'Midway' upsets box office apple cart

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LOS ANGELES — Despite a fresh injection of four big movies into the marketplace including a Stephen King adaptation, a World War II epic, a glossy, holiday-themed romantic comedy and a family friendly comedy, audiences largely stayed away from theaters this weekend and the North American box office is hurting.

Down nearly 27% from last year, the sluggish weekend allowed for a few big surprises however. The biggest surprise was the fact that the Roland Emmerich film "Midway," which slightly overperformed, snagged the first-place spot over Warner Bros.' "Doctor Sleep," a film that came in well under expectations and has left many in the business scratching their heads as to why.

Lionsgate on Sunday estimated that "Midway" earned $17.5 million from 3,242 screens. The studio acquired the film about the Battle of Midway that features a large ensemble cast including Nick Jonas and Patrick Wilson.

"Midway" cost a reported $100 million to produce.

Reviews didn't seem to play into account with the box office at all this weekend. Critics were not kind to "Midway," but audiences, who were largely male, had given the film an A CinemaScore.

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And although $17.5 million is not a massive number on its own, it was a significant upset since going into the weekend experts thought the No. 1 spot would easily go to Warner Bros.' "Doctor Sleep," the high-profile Stephen King adaptation starring Ewan McGregor. But audiences slept on the well-reviewed sequel to King's "The Shining" and it grossed only $14.1 million from over 3,800 locations.

Budgeted at around $50 million, "Doctor Sleep" was expected to open to over $25 million.

"There's no way to sugarcoat this, this was a pretty awful weekend for the overall marketplace," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for the box office tracker Comscore.

In a more minor surprise, Paramount Pictures' John Cena-led "Playing With Fire," a family friendly comedy about firefighters, opened in third place with $12.8 million over Universal Pictures' Wham!-inspired romantic comedy "Last Christmas." Starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, "Last Christmas" took fourth place with $11.6 million.

Once again, the bright spots at the box office are in the awards-friendly limited releases. Amazon opened Shia LaBeouf's autobiographical film "Honey Boy" in four locations, where it earned a strong $288,824. Both "Parasite," which earned $2.6 million from 603 locations, and "Jojo Rabbit," which added $3.9 million from 802 locations, also continue to perform well as the films expand a little bit each week.

But it's still one of the worst early November weekends in years. Dergarabedian noted that the smaller films are not going to move the needle on the overall box office for the year, which remains down 5.5%.


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