A World War II action film called “Midway” defied the critics to top the box office holiday weekend, but that won’t give the studio anything to rejoice as the box office was very slow for November. Many were expecting Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” to take the top spot as it had much stronger reviews and word of mouth, but with a Veterans Day weekend, “Midway” fit the bill.

The war film is expecting to take in another $2.6 million on Monday, the official day of Veterans Day. “Midway” revolves around the pivotal 1942 air and sea battle that gives the movie its name. It re-creates that fight with the help of some famous figures: Luke Evans, Woody Harrelson, Patrick Wilson, and Nick Jonas are among the members of its ensemble cast. Roland Emmerich, best known for “Independence Day,” was the director.

Emmerich, once known for exciting films to immediately line up to at the box office, hasn’t been delivering the same in a very long time. Since ending his working relationship with Dean Devlin years ago, his films just haven’t matched up to their early days.

Despite a fresh injection of four big movies into the marketplace including a Stephen King adaptation, a World War II epic, a glossy, holiday-themed romantic comedy, and a family-friendly comedy, audiences largely stayed away from theaters this weekend and the North American box office is hurting.

Audiences Slept on Doctor Sleep

Prerelease surveys that track interest indicated last week that “Doctor Sleep” was positioned to bring in $25 million or more this weekend. The actual response was far less robust: “Doctor Sleep” sold an estimated $14.1 million in tickets Friday through Sunday. That Warner Bros. had a box-office knock out a couple months ago with another King adaptation, “It Chapter Two,” makes that figure all the more disappointing.

“Doctor Sleep” follows Dan, the child of the troubled couple at the center of “The Shining,” who in the sequel is shown as an adult dealing with the continued fallout of the first novel’s events. Ewan McGregor plays Dan in the film, which was directed by Mike Flanagan.

That the new film lives in the shadow of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 1980 version of “The Shining” made it a tricky movie to market because the studio had two distinct fan bases to handle: King’s and Kubrick’s. “Doctor Sleep” currently holds a 73 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Box Office Down

Down nearly 27% from last year, the sluggish weekend allowed for a few big surprises, however. The biggest surprise was the fact that the Roland Emmerich film “Midway,” which slightly overperformed, snagged the first-place spot over Warner Bros.′ “Doctor Sleep,” a film that came in well under expectations and has left many in the business scratching their heads as to why.

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Lionsgate on Sunday estimated that “Midway” earned $17.5 million from 3,242 screens. The studio acquired the film about the Battle of Midway that features a large ensemble cast including Nick Jonas and Patrick Wilson.

“As expected, everyone is ecstatic,” said David Spitz, Lionsgate’s president of domestic distribution.

“Midway” cost a reported $100 million to produce and the studio is projecting that the film will have grossed $20.1 million by the end of Veteran’s Day Monday.

Reviews Didn’t Matter

Reviews didn’t seem to play into account with the box office at all this weekend. Critics were not kind to “Midway” (it’s currently at 43% on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences, who were largely male (60 and older (87% were over 25) had given the film an A CinemaScore.

And although $17.5 million is not a massive number on its own, it was a significant upset since going into the weekend experts thought the No. 1 spot would easily go to Warner Bros.′ “Doctor Sleep,” the high-profile Stephen King adaptation starring Ewan McGregor. But audiences slept on the well-reviewed (75% on Rotten Tomatoes) sequel to King’s “The Shining” and it grossed only $14.1 million from over 3,800 locations. The film from director Mike Flanagan even utilized the classic imagery of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film version of “The Shining,” which factored heavily into the marketing.

Budgeted at around $50 million, “Doctor Sleep” was expected to open to over $25 million. The studio was disappointed with the result. But it’s at least partially attributable to the “general malaise” at the box office this weekend.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat this, this was a pretty awful weekend for the overall marketplace,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for the box office tracker Comscore.

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In a more minor surprise, Paramount Pictures’ John Cena-led “Playing With Fire,” a family-friendly comedy about firefighters, opened in third place with $12.8 million over Universal Pictures’ Wham!-inspired romantic comedy “Last Christmas.” Starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, “Last Christmas” took fourth place with $11.6 million. But Universal is optimistic about its prospects, considering the thematic nature of the film and the holiday weekends to come.

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“We have a fantastic storyteller in Paul Feig and a ridiculously charming cast,” said Universal’s distribution head Jim Orr.

Once again, the bright spots at the box office are in the awards-friendly limited releases. Amazon opened Shia LaBeouf’s autobiographical film “Honey Boy” in four locations, where it earned a strong $288,824. And Lauren Greenfield’s Imelda Marcos documentary “The Kingmaker” opened in two locations to $23,600. Both “Parasite,” which earned $2.6 million from 603 locations, and “Jojo Rabbit,” which added $3.9 million from 802 locations, also continue to perform well as the films expand a little bit each week.

Paramount’s “Terminator: Dark Fate” rounded out the top five. But its anemic $10.8 million second weekend didn’t reverse its fate after a bomb of an opening.

Weak November

But it’s still one of the worst early November weekends in years and Dergarabedian noted that the smaller films are not going to move the needle on the overall box office for the year, which remains down 5.5%.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a challenged box office,” Orr said.

Although The Walt Disney Co.’s “Frozen 2” is on the horizon to help pick things up, Dergarabedian said that at this point, 2019 might not best the record 2018 box office year.

“I think it’d be really tough at this point (to surpass 2018). But it’s not a ‘Chicken Little’ situation,” Dergarabedian said. “When we compare to any other year it’s a solid year.”

Still, he added, “For November, this is a very slow weekend.” The “Joker” continues slugging along though.

doctor sleep last christmas and midway open box office november
Doctor Sleep, Last Christmas, Midway

North American Box Office

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “Midway,” $17.5 million ($21.6 million international).

2. “Doctor Sleep,” $14.1 million ($13 million international).

3. “Playing With Fire,” $12.8 million ($2.5 million international).

4. “Last Christmas,” $11.6 million ($3.1 million international).

5. “Terminator: Dark Fate,” $10.8 million ($29.9 million international).

6. “Joker,” $9.2 million ($20.3 million international).

7. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” $8 million ($19.9 million international).

8. “Harriet,” $7.2 million.

9. “Zombieland: Double Tap,” $4.3 million ($5.1 million international).

10. “The Addams Family,” $4.2 million ($13.2 million international).

Worldwide Box Office

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:

1. “Terminator: Dark Fate,” $29.9 million.

2. “Midway” $21.6 million.

3. “Better Days,” $21.1 million.

4. “Joker,” $20.3 million.

5. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” $19.9 million.

6. “My Dear Liar,” $13.8 million.

7. “The Addams Family,” $13.2 million.

8. “Doctor Sleep,” $13 million.

9. “Weathering With You,” $9.4 million.

10. “Das Perfekte Geheimnis,”$8.7 million.

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