THB #223: Don't Overstate It, Darling
The Don’t Worry Darling opening is not a disaster, by any measure.
But the trade analysis of this film’s apparent $20 million - $22 million opening is about what you would expect had it been a $40 million opening.
Is it the soft bigotry of lowered expectations? Or is it just trolling for Oscar ads for a movie that shouldn't really be campaigned for anything but cinematography for the twice-nominated, not-yet-winning Matthew Libatique?
Hard to say. Deadline’s Anthony D'Alessandro seems to have made the film a personal cause, writing a dozen paragraphs of praise and rationalization. But he was not alone. The others followed suit, if a little less passionately.
$20 million has been, for decades, the standard for a decent genre opening. Back when films were built over time, $20 million could be a starter for a hit that would do 3x or 4x opening.
In 2004, a movie opened to $21.4 million, grossed $59.5m domestically, did $43.9 million internationally, and is considered one of the great bombs… The Stepford Wives. Of course, the budget was double the budget of Don’t Worry Darling.
More recently, the meaning of a $20 million opening has varied.
In 2017, you had Snatched, which opened to $19.5m domestic and did $46m dom/$61m ww, and was seen as a bomb. And you have Baby Driver, which opened to $20.6 million and did $107.8m dom/$226.9m ww, and was seen as a smash.
In 2018, you had Blockers, opening to $20.6m and doing $60.3m dom and $94m ww, and barely being noticed, though it did firm up John Cena as a budding movie star.
In 2019, there was a rush of openings around the $20 million. Putting aside animation, sequels, and big-budget flops, there were:
Good Boys - $21.4m launch - $83m dom/$111.2m ww
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark - $29.9m launch - $68.9m dom/$104.5m ww
The Upside - $20.4m launch - $108.3m dom/$125.9m ww
Ad Astra - $19m launch - $50.2m dom/$127.5m ww
This year, with many fewer wide releases, the only relevant (non-anime) comp at this opening level is last week’s The Woman King. Obviously, we can’t know the final numbers, but it is being estimated to be dropping around 43% this weekend… could be worse or better. Last weekend, the box office went up on Saturday. Not likely to happen again this week. But see, this is why we wait for history to happen.
Another 2022 Sony release, Where the Crawdads Sing, opened to $17.3 million and drooped 40% in its second weekend, but then went 6 straight weeks with drops under 30% and ended up doing just under $90 million (it’s still on theater screens this weekend).
An Aside: Crawdads - which I hated - is yet another good example of theatrical working for a non-mega movie. Some might dismiss a $90 million domestic gross as nothing. But that is $45 million coming back to Sony, more than covering distribution, and making the film of greater value to its first streaming window (which I think is now Netflix).
So… is Don’t Worry Darling “a hit,” as its been proclaimed by some for opening to $20 million? No.
It’s not a failure like Gigli, which opened to $6 million for Sony in 2003. Congratulations. But all the back slapping over the notion that it’s a hit and all the negative press was good for the movie… a bit premature… the controversy didn’t kill it.
There aren’t many obvious answers at this stage. Measured on the Florence Pugh scale, her last 3 movies all grossed over $120 million worldwide (The Commuter, Little Women, Black Widow). Was she significant in The Commuter, a Liam Neeson Will Kill You Now movie? I don’t know. She got an Oscar nom for Little Women and Black Widow is Black Widow.
Warner Bros. spent on marketing… but that’s not a great measure either.
Critics are a meaningless measure… even less so fans voting on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb.
Harry Styles is in the midst of a record-setting Madison Square Garden engagement. But not an actor and no history there.
Is the Overdressed For The Gynecologist Appointment cover of Vanity Fair selling tickets? Doubt it.
So, happy $20 million opening to Warners and the Won’t Worry Darling team. Let’s see where things are at this time next week.
For me, the most interesting box office story is Moonage Daydream, which opened last week in a heavily IMAXed run, now losing many of those screens, but expanding from 170 screens to 733 this weekend. The projected gross for the weekend is just over $800,000 for a $2.5 million domestic total.
In 2019, starting in September, as theatrical really started its return, it took Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice more than 4 weekends to get to that number. It would gross another $1.75 million in theaters in the 16 weeks after.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain opened in July 2021. The strategy was to open on 927 screens. They were at $3.75 million after 2 weekends. It fell like a stone after that, losing screens and audience, but added $1.5 million in the next 3 weekends.
So what does that mean for Moonage Daydream moving forward?
Can’t know. But Hollywood has done Neon and the film a big solid by continuing to fail to deliver content to theaters over the next 5 weeks. Bowie will not see another IMAX screen after Black Adam lands. But until then, it might sneak in a few showings. People want it… on a big screen with great sound. They will probably keep showing up on a decent-sized screen with louder sounds than your neighbors will indulge.
Can it pass $5 million domestic? I think it can.
Speaking of sleepers, Barbarian is going to be just short of $30 million at the end of this weekend. Could it have been even bigger? Yes. The other Disney-released film that they slow-played a bit too much for my tastes is Brahmastra Part One: Shiva, which has played the same 810 theaters for 3 weekends, grossing about $7.5 million. Disney sees niche… I see opportunity. There is more money in America for a movie like this than just the Indian/Bollywood niche. But you have to feed the need that people don’t know they have. They did an okay job on Barbarian. But not so much on Prey, where they took a commercial genre movie and just dumped it to Hulu.
On the Avatar front, this re-release, 12.5 years later, upgraded a bit by 4K, seems to be well timed. The last domestic re-release, in 2010, only did $10.7 million total with its best weekend being $4 million. This year’s Jaws re-release did $5.1 million. E.T., $2m, The Godfather, $1.4m, Rogue One, $1.36m. Nothing else has done as much as $1 million. So… Avatar wins again.