The Accountant Bucks the Trend of Underperforming Box Office Debuts While Kevin Hart Breaks Some Records

Hollywood had been experiencing a nasty trend lately. While movies that were expected to open number one at the domestic box office usually did, they did so while under performing and falling short of expectations. Sometimes drastically. It became a regular thing over the summer and September was an especially tough month. And October’s first big release, The Girl on the Train, did little to reverse this trend with its underwhelming opening last weekend.

But leave it to Ben Affleck to save the day. At least temporarily.

While Affleck’s latest vehicle The Accountant was expected to open number one this weekend, observers were predicting another weak opening. Expectations were that it would gross between 17 and 20 million it’s first weekend. Even Warner Bros. expected it to fall somewhere around 19 million. Not only did its 24.7 million dollar debut shock everyone, but it also represented a nearly 25 percent stronger opening than anticipated. The Accountant opened stronger than other Affleck offerings The Town (2010) and Argo, which took home the Oscar for Best Picture in 2013. It also boosts Warner Brothers confidence in January’s Live By Night, which like The Town and Argo counts Affleck as both director and star.

This is another example of Warner’s successful financial strategy. All year long they’ve supported big franchise tent pole releases like Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad and next month’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them with a number of smaller, much more cost effective movies that have yielded serious box office returns. Even misfires like The Nice Guys and War Dogs are still likely to break even in the long run. Made for only 44 million (before promotion and advertising), The Accountant is guaranteed to make a buck for Warner and provide another feather in Affleck’s cap. The real test will be to see what sort of drop it’s in for next weekend when another action movie headed by another big star-Jack Reacher: Never Look Back starring Tom Cruise-hits theatres. Previous Affleck films have proven to have great box office legs, so even after pleasantly surprising everyone with its strong opening, The Accountant still has to live up to that billing.

This weekend’s other new wide release-Kevin Hart’s What Now?-wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. Not only did it capture third spot with nearly 11.8 million, not only did it gross more than its (9.9 million) budget in a single weekend, but it set a record for the largest opening for a stand-up comedy theatrical release. But perhaps the most welcome piece of good news for both Kevin Hart and Universal is the demographic breakdown of What Now’s audience. While the majority of moviegoers who went to see it were black (roughly 46%), white and Latino viewers both had a sizeable piece of the demographic pie, with each group comprising well over 20% of the audience. Few other celebrities (let alone stand up comics) have that kind of broad cultural appeal and it bodes very well for Hart’s future projects (especially next year’s Jumanji sequel).

Oh, and Max Steel (Mattel’s first attempt to get into the movie business a la Hasbro) fell flat on its face, debuting eleventh with a paltry 2.1 million. Yet undaunted, Mattel is still moving forward with its planned Hot Wheels and Barbie movies. Yes, you read right, someone is actually making a Hot Wheels and Barbie movie. Someone who should be fired.

Last week’s number one, The Girl on the Train, narrowly defeated What Now, edging the newcomer out for the second spot with 12.2 million. Last week I speculated that we’d have to see Girl’s second weekend numbers to get a better handle on how its reception by domestic audiences (considering a number of states were brought to a stand still by hurricane Matthew last weekend and lots of Americans stayed home Sunday night to watch Clinton Vs. Trump round two). After it tumbled 50% we can safely that domestic audiences aren’t exactly breaking down the Cineplex doors to see it. But while its box office numbers aren’t exactly inspiring, its 46.8 million dollar total gross has already exceed its 45 million production budget. Universal should make their money back with a little extra to stuff in the mattress.

And speaking of Warner Bros., the venerable studio has two more reason to be happy with last weekend’s top ten besides The Accountant. Its animated feature Storks, which was one of this year’s many disappointing openers, is proving to have pretty decent legs. It’s slowly but surely losing in on its 70 million dollar budget and if it can hold on to a spot in the top ten for another week or so (it finished sixth this week with an extra 5.6 million), it just might live up to earning expectations. Especially when you consider the strong international performance most animated movies enjoy (Storks has already grossed 72.5 million overseas). And then there’s Sully, which came in at ninth with an extra 2.8 million and now has over 118.2 million to its credit.

But let’s be honest, this is all just merely wetting Warner’s box office appetite for next month’s Fantastic Beasts, which will likely be one of this year’s top performers and could be the studio’s lone billion dollar hit this year.

Until next time, don’t kick the seat in front of you.

Numbers: Box Office Mojo
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures