With just one weekend to go before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker explodes into theaters, a rush of new titles – Jumanji: The Next Level, Richard Jewell and Black Christmas – surged into the marketplace this weekend to get a jump on Disney’s surefire blockbuster. Overall, the results were mixed; while Jumanji hit the high end of expectations with an estimated $60.1 million, Richard Jewell and Black Christmas both underperformed in their respective debuts.
Opening in an ultra-wide 4,227 locations, Jumanji: The Next Level significantly bettered the debut of its predecessor Welcome to the Jungle, which took in an estimated $36.1 million in late December 2017 before legging it to an incredible $404.5 million domestically – making it distributor Sony’s biggest earner of all time in North America – and a whopping $962 million worldwide. That film’s lower debut is qualified by the fact that it opened the week after that year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi – somewhat blunting its initial earning potential – while The Next Level is hitting theaters one week prior to The Rise of Skywalker. In general, the latest entry in the franchise is expected to be much more front-loaded than its predecessor.
In any event, this is a fantastic result for the family-adventure threequel, which benefitted from audience goodwill from the last installment and the return of the film’s popular core cast, including Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan. In addition to being Sony’s highest opening ever in December, it’s also the highest-ever opening for a comedy released during the month and the biggest live-action debut for both Hart and Black.
Heading into the weekend, it was difficult to know just how high or low The Next Level would go, with expectations ranging from $35 million (the studio’s estimate prior to Saturday morning, when they increased their prediction to $50 million following a robust Friday) to a very bullish $70 million. While reviews for The Next Level are slightly more muted than those for Welcome to the Jungle (66% vs. 76% on Rotten Tomatoes), moviegoers seem to be liking it just as much, with opening day audiences awarding it an A- Cinemascore. Meanwhile, the film’s Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score is a strong 87% — identical to Welcome to the Jungle‘s — with the caveat that far fewer ratings having been counted for The Next Level up to this point.
Dropping to second place after registering at No. 1 three weekends in a row was Disney’s Frozen II, which dipped 45% to an estimated $19.2 million in its fourth weekend of release. With the animated sequel’s total now standing at an impressive $366.5 million, it’s running significantly ahead of the first Frozen at the same point in its release — though it’s worth noting that the first film was also much less front-loaded and ultimately legged it to over $400 million.
At No. 3 is the sleeper hit Knives Out, which eased just 35% to an estimated $9.2 million in its third weekend of release. The Lionsgate comedy-mystery now stands at a solid $78.9 million after 17 days, giving it a good shot at hitting the $100 million mark by the end of its run.
Warner Bros. Richard Jewell slid into fourth with an estimated $5 million from 2,502 locations, coming in far below expectations, which had it generally finishing in the $10 million range. Based on the real-life title character — a security guard who was wrongfully suspected of planting a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, leading to a media firestorm — the Clint Eastwood-directed film has suffered its fair share of controversy leading up to release, including charges that the film’s portrayal of Olivia Wilde’s character Kathy Scruggs – the real-life journalist who first reported that Jewell was a “person of interest” in the bombing – is sexist and defamatory of her character.
There’s no way to know how that controversy may have affected Richard Jewell’s performance either way this weekend, though the debut is certainly a far cry from the massive $89.2 million wide opening of another ultra-controversial Clint Eastwood-directed film, 2014’s American Sniper. That title went on to gross over $350 million in North America in part due to uproar over the film’s portrayal of lead character Chris Kyle by more liberal viewers and media commentators, which had moviegoers in more conservative-leaning Southern and Midwest states turning out in droves to support it. However, that film’s controversies were much more substantial and wide-ranging than Richard Jewell’s, so comparing the two isn’t particularly instructive.
Whatever the case, Richard Jewell is among Eastwood’s lowest-ever wide openings as a director, a list that also includes 1999’s True Crime ($5.3 million) and 1997’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ($5.2 million). On the plus side, the film garnered an “A” Cinemascore from opening-day audiences, suggesting some potential for positive word-of-mouth moving forward.
Just behind Richard Jewell in fifth place was Black Christmas, the second remake of the 1974 holiday horror film of the same name that became a prototype for the low-budget slasher movies that dominated the following decade. With an estimated $4.4 million from 2,625 locations, Black Christmas came in well below expectations, including distributor Universal’s $10 million prediction heading into the weekend. The film certainly wasn’t helped by middling reviews (it currently sits at 46% on Rotten Tomatoes) and an overall negative reception from audiences, resulting in a poor D+ Cinemascore and a Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score of 28% from just over 200 ratings to date.
There were a number of factors that appeared to be working in Black Christmas’s favor this weekend, including no major horror competition, a teen-friendly PG-13 rating, the benefit of the well-known Blumhouse brand and a marketing campaign aimed squarely at young women – who make up a substantial portion of the horror-movie audience – that lightly emphasized the film’s feminist themes (notably, the new Black Christmas was written and directed by women). That said, unlike remakes of better-known horror titles, Black Christmas is more of a cult phenomenon than a mainstream one, making the IP associated with it less significant than, say, a Halloween or a Friday the 13th and the film itself trickier to market as a result. In any event, the budget on Black Christmas is reported to be just $5 million, so it’s a relatively low-risk release for the studio.
