Weekend Estimates: Midway ($18M) Stuns Doctor Sleep ($13M+) In Surprise Upset; Likely 1st November Weekend In 20 Years Without a $20M+ Earner

Saturday Update: In a shocking turn of events relative to widespread industry (and our own) expectations leading up to this weekend, Midway is on course to win the box office frame with an estimated $18 million after beating expectations in its Friday debut of $6.34 million. That latter figure topped the $5.34 million opening day of Hacksaw Ridge three years ago, which went on to a $15.2 million opening.

There’s a lot to breakdown here, but the bottom line is the top ten films may fall short of $100 million — a very uncommon occurrence this time of year. More on that below.

On the openers’ front, Lionsgate smartly strategized their release of Midway around Veterans Day this coming Monday, focusing marketing on the target adult demo and landing a noticeable footprint in PLF theaters. Ultimately, the film’s pre-release tracking metrics under-indexed by significant margins — likely due to the fact that its older audience targets aren’t frequent moviegoers and this wasn’t a pre-sales heavy film (like Downton Abbey, for example). In retrospect, that resulted in overly conservative forecast models relative to the film’s over-performance this weekend.

The second and bigger part of this weekend’s shock aspect, though, is the under-performance of Doctor Sleep. Warner Bros. and director/writer Mike Flanagan’s sequel to The Shining mustered a $5.2 million opening day — rumored, but not confirmed, to also include October 30’s Fandango sneak preview earnings. Opening weekend looks on pace for around $13.5 million.

Contrary to Midway, pre-release tracking had generally pointed to an adult-driven horror genre success for Sleep that modeled in the low-to-mid $20 million range for its first weekend. Young women and Hispanics are crucial to many horror films’ success, but it looks like very few of them showed up.

One has to wonder if releasing the film one week after Halloween ended up being a poor release strategy. The film’s R rating and long run time may have hindered things as well. It’s an unfortunate start out of the gate for a high profile film that’s earning a fair amount of critical approval, but wasn’t able to leverage the revival of Stephen King as a brand at the box office following the success of the It films and this year’s earlier remake of Pet Sematary.

Ultimately, the through line here is a second consecutive November weekend that’s down precipitously from the same point in time last year. Entering the weekend, we expected the top ten films to decline between 27 and 32 percent from the same frame last year. Based on Friday estimates, we’re revising that projection to between a 33 and 38 percent decline.

While that’s a somewhat unfair comparison given the record corridor driven by Bohemian Rhapsody, The Grinch, and various October holdovers one year ago, it’s another dent in 2019’s armor and puts more pressure on upcoming titles like Ford v. Ferrari, Frozen II, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Knives Out to pick up the pace and meet and/or exceed expectations before December arrives.

In fact, unless Midway over-performs (again) current estimates, this will mark the first mid-November weekend in exactly 20 years without at least one film earning $20 million or more. The last time this happened was November 5 – 7, 1999, when The Bone Collector opened to $16.7 million. That comparison excludes month-to-month crossovers, such as October 30 and 31 and December 1 and 2 landing on the three-day frame with a November date — but it’s a surprising statistic nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Last Christmas is slightly missing expectations with an estimated $12 million opening weekend off its $4.06 million first day. That said, this pic is designed to play for weeks to come and didn’t cost as much as Midway or Doctor Sleep to produce. Playing with Fire is starting this weekend with $3.55 million on Friday, translating to an opening weekend estimate of $11.3 million.

Capping off the top five, Terminator: Dark Fate sank 73 percent from opening day last week to $2.8 million yesterday, bringing its eight-day domestic cume to $40.5 million. The sharp decline is partly attributable to the loss of IMAX and PLF screens to this weekend’s releases, but this is the first significant indication that positive word of mouth among some fans isn’t extending out much further than that base. We’re estimating a $10 million sophomore frame.

Weekend estimates below.

