Weekend Box Office (October 3 - 5, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND It was a close race for first place at the North American box office between two new releases but one thing was certain - both films overperformed and led the marketplace to the highest-grossing October weekend in history.

David Fincher's latest thriller Gone Girl opened at number one with $37.5M from 3,014 locations for a sizzling $12,446 average. Among adult dramas launching in October, it was better than such Best Picture Oscar nominees as The Departed, Captain Phillips, incher's The Social Network, and Argo from Ben Affleck who headlines Fox's Gone Girl.

With strong reviews and an opening night slot last week at the New York Film Festival giving it some prestige, Girl tapped into fans of these kinds of crime dramas as well as the multitudes of lovers of the best-selling novel. White adult women made up the core audience. Studio research showed that the crowd was 60% female, 75% over 25, and 67% Caucasian. Despite praise from critics, the CinemaScore grade from moviegoers was only a decent B.

The road ahead has plenty of more choices for adults featuring major Hollywood stars so it will be no easy stroll throughout October. But Gone Girl engaged fans this weekend and got them to come out in numbers that were better than expected. Overseas, the story of a man under suspicion for the disappearance of his wife opened to an estimated $24.6M from 39 markets for a global debut of $62M.

After a year of mostly sluggish openings, the horror genre came back to life with the sensational debut of the fright flick Annabelle which grossed $37.1M from 3,185 theaters for a stellar $11,659 average. The R-rated tale took advantage of being a spinoff from last year's runaway smash The Conjuring as well as being released in the Halloween month of October. Brand awareness was key as was the timing.

Annabelle had broad appeal as females edged out males by just a slim margin being 51% of the crowd. And it was that rare film nowadays to see under-25s be the majority of the audience. They made up 54%. Reviews were lackluster but the B CinemaScore grade was quite respectable for a horror film so audiences were pretty satisfied. Costing just $6.5M to produce, Annabelle will be one of the more profitable studio releases of the year and Warners will certainly look to mine the Conjuring franchise some more. That smash opened in July 2013 to $41.9M and had great legs heading to a $137.4M finish. The Conjuring 2 is already slated for an October 23 release next year.

Led by the one-two punch of Gone Girl and Annabelle, the Top 20 soared to over $144M. That was better than nearly half of the weekends from this past summer putting the box office in great shape for the fourth quarter. The first half of September slumped to lousy numbers but now ticket buyers are coming back with a vengeance thanks to exciting product. Four films over the past three weekends have opened in the $32-38M range.

Denzel Washington's latest hit thriller The Equalizer had a good second weekend hold despite all the competition. The Sony release fell a moderate 45% to $18.8M and upped its cume to a robust $64.2M. More adult-driven dramas and thrillers are on the way this month but if this R-rated revenge flick can keep up the pace, it may end up with a $110M finish from North America.

The animated film The Boxtrolls enjoyed a terrific sophomore frame slipping only 31% to $12M pushing the cume to $32.1M for Focus. The creepy toon should stay relevant throughout the Halloween season and may find its way to a solid $65M or more. Adventure drama The Maze Runner held up well again with $11.6M, off just 33%, for a new total of $73.6M for Fox. Breaking $100M is likely.

The critically panned Nicolas Cage film Left Behind opened in sixth with $6.3M from 1,825 locations for a decent $3,452 average. The PG-13 doomsday thriller was released by Freestyle and was marketed to the faith-based crowd which this past spring showed up in hefty numbers for so many engaging films.

This Is Where I Leave You dropped 42% to $4M for a cume to date of $29M for Warner Bros. The studio's family drama Dolphin Tale 2 slipped only 29% in its fourth round to $3.4M for a new total of $37.9M.

Spending its tenth weekend in the top ten, the remarkable blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy eased just 20% to $3M for a new cume of $323.3M putting it at number 32 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. Falling 45% was the thriller No Good Deed with $2.5M giving Sony $50.2M.

Two new films in limited release debuted just outside the top ten. The action-romance Bang Bang scored the biggest opening weekend of the year for a Bollywood film in North America debuting to $1.3M from 271 locations for a $4,718 average. Cume for F.I.P. since its Thursday launch is $1.4M. Reese Witherspoon's well-reviewed new drama The Good Lie opened to $841,422 from 461 sites for a weak $1,825 average for Warner Bros. It did earn an A+ CinemaScore grade, though.

The top ten films grossed $136.2M which was up 22% from last year when Gravity debuted at number one with an October record $55.8M; and up 5% from 2012 when Taken 2 opened on top with $49.5M.

Compared to projections, Gone Girl and Annabelle both powered ahead of my respective forecasts of $27M and $22M. Left Behind opened a couple of notches above my $4M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Judge, Dracula Untold, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and Addicted all open.

# Title Oct 3 - 5 Sep 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Gone Girl $ 37,513,109 3,014 1 $ 12,446 $ 37,513,109 Fox
2 Annabelle 37,134,255 3,185 1 11,659 37,134,255 Warner Bros.
3 The Equalizer 18,750,375 34,137,828 -45.1 3,236 2 5,794 64,236,992 Sony
4 The Boxtrolls 11,979,588 17,275,239 -30.7 3,464 2 3,458 32,093,796 Focus
5 The Maze Runner 11,634,764 17,437,020 -33.3 3,605 3 3,227 73,556,159 Fox
6 Left Behind 6,300,147 1,825 1 3,452 6,300,147 Freestyle
7 This Is Where I Leave You 4,009,345 6,894,340 -41.8 2,735 3 1,466 29,012,573 Warner Bros.
8 Dolphin Tale 2 3,422,377 4,788,153 -28.5 2,790 4 1,227 37,866,130 Warner Bros.
9 Guardians of the Galaxy 3,005,083 3,765,941 -20.2 1,894 10 1,587 323,331,487 Disney
10 No Good Deed 2,500,118 4,509,127 -44.6 1,580 4 1,582 50,157,393 Sony
11 A Walk Among the Tombstones 2,013,170 4,192,785 -52.0 2,226 3 904 24,510,525 Universal
12 Bang Bang 1,278,690 271 1 4,718 1,449,215 FIP
13 The Good Lie 841,422 461 1 1,825 841,422 Warner Bros.
14 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 769,590 1,450,177 -46.9 834 9 923 188,322,741 Paramount
15 Let's Be Cops 738,775 1,516,021 -51.3 781 8 946 80,883,189 Fox
16 The Skeleton Twins 714,492 1,231,842 -42.0 461 4 1,550 3,513,600 Roadside Attr.
17 Haider 508,084 119 1 4,270 549,372 UTV
18 My Old Lady 476,978 569,408 -16.2 263 4 1,814 2,229,474 Cohen Media
19 If I Stay 394,370 932,318 -57.7 555 7 711 49,774,414 Warner Bros.
20 The Hundred-Foot Journey 318,162 607,595 -47.6 360 9 884 53,201,473 Disney
Top 5 $ 117,012,091 $ 80,532,580 45.3
Top 10 136,249,161 95,966,631 42.0
Top 20 144,302,894 102,779,603 40.4
Top 20 vs. 2013 144,302,894 121,356,495 18.9

Last Updated: October 8, 2014 at 4:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 6:40pm ET.

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