The remainder of the Top 10 consists entirely of holdovers. In sixth place, Ford v. Ferrari enjoyed another slight drop, easing just 38% to an estimated $4.1 million in its fifth weekend. With $98.2 million in North America to date, the Disney-released Fox title is now just days away from crossing the $100 million threshold. Seventh went to Universal’s Queen & Slim, which dipped 45% to an estimated $3.6 million in its third weekend for a total of $33.1 million after 17 days of release, while in eighth, Sony’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood grossed an estimated $3.3 million for a total of $49.3 million to date.
Down in ninth, Dark Waters dropped 50% to an estimated $2 million in its second weekend of wide release and its fourth weekend overall, bringing the total for the fact-based Mark Ruffalo-Anne Hathaway title to $8.8 million to date. Finally in tenth, STX’s 21 Bridges grossed an estimated $1.1 million for a total of $26.3 million so far.
A24’s Uncut Gems made quite an impression in its limited release this weekend, bringing in an estimated $525K from just 5 locations for a sensational per-screen average of over $105K. That ranks as the second highest per-theater average of the year behind Neon’s Parasite, which had a per-screen average of $131K back in October. The latest effort from the Safdie Brothers benefitted greatly from buzz around Adam Sandler’s performance, which represents a rare dramatic turn from the comedian.
Lionsgate’s Bombshell opened on 4 screens and brought in an estimated $312K, good for a per-screen average of $78K. The studio notes that 59% of the audience was women, while 86% were over the age of 25.
Fox Searchlight’s A Hidden Life opened to an estimated $52K in five locations, giving the Terrence Malick-directed drama a so-so per-screen average of just over $10K.
Jumanji: The Next Level grossed $85.7 million in 52 markets, including $12.6 million in the U.K. and $8.9 million in Russia. The global tally for the Sony threequel this weekend was $145.8 million, bringing its international cume to $152.5 million and it worldwide total to $213 million to date (it previously opened in 18 markets ahead of the film’s U.S. release).
Frozen II crossed the $1 billion global mark on Saturday, making it Disney’s third animated title to surpass the threshold after the first Frozen and Zootopia. It is also the studio’s sixth film to gross over $1 billion worldwide this year as well as the seventh highest-grossing animated release of all time globally. The film’s international total now stands at $666 million while its global cume is $1.0325 billion. Top-grossing markets include China with $111.5 million, Korea with $85.4 million, Japan with $67.3 million, the U.K. with $49.6 million and Germany with $39.9 million.
Knives Out took in an estimated $13.6 million in 73 overseas markets, bringing its international cume to $83.3 million and its global total to $162.2 million.
Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates (Domestic)
FRI, DEC. 13 – SUN, DEC. 15
|1||Jumanji: The Next Level||$60,100,000||—||4,227||—||$14,218||$60,100,000||1||Sony Pictures|
|4||Richard Jewell||$5,000,000||—||2,502||—||$1,998||$5,000,000||1||Warner Bros.|
|5||Black Christmas||$4,420,000||—||2,625||—||$1,684||$4,420,000||1||Universal Pictures|
|6||Ford v. Ferrari||$4,143,000||-38%||2,895||-851||$1,431||$98,247,794||5||20th Century Fox|
|7||Queen & Slim||$3,600,000||-46%||1,560||-155||$2,308||$33,174,870||3||Universal Pictures|
|8||A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood||$3,355,000||-35%||2,855||-636||$1,175||$49,329,891||4||Sony Pictures|
|9||Dark Waters||$2,000,000||-50%||2,112||100||$947||$8,889,174||4||Focus Features|
|10||21 Bridges||$1,190,000||-58%||1,533||-932||$776||$26,361,366||4||STX Entertainment|
|12||Playing with Fire||$670,000||-67%||1,381||-872||$485||$43,264,818||6||Paramount Pictures|
|13||Playmobil: The Movie||$170,000||-74%||1,458||-879||$117||$992,723||2||STX Entertainment|
|4||Last Christmas||$450,000||-56%||616||-644||$731||$34,390,840||6||Universal Pictures|
|5||Jojo Rabbit||$375,000||-33%||400||-179||$938||$19,981,764||9||Fox Searchlight|
|6||Honey Boy||$235,776||-46%||387||-73||$609||$2,625,720||6||Amazon Studios|
|7||Maleficent: Mistress of Evil||$185,000||-65%||345||-383||$536||$112,741,631||9||Disney|
|8||Terminator: Dark Fate||$130,000||-60%||250||-181||$520||$62,074,270||7||Paramount|
|10||En Brazos de un Asesino||$63,000||-72%||160||0||$394||$368,920||2||Lionsgate / Pantelion Films|
|3||A Hidden Life||$52,000||—||5||—||$10,400||$52,000||1||Fox Searchlight|
|4||Pain and Glory||$50,225||-10%||78||0||$644||$3,697,256||11||Sony Pictures Classics|
|6||Downton Abbey||$23,000||-52%||59||-58||$390||$96,838,545||13||Focus Features|