There’s one key question gripping the box office: will audiences be smiling, or will they be Lyling?
Sony’s “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” had hopes to challenge for the top slot at the box office this weekend, though it seems that the family comedy won’t be able to outpace the second weekend of Paramount’s smash horror film “Smile.” Meanwhile, 20th Century Studios’ “Amsterdam” is bombing in its debut, aiming to finish in third.
“Lyle, Lyle” landed a $3.47 million opening day, screening in 4,350 locations. While that’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 Monday holiday of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which will keep a good fraction of kids out of school.
Sony is projecting a weekend gross between $12 million and $13.5 million for the musical, which is co-financed by TSG Entertainment. To compare to another recent film about a misunderstood but affectionate animal, that’s a chunk lower than the $16.6 million opening for Paramount’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog” last November — and that simultaneously premiered on Paramount+.
With a production budget of $50 million, “Lyle” hopes to make a substantial splash in its debut to get word-of-mouth kicking. There isn’t much competition for family audiences through October, barring the PG-13 DC Comics show “Black Adam.”
“Lyle” landed a middling 57% approval rating from top critics on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, while variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote that “the spirit of the tale isn’t matched by the telling.” But a favorable “A-” grade through research firm CinemaScore shows that audiences are much more responsive.
Based on the beloved children’s book by Bernard Waber, “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, as well as Javier Bardem as Hector P. Valenti, Lyle’s beguiling, mildly deranged showbiz mentor.
Meanwhile, the weekend’s other new wide release “Amsterdam,” from director David O. Russell, isn’t generating the bustle that its sizzling line-up of A-list talent would suggest. The 20th Century Studios release earned $2.6 million from 3,005 theaters on Friday. Opening estimates are now at $7 million, but projections were floating around $10 million heading into the weekend and were as high as $20 million last month.
In a theatrical landscape that is still regathering itself coming out of COVID-19 lockdowns, box office expectations for adult-skewing dramas have been more forgiving. But it’s difficult to dress this up as anything other than a grim start for “Amsterdam.” New Regency co-funded its oversized $80 million production budget, while Disney has expended a good chunk of change on high-profile premiere events and marketing.
Critical approval is usually a key factor in elevating the financial prospects for a prestige product like “Amsterdam,” but reviews have been largely unfriendly. The film currently holds a 35% approval rating from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes — a career-low for the once-Academy-darling Russell (barring his disowned, long-shelved “Accidental Love”). A lightly positive “B” grade on CinemaScore likely won’t move the needle much.
“Amsterdam” features a packed 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-screwball farce follows a group of friends who become involved in the murder of a senator in the 1930s.
Paramount’s “Smile” continues to impress in its second weekend, projecting a slim 26% fall from its opening of $22 million. That would be a spectacular hold for any wide release, much less a horror film — genre entries typically tumble more than 50% in their sophomore outings.
Some competitors are even more bullish on the weekend prospects for “Smile,” projecting a finish as high as $18 million. Paramount is staying a bit conservative, estimating a $16.8 million gross. Either figure should be enough for the film to repeat as No. 1 at the domestic box office.
“Smile” should 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 go theatrical after strong screenings. The horror film will contend against Universal’s slasher finale “Halloween Ends” next weekend, but this strong second showing indicates that “Smile” should have some spooky staying power through October.
Sony’s “The Woman King” is putting up another strong hold, projecting a $5.24 million weekend gross for a 24% drop in its fourth weekend. The Viola Davis historical epic has been steadily chugging along since its September debut. Domestic sales should reach $54 million through Sunday.
Warner Bros.’ “Don’t Worry Darling” looks to round out the top five, projecting a 49% tumble in its third weekend for a $3.4 million gross. After an impressive $19 million debut, “Darling” hasn’t had the strongest staying power. The psychological thriller should expand its domestic gross to $38 million through the weekend.
On the limited release scene, “Tár” is opening in four locations across New York and Los Angeles. The sweeping drama, which stars Cate Blanchett as a towering, controversial composer-conductor, earned $64,000 on Friday, marking a strong $16,000 per theater average. 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 looks to make its mark in the Oscar season, particularly in the best actress field.