Box Office: ‘Civil War’ Sets A24 Record With $25 Million Debut

Director Alex Garland’s provocative dystopian thriller “Civil War” lit up the box office with $25.7 million in its debut. It’s the first A24 movie to lead the charts in North America, setting an opening weekend record for the New York-based specialty studio. It also marks the biggest R-rated start of the year.

Heading into the weekend, “Civil War” was projected to kick off with $15 million to $20 million. Those ticket sales would have been enough to overtake 2018’s “Hereditary” (which opened in fourth place to $13.6 million) as A24’s biggest debut. But the film, starring Kirsten Dunst as a journalist who traverses a violently divided United States, is benefitting from curiosity among moviegoers (how, exactly, does this blue-state/red-state rift play out, and does it hit too close to home in an election year?) and premium large formats like Imax and Dolby Cinemas. According to the studio, “Civil War” overperformed in markets like Los Angeles and El Paso, Texas (coincidentally, those states lead the so-called successionist “Western Forces” in the movie).

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“Civil War” landed a “B-” CinemaScore, which wouldn’t bode well for most distributors for word of mouth. But A24, the studio behind “Beau Is Afraid,” “Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “The Lobster,” has created an art and science out of disturbing, delighting and dividing moviegoers at once. “Civil War” cost $50 million, so it’s the studio’s most expensive movie to date. A24 already sold the rights to foreign markets, which will help the studio recoup its investment even before the movie hits the big screen in North America.

“This is an excellent opening for a dystopian thriller,” says David A. Gross of movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “The story is not directly partisan, but it’s provoking partisan feelings. It’s a fine balance to strike. Audiences are emotionally engaged, and that’s impressive for a thriller.”

Overall, the box office is roughly 16% behind the same point in 2023 and 31% down from the pre-pandemic period. “Civil War” was this weekend’s only new release, so several holdovers rounded out box office charts. Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s monster tentpole “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” dropped to second place after two weekends in the top slot. The film added $15.4 million in its third outing, bringing its domestic tally to $157.9 million.

Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” remained in third place with $5.3 million from 3,350 theaters. After four weeks on the big screen, the sci-fi comedy sequel has generated $96 million at the domestic box office and $160 million worldwide. It’s a so-so result for the $100 million-budgeted movie.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 4” moved up to the No. 4 spot with $5.2 million in its sixth weekend. So far, the animated family film has grossed $173 million in North America and more than $452 million globally. “Kung Fu Panda 4” cost $85 million so it’s well positioned in its theatrical run.

“Dune: Part Two” rounded out the top five, adding $74.3 million in its seventh weekend of release. The sci-fi epic has amassed $272 million in North America and $683 million globally. It’s the highest-grossing of the year.

VIP+ Analysis: ‘Civil War’ Record Bow Gives A24 More to Prove

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