Underlining Ben Affleck’s star power, “The Accountant” dominated moviegoing with a solid $24.7 million opening weekend at 3,222 North American sites.
Sunday’s estimate came in significantly above expectations, which had ranged from $18 million to $20 million at the start of the weekend.
Comedy concert film “Kevin Hart: What Now?” delivered about half of “The Accountant’s” total with $12 million at 2,568 locations. But the debut of sci-fi adventure “Max Steel” was ignored by moviegoers with $2.2 million at 2,034 screens for a dismal $1,064 per-screen average.
Warner Bros.’ “The Accountant” took in $200,000 more than last weekend’s winner, “The Girl on the Train,” which opened with $24.5 million. The Emily Blunt thriller, produced by DreamWorks, finished in a tie for second with “Kevin Hart: What Now?” Universal is distributing both “Kevin Hart” and “The Girl on the Train.”
“The Accountant” carries a moderate $40 million price tag with Affleck portraying an autistic math savant and weapons expert who cooks the books for criminal organizations. Gavin O’Connor directs from a script by Bill Dubuque. Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Lithgow also star.
Prospects for holdover business are bright with an A CinemaScore, particularly with 86% of the customers in the over-25 demographic. “That is our key audience and the 5% gain in Friday-to-Saturday business shows that there’s a lot of interest in this film,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner’s domestic distribution president.
“The Accountant” opened quietly in ten international markets with $2.8 million from 1,190 screens, led by $755,000 at 109 sites in Taiwan. It will open next weekend in Brazil, Germany, and Spain.
Warner-based Affleck has a strong track record in dramas with 2010’s “The Town,” which grossed $154 million worldwide; 2012’s best picture Oscar winner “Argo,” with $232 million worldwide; and 2014’s “Gone Girl,” with $369 million worldwide. His Prohibition-era crime drama “Live by Night” opens on Christmas and he’ll return as Batman in “Justice League” on Nov. 17, 2017.
“Kevin Hart: What Now?” is a look at the final performance of his most recent comedy tour, filmed in August, 2015, at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field before 50,000 attendees — and book-ended by James Bond-style spoof sequences in which Hart teams with Halle Berry as his loyal but dismissive associate. Leslie Small and Tim Story directed.
The concert film is already a money-maker with production costs under $10 million. Hart’s a proven performer in this genre with 2013’s “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” having grossed $32 million domestically.
Nick Carpou, head of Universal’s domestic distribution, noted Hart has been in four movies this year for the studio with “Ride Along 2,” “Central Intelligence, “Secret Life of Pets” and “What Now?” “He works so hard and kind of defines what comedy is now so we’re expecting very good business in coming weeks,” he added.
Open Road is handling “Max Steel,” based on Mattel’s line of action figures and starring Ben Winchell of MTV’s “Finding Carter.” The film focuses on the teenage Max McGrath and alien companion Steel, who evolve into the superhero Max Steel.
Fox’s third weekend of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” finished fourth with $8.9 million at 3,538 locations, giving the Tim Burton fantasy $65.8 million after 17 days. Lionsgate’s third frame of Mark Wahlberg disaster drama “Deepwater Horizon” followed in fifth with $6.4 million at 3,403 sites for a $49.3 million domestic total.
Warner’s fourth weekend of “Storks” finished sixth with $5.6 million, followed by the fourth frame of Sony-MGM’s “The Magnificent Seven” at $5.2 million, the second weekend of Liosngate’s “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” with $4.3 million and Warner’s sixth weekend of “Sully” with $3 million, lifting the Tom Hanks film past $118 million — the best performance of the fall so far.
The weekend did not shake the overall business out of its fall malaise with an overall total of $97 million — down from $122.9 million last year and $131.8 million in 2014. Business since Labor Day is down about 16% to $807 million, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore.
The last three Octobers saw releases that significantly over-performed expectations, Dergarabedian noted, with “Gravity” in 2013, “Gone Girl” in 2014 and “The Martian” in 2015.
“We keep waiting for a break-out hit but it hasn’t come,” he added. “The Presidential election may be diverting attention, given that it’s unlike any other election in our history.”
Fox Searchlight’s “The Birth of a Nation” wound up in 10th with a 61% decline to $2.7 million at 2,105 sites for a 10-day total of $12.2 million. The negative reaction in recent months to the 1999 rape case involving director and star Nate Parker (who was acquitted) has likely limited the appeal of the historical drama.
STX Entertainment’s thriller “Desierto” saw decent returns with $450,000 on 73 screens for a per screen average of $6,164. Key cities where the film launched included Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Miami, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio, San Diego, Phoenix and San Francisco.
STX said it’s looking at expanding “Desierto, which is Mexico’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year’s Academy Awards, in the coming weeks. Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star and Jonas Cuaron directs the story of Mexican immigrants being murdered in the Southern California desert.