Baby Driver' Races To $6M Friday, 'The House' Loses With $3.3M

Lily James and Ansel Elgort in Edgar Wright's 'Baby Driver'
Sony finally has an outright domestic hit on its hands, its first of 2017. Yes, some of its releases (Resident Evil: The Final ChapterSmurfs: The Lost Village, etc.) have done good-to-great overseas, but they haven't had a real "made solid money in North America" since (at best) Passengers ($100 million on a $110m budget but $303m worldwide) and at worst The Magnificent Seven ($93m domestic but $162m on a $90m budget). Yeah, sure, Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to be pretty big next weekend, but a major studio cannot survive on periodic Spider-Man movies, be they Peter Parker adventures or spin-offs and side-quels.

So, yeah, it matters that Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is connecting in its opening weekend. It's good for the studio and good for a movie industry that would really rather make more original genre fare if only audiences would see them in theaters. Baby Driver, produced for $34 million by Working Title, Tri-Star and MRC), opened on Wednesday on the heels of generally superlative reviews and white-hot buzz stemming from its SXSW premiere back in March. But, there is a huge difference between "Film Twitter is super-psyched for the new Edgar Wright movie!!" and "General audiences are buying tickets for the new Edgar Wright movie!" For all the adulation he gets online (arguably deserved), his films have never been big hits in North America and (save for The Hot Fuzz) worldwide.

Heck, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has long been my go-to example of a film that electrified the ComicCon crowd while being ignored by general audiences. So it's a little refreshing that this musically-inclined heist caper/romance/actioner is actually selling tickets this weekend. The film opened with $5.7 million on Wednesday, including $2.1m in Thursday previews and thus far it is showing no signs of being a frontloaded "for the fans" attraction. It earned $3.3m on Thursday and made $6m yesterday, bringing its three-day total to $15m, which is already larger than any prior Edgar Wright opening weekend. The picture jumped 81% on Friday and is thus far playing awfully close to Batman Begins ($15m Wed/$72m Wed-Sun debut) in terms of long weekend legs.
Back in 2006, the last time July 4th fell on a Tuesday, Superman Returns opened with $21 million on Wednesday (including previews) for an $84.5m  five-day debut. The Ansel Elgort/Lily James/Kevin Spacey/John Hamm/Jamie Foxx caper is already going to be a lot leggier than that. We're probably looking at an $19m Fri-Sun weekend for a $28m Wed-Sun debut. That's a terrific 4.9x five-day multiplier. So either the hardcore fans came out in force on Wednesday and the regular folks showed up over the weekend, or the rave reviews and solid word-of-mouth is having a real impact over the long weekend. And THAT, by the way, is why you open your somewhat smaller-scale movie on a Wednesday instead of a Friday.

I'm usually weary of Wednesday openers for films that aren't super-duper anticipated (as all you do is make a five-day figure that would be more impressive as a three-day figure), but sometimes you've got the goods and you want to let folks know before work lets out on Friday afternoon. With all the talk about how reviews and/or Rotten Tomatoes is keeping folks away from rehashed franchises, it would be nice if the opposite were slowly coming true. It's a big "We'll see..." over the next several months, but if The Big Sick plays better than expected when it goes wide and/or Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes overperform on account of good reviews. But that's a longer conversation for a month or two from now.

Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. and New Line Cinema opted not to screen their Will Farrell/Amy Poehler comedy The House for critics. The (now) poorly-reviewed film (which, to be honest, is merely okay in an age with countless very good televised comedy options) earned just $3.35 million yesterday, for a likely $9-$10m debut weekend. That will be, if it opens below Night at the Roxbury ($9.6m in 1998), Farrell's lowest star vehicle wide release debut ever, without even taking inflation into account. And if it doesn't have legs/overseas strength, it will be Ferrell's first outright mainstream flop since Land of the Lost back in 2009. If reviews are the culprit, it's another frightening case of a previously critic-proof genre (the star-driven comedy) taking it on the chin due to questions of quality.

In limited release news, Gunpowder and Sky (yeah, they're new) debuted The Little Hours, a bawdy period piece comedy starring Alison Brie, Kate Micucci and Aubrey Plaza as mischievous nuns, in just two theaters this weekend. The film earned around $22,000 yesterday for a likely $66k weekend and $33k per-location-average. I have no idea if this one is expanding so I may have to make a special trip to the Arclight. Alas, my wife insisted on seeing The Beguiled tonight, so The Little Hours will have to wait.


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