LOS ANGELES: There’s a new box office queen in town.
Fox’s Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” overperformed with a rocking US$50 million when it debuted in 4,000 theatres. That was enough to dominate in North America over fellow newcomers “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” and “Nobody’s Fool.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” ranks as the second-best start for a music biopic, following just 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” (US$60.2 million). For measure, it also topped the domestic debut of Warner Bros.’ “A Star Is Born,” which launched with a solid US$42 last month.
Rami Malek stars as iconic Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the film, which cost around US$50 million to produce. It’s a bittersweet symphony for Fox as the studio prepares to merge with Disney. “Bohemian Rhapsody” has generated a mixed critical response, though audiences have embraced it with a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and an A CinemaScore.
“I’m not surprised there’s a disconnect, but audiences didn’t miss it,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s head of domestic distribution. “That’s the power of word of mouth — and Queen and their music.” Overseas, “Bohemian Rhapsody” bowed this weekend with US$72 million for a global start of US$122.5 million. Imax screens accounted for US$10 million of its box office total. The biographical musical, co-produced by New Regency, opened in the United Kingdom last weekend with a huge US$12.2 million, ranking as one of the best debuts in that territory. Its worldwide tally currently sits at a strong US$141.7 million.
Overall, it doesn’t look like the messy turmoil behind the camera tainted anticipation for the film. Director Bryan Singer’s repeated absence from set caused Fox to temporarily halt production. Dexter Fletcher replaced Singer after he was fired toward the end of the shoot, though Singer retained sole directing credit.
Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” launched at No. 2 on the lower end of expectations with a disappointing US$20 million from 3,766 venues, a rare miss for the Magic Kingdom given the movie’s US$125 million price tag. The disastrous opening is the lowest in over a year for the studio. Though Disney has struggled recently with movie’s that don’t feature a Spandexed superhero, the studio can at least afford to take a hit. Aside from the disappointment of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” this summer, the studio has fielded some of the biggest releases this year including “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Incredibles 2.”
The family-friendly “Nutcracker” amassed US$38.5 internationally, bringing its worldwide total to US$58 million. Keira Knightley, Misty Copeland, and Mackenzie Foy star in the film, was panned by critics, who gave it a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Disney is hoping the classic Christmas tale is able to pick up steam as it heads into the holidays.
“Obviously, it’s not the start we were looking for, but it’s a great family friendly option,” said Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of domestic distribution. “Sometimes it doesn’t connect as broadly as we want it to.”
In third, Paramount’s “Nobody’s Fool,” the first R-rated comedy from Tyler Perry, generated $13.7 million from 2,468 screens. That’s one of the lowest bows for a Perry movie,
It’s the first solo starring vehicle for breakout Tiffany Haddish, who continues to solidify her box office chops. The boisterous funnywoman also starred in this year’s “Night School” with Kevin Hart, along with Ike Barinholtz’s “The Oath.”
Rounding out the top five are holdovers “A Star Is Born” and “Halloween.” Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s “A Star Is Born” pocketed another US$11.1 million in its fifth outing, marking an impressive drop of just 21%. That brings its domestic tally to a huge US$165 million. Universal and Blumhouse’s R-rated slasher “Halloween” earned US$11 million for a North American total of US$150 million.
At the speciality box office, Focus Features’ “Boy Erased” opened in five theatres in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with the best screen average of the weekend. It generated US$220,000 for an average of US$44,000 per location. Lucas Hedges and Nicole Kidman star in the gay conversion drama, which will expand into 75 theatres next weekend.
“It’s a very emotional time in America, and audiences seem to be seeing and hearing the urgency in this story. It’s a film we always hoped would bring families together and get people talking, and that seems to be happening,” said Focus’ president of distribution Lisa Bunnell.
For Aviron, Rosamund Pike’s “A Private War” played in four theatres, where it made US$72,000 for a per-screen-average of US$18,000.