture an A CinemaScore. Film critics, however, are less stoked with the film, which received a 51% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Such a performance bodes well for Affleck and the studio, demonstrating the continued strength of his star power. He also had roles in WB's DC Comics franchise such as "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Justice League."
"We're in the Ben Affleck business and we're proud of it," Goldstein said.
Meanwhile, comedian Kevin Hart again proved his ability to generate profits with his latest stand-up concert movie, "What Now?" Garnering an estimated $12 million, the picture just failed analyst projections of $13 million to $15 million, but still can be counted as a success for Hart as it performed better than his last standup flick.
"It's great," said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "We love Kevin Hart and apparently so does North America."
Costing almost $14 million to produce, which Hart funded himself, the film was taped during his tour stop at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, filled with 53,000 people. A 15-minute cinematic prelude that leads into the stand-up act was created in which Hart plays a James Bond-esque character who must fight off a villain in order to make it to his gig. That part of the movie stars Halle Berry, Don Cheadle and Ed Helms.
"What Now?" is pacing ahead of Hart's 2013 standup hit "Let Me Explain," from Lionsgate, which grossed $32 million domestically throughout its entire run. It's also yet another demonstration of the comedian's marketing prowess that makes him one of Hollywood's most reliably bankable stars.
Moviegoers who saw the concert film gave it an A-minus CinemaScore while it has a 78% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"What Now?" is the fourth film this year alone where Universal has partnered with the star. And every other film has been a box office success -- "Ride Along 2" grossed $90.9 domestically, "Central Intelligence" (in partnership with Warner Bros.) pulled $127.4 million and "Secret Life of Pets" took in $365.5 million.
"He is a comedic star and has earned his star power," Carpou said. "It's great to be a part of it."
Coming in third place was last week's victor, Universal's "The Girl on the Train," adding another $12 million to its gross. The dark Emily Blunt movie has brought in $46.6 million domestically to date.
Fox's "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" landed in fourth place in its third week with $8.9 million. The Tim Burton-directed flick has grossed $65.8 million.
Rounding out the top five is Lionsgate's "Deepwater Horizon" with $6.4 million. It's grossed $49.3 million domestically in three weeks.
Following what some have called a disappointing $7-million debut last week, Fox Searchlight's "The Birth of a Nation" added another $2.7 million to its gross this week, only good for a 10th-place finish. That's a 61% drop week to week, evidence that the studio's hope for strong word of mouth is faltering. Over the course of its first 10 days, the film whose writer, director, producer and star, Nate Parker, has been recently involved in controversy surrounding an old rape charge has only garnered $12.2 million.
New release "Max Steel," a PG-13 science fiction action movie based on the Mattel line of action figures, distributed by Open Road, bombed with $2.2 million. It failed to meet analyst expectations of $5 million to $7 million becoming the second lowest opening for a wide release this year, behind Fox's "Morgan."
Audience members gave the picture a B CinemaScore, but critics didn't enjoy the film at all. Out of the film's eight reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the picture has a 0% positive rating.
On the limited-release front, STX Entertainment's thriller "Desierto" finally opened after a seven-month delay. On 73 screens, the migration tale from Jonás and Alfonso Cuarón, the acclaimed filmmakers of "Gravity," pulled $450,000 for a per-screen average of $6,164.
"Desierto" is an immigration tale following Moises, played by Gael García Bernal, who, after living in Oakland without proper immigration documents, was deported to Mexico after being detained for a parking violation. In an effort to rejoin his family, carrying the stuffed bear he promised to return to his son, he crosses the U.S. border on foot with a group of others seeking the American dream. Their lives, however, are threatened by a Confederate flag-toting racist (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taking border patrol into his own hands — with his hunting dog and shotgun in tow.
The Spanish-language film (with English subtitles) was acquired out of 2015's Toronto film festival for about $1.5 million and is Mexico's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year's Academy Awards.
Next week, the Halloween-themed pictures take over the box office with Lionsgate's "Boo! A Madea Halloween," Paramount's "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" and Universal's "Ouija: Origin of Evil." Joining that group will be Fox's comedy "Keeping Up with the Joneses."