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Children’s film on top; Portman looks promising

Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published October 3, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

Animated children’s comedy Abominable took the No. 1 spot at last weekend’s box office with just under $21 million in sales. Add in overseas sales and this silly little flick has made $31 million in its first three days of release. Not a runaway hit but also not a total bomb.

The movie received mixed reviews upon its release, currently holding a score of 62/100 on Metacritic. According to Indiewire’s Kate Erbland, “the winning, warm nature of this China-set family film can’t be denied, and for all its predictable elements, Abominable is still well worth the trip.”

But, honestly, do reviews of children’s films really matter? I don’t believe they do.

Also at the Box

Focus Features’ Downton Abbey film continued to surprise over its second weekend of release, taking the No. 2 spot at the box with another $14.5 million in sales, bringing the ensemble drama’s 10-day domestic sales total to just over $58 million. Add in foreign sales and this modest little television sequel has already brought in $107 million.

Focus Features has been releasing some of the best films over the last 20 years, though none of them have been huge hits at the box office. But now Focus has their hit. If you look over the list of Focus releases, it’s downright shocking that this one, of all their releases, is the one that blew up. What does this say about our watching habits these days? Clearly television is king, right?

Ensemble drama (and Oscar hopeful, I’m told) Hustlers continued to roll, taking the No. 3 spot at the U.S. box with another $11.5 million in sales. Hustlers has now sold $80 million in the U.S. and $95 million worldwide (against a $20 million budget) in its first 17 days. It’s a hit! And, according to all the movie podcasters I listen to, star Jennifer Lopez is going to be in contention for an Oscar for Best Actress. Whoa.

It: Chapter Two continued to chug along, taking the No. 4 spot at the box with another $10.4 million in sales, bringing the blockbuster’s four-week U.S. sales total to $193 million ($417 worldwide).

And, finally, and sadly, we have the great Ad Astra, starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray. This one is, I think, special. And it’s a flop. Ad Astra made just $10 million last weekend, bringing the film’s 10-day total to just $35 million in the U.S. Ouch. Foreign markets, however, are loving the movie.

So far, Ad Astra, a movie a lot of people thought would be in the Best Picture conversation for 2019, has now grossed just under $90 million worldwide in 10 days (against a $100 million budget). Not great.

New this Week

Two very promising films open this weekend, starting with the hotly anticipated R-rated Joker, starring ScreenTime favorite Joaquin Phoenix in what looks like a Best Actor-caliber performance. Directed by Todd Phillips (Hated, Old School, The Hangover trilogy, etc.), Joker also stars Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Brian Tyree Henry, Shea Whigham, and dreamgirl Zazie Beetz.

So far, reviews for Joker are glowing, with both The Guardian and Time Out hailing it as a dark, psychological new classic. Critic Mick LaSalle said of the film: “[Joker] features a blood-curlding performance from Joaquin Phoenix, in the most frightening portrayal of a violent maniac in decades. One more thing: it’s clearly a response to the times.”

I can’t wait to see this one. I also can’t wait to see how it does at the box office, and as a new piece of the zeitgeist.

Also out, if only in major markets, is Lucy in the Sky, Noah Hawley’s new drama starring Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, and Ellen Burstyn. Check out the trailer for this R-rated flick — looks great! Also, it’s about time Hawley, who we know to be one of the best current TV show runner/writers (Fargo), made a proper feature film. Very much looking forward to this one, too.

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