For the first time in the history of this Box Office Report column, I hesitate to announce the winner of the weekend box office. While estimates from Friday and Saturday indicate that David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl is the victor, it holds a lead of just $800,000 over horror thriller Annabelle. Since the weekend numbers come from predictions of how films will perform on Sunday, if Gone Girl does not manage to have as low a drop on Sunday as Fox expects (or Annabelle holds better than expected), Fincher’s film could end up in second place.
For now, though, Gone Girl won the weekend, taking in an estimated $38 million. The R-rated, critically-acclaimed thriller debuted beyond industry expectations, and did much better than Oscar-winning films that also opened near the beginning of October from David Fincher (The Social Network made $22.4 million in its first three days) and Ben Affleck (Argo‘s $19.5 million). With great reviews, engaging ads and a lot of buzz among the book’s fans, as well as others who wanted to see the twisty potboiler before it was spoiled for them, Gone Girl‘s debut sizzled.
The film marked the biggest opening ever for director David Fincher (ahead of Panic Room) and the largest for its star Ben Affleck since Daredevil in 2003. Among similar titles, it debuted a bit below Shutter Island ($41.1 million), another twist-heavy psychological thriller from a beloved best-seller and renowned director, but far ahead of Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which took in $21.1 million over its first five days during the Christmas season.
While critics and some fans of the book were thrilled with Gone Girl – check out our four-star review here – the dark subject matter and bizarre plot twists may have turned some audiences off. Its B CinemaScore is a bit sour for a film with Oscar buzz, meaning Gone Girl could have sharper-than-expected drops in the week’s ahead. Still, with so much buzz and intrigue behind the title, there is still probably much curiosity among the public to check out the film. It will be intriguing to see if Gone Girl can hold well against R-rated dramas The Judge and Fury in the coming weeks.
Debuting close behind was Annabelle, a spinoff of last summer’s smash The Conjuring, which took in $37.2 million to take second place. That was the biggest debut for a horror title since Insidious: Chapter 2 in September 2013. With Halloween coming up and few fright titles connecting with audiences earlier this year, the horror crowd was primed to come out in droves for John R. Leonetti’s fright flick. Considering its poor reviews, the fact that its main figure is a porcelain doll and competition from Gone Girl and The Equalizer, it is very impressive than Annabelle managed to open just a little bit below The Conjuring ($41.9 million).
Although the horror genre tends to be front-loaded for opening weekend, there are signs that Annabelle could perform better than usual for a scary movie. First of all, if you take off the dollars it made from Thursday evening screenings (that are counted in the films $15.5 million Friday figure), the film made more money on Saturday than Friday – almost unheard of for the teen-oriented genre. Meanwhile, a B CinemaScore is quite good for a horror film. (Gone Girl‘s B, in the meantime, is disappointing for an awards-primed drama.) Audiences are clearly enjoying Annabelle more than the average horror flick, so smaller drops are expected in the coming weeks. The low-budget film has already brought in quite a profit for Warner Bros.
Annabelle is expected to drop 45% on Sunday to gross $7.7 million. Gone Girl is projected to go down 37% from Saturday to make $9.6 million. If the former holds better or the latter drops more than expected, the #1 movie could be different come Monday afternoon, when actual figures are reported.