Early Weekend Estimates (Domestic)
FRI, NOV. 8 – SUN, NOV. 10

WIDE (1000+)

1 Midway $18,000,000 3,242 $5,552 $18,000,000 1 Lionsgate
2 Doctor Sleep $13,500,000 3,855 $3,502 $13,500,000 1 Warner Bros.
3 Last Christmas $11,900,000 3,448 $3,451 $11,900,000 1 Universal Pictures
4 Playing with Fire $11,300,000 3,125 $3,616 $11,300,000 1 Paramount Pictures
5 Terminator: Dark Fate $10,000,000 -66% 4,086 0 $2,447 $47,657,130 2 Paramount
6 Joker $9,000,000 -33% 2,806 -713 $3,207 $313,291,507 6 Warner Bros.
7 Maleficent: Mistress of Evil $8,500,000 -35% 3,201 -619 $2,655 $97,799,901 4 Disney
8 Harriet $7,200,000 -38% 2,186 127 $3,294 $23,433,140 2 Focus Features
9 Zombieland: Double Tap $4,300,000 -42% 2,427 -910 $1,772 $66,640,483 4 Sony Pictures
10 The Addams Family $4,100,000 -51% 2,674 -933 $1,533 $91,367,705 5 United Artists Releasing
11 Countdown $2,900,000 -50% 1,829 -846 $1,586 $22,332,505 3 STX Entertainment
12 Motherless Brooklyn $2,200,000 -37% 1,342 0 $1,639 $7,357,074 2 Warner Bros.
13 Black and Blue $1,800,000 -56% 1,129 -933 $1,594 $18,981,865 3 Sony / Screen Gems
14 Arctic Dogs $1,100,000 -62% 2,320 -524 $474 $4,868,346 2 Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

LIMITED (100 — 999)

1 Jojo Rabbit $4,000,000 71% 802 546 $4,988 $9,175,882 4 Fox Searchlight
2 Parasite $2,400,000 -5% 603 142 $3,980 $11,126,976 5 NEON
3 Downton Abbey $650,000 -44% 474 -438 $1,371 $95,687,915 8 Focus Features
4 Abominable $460,000 -57% 406 -731 $1,133 $59,223,085 7 Universal Pictures
5 Gemini Man $400,000 -78% 480 -1392 $833 $48,018,847 5 Paramount Pictures
6 Ad Astra $105,000 -49% 248 111 $423 $49,850,945 8 20th Century Fox
7 The Lion King $90,000 -19% 135 -23 $667 $543,471,945 17 Walt Disney Pictures

PLATFORM (1 — 99)

1 Housefull 4 $125,000 -71% 85 -230 $1,471 $2,012,570 3 FIP
2 Toy Story 4 $55,000 -1% 89 -16 $618 $433,949,664 21 Disney
3 Rambo: Last Blood $16,000 -78% 58 -147 $276 $44,740,145 8 Lionsgate

Friday Update: Warner Bros.’ Doctor Sleep brought in an estimated $1.5 million from previews to kick off the weekend, leading the charge among this weekend’s four openers. The studio has not yet confirmed whether or not that amount includes earnings from October 30’s Fandango sneak previews.

Comparison-wise, Sleep came in 35 percent below Pet Sematary ($2.3 million) earlier this year — another Stephen King adaptation. The upside is that Doctor Sleep is likely to play to an older audience, placing less importance on the initial fan rush (especially given its long run time which would likely keep many away on a work night).

Lionsgate’s Midway got off to a healthier start than expected with a $925K result from 2,600 locations last night, besting the $750K of Hacksaw Ridge three years ago — although coming in close to Ben-Hur‘s $900K. Indications are the film possibly under-indexed in pre-release tracking, but lukewarm reviews will go toe-to-toe with the weekend’s Veterans Day advantage as things continue to play out.

Universal’s Last Christmas unwrapped $575K from last night’s first shows. It started below director Paul Feig’s previous film, A Simple Favor ($900K), and star Emilia Clarke’s Me Before You ($1.37 million), but this is an overall healthy start for a relatively inexpensive film that’s likely to play well through the holidays .

Meanwhile, Paramount’s Playing with Fire also debuted at 4pm yesterday. The studio has not reported earnings as of this publishing.

More updates to come.