2nd Update, Friday Midday: Wow, Focus Features. Universal’s specialty arthouse label is looking at their first No. 1 opener in nine years, the last one being George Clooney’s The American, has Downton Abbey looks to reap a $14.5M Friday (including $4.3M over two previews) for a 3-day of $33M. That will also double as Focus Features’ best opening in its history, besting the $22.7M debut of 2015’s Insidious Chapter 3.
Fox/New Regency’s Ad Astra via Disney remains ahead of Millennium/Lionsgate’s Rambo: Last Blood, both for Friday ($7.1M and $6.8M) and the weekend with the Brad Pitt in space movie seeing $18.5M-$20M, and the Sylvester Stallone series finale seeing $17.2M. Friday’s figures include last night’s previews. An opening in the $20M range would be OK if Ad Astra can pull off as the pic will need to work hard abroad to breakeven off it’s $80M-$100M production cost. Rambo, which Lionsgate only has U.S. and UK rights on, cost under $50M.
STX’s Hustlers and New Line’s It Chapter Two will fight over fourth with around $16M a piece. That’s a -52% second hold for the Jennifer Lopez stripper pic and a third weekend decline of -60% for the Andy Muschietti-directed Stephen King sequel.
1st Update, Friday 8:06AM: Downton Abbey had the upper hand over Brad Pitt and Sylvester Stallone star vehicles last night as the Focus Features Michael Engler-directed period film raked in $2.1M from previews at 2,800 theaters. That figure doesn’t include the $2.2M which Downton Abbey grossed last Thursday from its first preview; in total the Carnival Film & Television co-production counts $4.3M stateside.
Fox/New Regency’s Ad Astra came in ahead of Millennium/Lionsgate’s Rambo: Last Blood, $1.5M to $1.3M off 7PM showtimes. Ad Astra played in around 3,100 locations while Rambo was booked at 2,900 locations.
Ad Astra‘s start is a bit of surprise given how many are expecting this $80M+ production (we’ve heard as high as $100M before P&A) to be off to a sluggish start in the mid-to-high teens despite great reviews out of the Venice Film Festival with 81% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Ad Astra‘s box office is under The Martian‘s $2.5M, but higher than First Man‘s $1.1M last October which posted a $5.7M opening day and $16M 3-day off an 87% RT fresh score.
Rambo‘s preview cash is just under the Thursday night take of Millennium/Lionsgate’s most recent action pic Angel Has Fallen ($1.5M preview, $7.95M Friday, $21.3M opening).
Comscore/Screen Engine exits show that the Thursday night male-driven crowd enjoyed Rambo a bit more than Ad Astra, 3 1/2 to 3 stars, and a 55% to 40% definite recommend. Downton Abbey, counting 73% females over 25 (who loved it the most at 91%) and 19% men over 25, had the best audience response at 4 1/2 stars and a 72% definite recommend. Ad Astra‘s demo breakdown was 46% males over 25, 30% females over 25, 15% males under 25 and 9% females under 25. Older females enjoyed the pic slightly more than older males, 75% to 72%. Rambo pulled in 52% M25+, 23% F25+, 16% M25- and 9% F25-.
Heading into the weekend, B.O. forecasters say it’s a coin toss between Focus Features’ Downton Abbey and Rambo V winning the weekend with $23M+ a piece, this despite the fact that the former pic has been ringing up a ton of presales ahead of such adult fare as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and The Great Gatsby. We’ll see just how front-loaded Rambo and Ad Astra are. Rambo jumps to 3,618 theaters. Anything over $20.1M for Rambo this weekend reps a record opening in the five-pic franchise. The sequel, which is a finale, was slaughtered by critics at 34% Rotten.
We’re seeing high presales on Downton Abbey given how older female moviegoers plan their visits to the theater. The Focus Features release also has critics on its side with an 85% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
STX’s Hustlers for the fourth time this week beat It Chapter 2 yesterday, $2.35M to $1.7M. First week’s total for Hustlers is $45.5M. Running two week total for It Chapter 2 is $161.9M. Hustlers is expected to be ahead of It Chapter 2, $18M to $17M.