‘Come Play’ limps to US$3.1m debut

Moviegoing has been incredibly slow in North America because theaters New York City and Los Angeles, two vital markets, remain closed. With those venues shuttered, studios are wary of releasing big-budget potential blockbusters.  — Reuters pic
Moviegoing has been incredibly slow in North America because theaters New York City and Los Angeles, two vital markets, remain closed. With those venues shuttered, studios are wary of releasing big-budget potential blockbusters. — Reuters pic

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LOS ANGELES, Nov 2 — Audiences did not heed the title of Come Play, a terrifying thriller from Focus Features and Amblin that debuted in US theatres this weekend. The PG-13 horror film generated just US$3.15 million (RM13 million) from 2,183 screens, enough to lead sleepy box office charts in pandemic times.

Moviegoing has been incredibly slow in North America because theatres New York City and Los Angeles, two vital markets, remain closed. With those venues shuttered, studios are wary of releasing big-budget potential blockbusters. For the time being, studios are siphoning off smaller movies like Come Play, supernatural thriller The Empty Man and family flick The War With Grandpa. It’s a chance for theatre owners to offer audiences new product, sure, but such offerings are hardly moving the needle for ticket sales.

Come Play actually came in ahead of expectations: pre-release tracking suggested inaugural weekend sales around US$2 million to US$2.5 million. Yet analyst David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, referred to the opening of Come Play as “soft.” However, he noted that “like all recent wide releases, Come Play’s theatre count is somewhat low and in line with the proportion of theatres closed across the US”

Come Play sold the most tickets in Dallas, followed by New York — despite New York City venues still shuttered. Drive-in theatres have been a boon during the pandemic, and this weekend was no different. Mission Tiki Drive-In near Los Angeles and West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In were among the highest-earning theatres. Directed by Jacob Chase and starring Gillian Jacobs (Love) and John Gallagher Jr, Come Play follows two parents as they attempt to protect their young son from getting abducted by a villainous humanoid creature. It cost US$10 million to produce.

“We’re thrilled that audiences came out to celebrate Halloween making ‘Come Play’ the No. 1 movie this weekend,” said Lisa Bunnell, president of distribution at Focus Features.

Liam Neeson’s action adventure Honest Thief collected US$1.35 million from 2,360 theatres, enough to secure second place. After three weekends of release, the movie has generated US$9.5 million.

Since launching over the Columbus Day holiday weekend, Robert De Niro’s The War With Grandpa has made US$11.2 million in total. The comedy landed at No. 3 on charts this weekend after adding another US$1.1 million from 2,365 screens.

The Empty Man, from Disney’s 20th Century Studios, plummeted nearly 60 per cent from initial weekend sales. Given essentially zero promotion from the studio, it scraped together US$561,000 this weekend for a North American total of US$2.2 million.

The Empty Man came in behind Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which has been in US theatres for over two months. The sci-fi epic, starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, brought in US$665,000. That brings Tenet’s domestic total to US$53.8 million, disappointing results for a movie that cost over US$200 million. Overseas, the film has enjoyed stronger box office receipts, with ticket sales reaching US$293.3 million internationally and US$347 million globally.

Elsewhere, Paramount unveiled Spell on premium video-on-demand and in 369 theatres, where it earned US$210,000.

In honour of Halloween, Disney brought some spooky holiday favourites back to the big screen, including Hocus Pocus (US$456,000), The Nightmare Before Christmas (US$386,000) and Monsters Inc (US$232,000).

Sluggish box office sales come as parts of Europe are enacting new lockdowns, prompting theatres in England, France and Italy to close down again. In the US, there are concerns that chilly temperatures during winter could cause coronavirus to continue surging.

“The cold, indoor weather is going to be a challenge around the world,” Gross said. — Variety.com via Reuters

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