There’s a key question at the box office: will audiences be smiling or will they be Lyling?
Sony’s ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’ was hoping to battle for the top spot at the box office this weekend, though it looks like the family comedy won’t be able to top the hit horror flick’s second weekend. “Smile” by Paramount. Meanwhile, 20th Century Studios’ “Amsterdam” bombs their debut, aiming to finish third.
“Lyle, Lyle” notched an opening day gross of $3.47 million, screening in 4,350 locations. While it’s not exactly the most impressive debut on paper, the majority of ticket sales for the musical will come with family audiences attending screenings on Saturday, Sunday and the Indigenous Peoples Day holiday Monday, this which will prevent a good part of the children from school.
Sony is predicting a weekend gross of between $12 million and $13.5 million for the musical, co-financed by TSG Entertainment. To compare to another recent movie about a misunderstood but loving animal, that’s just under the $16.6 million opening for Paramount’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog” last November – and which premiered simultaneously on Paramount+.
With a production budget of $50 million, “Lyle” is hoping to make a splash in its debut to get a word-of-mouth kick. There’s not much competition for family audiences until October, with the exception of the PG-13 DC Comics “Black Adam” show.
“Lyle” earned an average approval rating of 57% from top critics on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, while Variety Chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote that “the spirit of the tale is not matched by the narrative”. But a favorable “A-” rating thanks to research firm CinemaScore shows that audiences are much more responsive.
Based on Bernard Waber’s beloved children’s book, “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” follows a friendly CGI reptile with a bad case of stage fright, voiced by Grammy-nominated artist Shawn Mendes. The film also stars Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy and Winslow Fegley as the hospitable Primm family, and Javier Bardem as Hector P. Valenti, Lyle’s handsome and slightly deranged showbiz mentor.
Meanwhile, the weekend’s other new release “Amsterdam,” from director David O. Russell, doesn’t generate the commotion its sizzling line-up of top talent would suggest. The 20th Century Studios release on Friday earned $2.6 million from 3,005 theaters. Opening estimates are now $7 million, but projections were floating around $10 million heading into the weekend and hitting $20 million last month.
In a theatrical landscape that is still regenerating in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, box office expectations for adult dramas have been more forgiving. But it’s hard to dress this up as anything other than a grim start to “Amsterdam.” New Regency co-funded its oversized $80 million production budget, while Disney devoted much of the change to high-profile events and marketing.
Critical approval is usually a key factor in improving the financial prospects of a high-profile product like “Amsterdam”, but reviews have been largely hostile. The film currently holds a 35% approval rating from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes – a career low for once-Academy darling Russell (barring his long-disavowed “Accidental Love”). . A slightly positive “B” rating on CinemaScore probably won’t move the needle much.
“Amsterdam” features a full cast, including Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Taylor Swift, Michael Shannon, Zoe Saldaña, Mike Myers, Robert De Niro and Rami Malek. The neo-Visard farce follows a group of friends involved in the murder of a senator in the 1930s.
Paramount’s “Smile” continues to impress in its second weekend, projecting a slim 26% drop from its $22 million opening. That would be a spectacular take for any large-scale release, let alone a horror movie – genre entries typically drop more than 50% on their second releases.
Some contestants are even more optimistic about the weekend’s prospects for “Smile,” projecting a finish as high as $18 million. Paramount remains a bit conservative, estimating a gross of $16.8 million. Either number should be enough for the film to repeat itself as No. 1 at the domestic box office.
“Smile” is expected to expand its domestic haul to $49 million through Sunday. That’s a spectacular figure considering its $17 million production budget. Paramount had once weighed a streaming release for the film, but opted to hit theaters after strong showings. The horror flick faces Universal’s slasher finale “Halloween Ends” next weekend, but this strong second screening indicates “Smile” should stay spooky well into October.
Sony’s “The Woman King” puts up another strong hold, projecting a weekend gross of $5.24 million for a 24% drop in its fourth weekend. Viola Davis’ historic epic has continued to unfold since its debut in September. Domestic sales are expected to hit $54 million through Sunday.
Warner Bros.’ “Don’t Worry Darling” is looking to round out the top five, projecting a 49% drop in its third weekend to gross $3.4 million. After an impressive $19 million debut, “Darling” didn’t have the greatest staying power. The psychological thriller is expected to increase its domestic gross to $38 million through the weekend.
On the limited release scene, “Tár” opens in four locations in New York and Los Angeles. The sweeping drama, which stars Cate Blanchett as the towering and controversial composer-conductor, grossed $64,000 on Friday, scoring a strong average of $16,000 per theater. After a triumphant debut at the Venice Film Festival, the wave of critical adoration for “Tár” has only grown in the past month. The Todd Field-directed drama seems to be making its mark in Oscar season, particularly in the area of Best Actress.