For the first time in recent memory, the North American box office has a virtual tie for the top spot. Over a quiet Halloween frame that saw mild to miserable performances for the opening films but strong holds for most of the current releases, both Open Road Films’ Nightcrawler and Universal’s Ouija are virtually neck-and-neck, both earning $10.9 million. While Open Road gave out an estimated gross of $10,909,000 that puts Nightcrawler a mere $9,000 ahead of the horror film’s sophomore weekend, that small figure is just there to push the film into a tiny lead and hold the spot for itself.
However, the studio is not fooling box office prognosticators. Considering that the Saturday-to-Sunday drop for Ouija is much steeper than Nightcrawler, it is very probable that Ouija will win the weekend once actual numbers are reported on Monday. Regardless of who ends up in front, this was a very close weekend at the box office and positions are bound to change on Monday, once the real numbers come in. Around $3 million separates Nightcrawler and Ouija from the film in seventh place, St. Vincent (a film that earned about as much as it did last weekend, indicating remarkable word-of-mouth). Considering the strange trajectory of the box office this weekend – Halloween fell on a Friday, meaning grosses skyrocketed on Saturday – it is hard to gauge how films will behave on Sunday.
For Nightcrawler, the mild opening is expected but not terrible, considering the stiff competition for adults and the niche audience it is bound to receive, being a satirical thriller and not an X-Men spinoff. The title starring Jake Gyllenhaal has earned strong reviews, although the film is not doing as well with audiences, who gave it a mediocre B- CinemaScore. Its $10.9 million debut is a little below Gyllenhaal’s prior opener for Open Road, last fall’s End of Watch ($13.2 million). Meanwhile, it is slightly less than Drive‘s $11.4 million opening. (That was another critically acclaimed, L.A.-set R-rated thriller with little mainstream appeal.) With the inevitable box office behemoth Interstellar coming out this week, one doubts Nightcrawler will retain much of its audience over November.
Ouija‘s virtual tie is something of a surprise, given the poor word-of-mouth and the fact that Halloween has now come and passed. However, its 45% drop over its sophomore weekend, which is quite good for a horror title aimed at teens, was undoubtedly aided by the spooky holiday falling over the three-day frame. The $5 million film has already earned $35 million in North America, and should finish with a total between $45 and $50 million, or around the same mark as Sinister ($48 million) from two Octobers ago.