With the release of Sam Mendes' 1917, Universal Pictures chose to execute what has become a standard award season maneuver. The movie was first screened in mid-November, allowing critics and guild members to see what it was and start the wave of buzz, and then just before the end of the year the studio released it in just a handful of theaters – allowing it to qualify as a 2019 release. It was only this past weekend that Universal finally distributed the feature across the country, capping off a very slow play… but to the company's credit, the strategy totally worked. The film is now the number one movie in America, having made more than enough money to knock J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker down to second place.
Check out the full Top 10 below, and join me after for analysis!
In the last few months, 1917 has become a favorite in the on-going awards season, with an eye on becoming the second Sam Mendes film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards (the other being 1999's American Beauty – his directorial debut). Looking at these numbers, it's not hard to guess that all of this chatter has made movie-goers curious, resulting in a significant number of ticket sales once the one-shot thriller made it into wide release. No title on the Top 10 had a per theater average anywhere near what it did, making more than $10,000 while playing on over 3,400 big screens across North America.
The numbers are notably huge for Sam Mendes, as no title in his filmmography outside of his James Bond movies – Skyfall and Spectre – made over $30 million when they first found their way into 1,000-plus theaters. Previously it was Jarhead, his last war movie, that held that distinction, having made $27.7 million in its first three days back in 2005. After that is the Tom Hanks mob thriller Road To Perdition, which earned $22.1 million.
Looking at box office trends in recent months, war movies are notably getting some attention. While it didn't have anywhere near the same kind of critical acclaim and buzz possessed by 1917 going into its first weekend of release, Roland Emmerich's Midway wound up being a big surprise hit when it hit in early November. That being said, even those numbers don't compare to what Sam Mendes' movie has done, as Midway made just $17.5 million in its first three days.
It likely won't be a long reign at the top of the box office for 1917, as there is a very real possibility that it could be taken down by one of the films set to hit theaters on Friday, but I predict you're going to be seeing 1917 on this chart for many weeks to come. The conversation surrounding it is probably only going to grow louder in the weeks leading up to the Oscars, and that's going to result in a lot of people checking it out just so that they can establish their own opinion.
Of course, Universal Pictures wasn't the only studio to play the slow rollout move with a film they see as a contender, as Destin Daniel Cretton's Just Mercy found its way into 2,371 more theaters this weekend following its limited release in late December. And while the numbers for the drama starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx aren't quite as big as those put up by 1917, it's hard to argue with a drama earning eight figures and tying for fourth place. As you can see from its ranking last week, the movie wasn't getting out to a lot of people during its first few days in release, resulting in $435,988 in earnings, but now audiences purchasing tickets, and really loving what they are seeing.
The narrative surrounding Miguel Areta's Like A Boss – which is paired with Just Mercy in fourth place ? isn't really comparable. While the two films reportedly sold just as many tickets in the last three days, word of mouth for the comedy has been considerably different than what exists for the death row-centric legal drama. Critics did not take kindly to the Tiffany Haddish/Rose Byrne feature, resulting in a rough 21% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and while general audiences have been a bit more friendly, it still only resulted with a "B" grade on CinemaScore. The drops that both movies experience over the course of the next week should be interesting, as I predict that Just Mercy will wind up ranking higher than Like A Boss on the chart this time next week.
In far less positive news, William Eubank's Underwater looks like it is going to be going into the books as the first flop of 2020. The film didn't exactly having critics falling over themselves, earning a rather tepid response overall, but now it seems that the movie is on track to be a money-loser, having been made for a reported $50 million. Adding to the rough news is that it's star Kristen Stewart's second box office disappointment in a row following the cold movie-goer reception to Elizabeth Banks' Charlie's Angels in the fall.
On the milestone beat, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker may have been bumped down in the domestic box office rankings this weekend, but it's currently also on the precipice of becoming the ninth 2019 blockbuster to make over $1 billion at the global box office. At this point it should be able to handedly beat out Guy Ritchie's Aladdin, Todd Phillips' Joker, and Pixar's Toy Story 4, all of which made under $1.1 billion by the time they were done with their respective theatrical runs, but how much higher it climbs beyond that is a question mark at this point.
Coming up this week we have the arrival of the first action blockbuster in 2020 with Joe Carnahan's Bad Boys For Life, and it will be joined by Stephen Gaghan's family friendly adventure Dolittle. We'll be back next Sunday to examine their performance and shake up the Top 10, so be sure to come back then!