'Don't Breathe' Terrorizes Rivals With Winning $26.1M Debut

By Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter

Elsewhere, Obama date movie Southside With You opens to mediocre numbers overall, but knocks out boxing drama Hands of Stone; Jason Statham’s The Mechanic: Resurrecton doesn’t match the 2011 film.

Score another win for the horror genre.

Don’t Breathe scared away the dog days of August at the North American box office in opening to $26.1 million from 3,501 theaters, well ahead of expectations. The movie, from Sony’s Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films, is sure to be profitable for the studio, considering it cost $10 million to make.

Writer-director Fede Alvarez’s well-reviewed, R-rated movie follows a delinquent teenage girl and her boyfriend, along with another friend, whose attempt to rob a blind man’s house takes a terrifying turn. Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto and Stephen Lang star in Don’t Breathe, which earned a B+ CinemaScore, unusual for a horror title.

Don’t Breathe is the latest horror film to strike gold during an otherwise difficult summer, a crop that includes The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out, both from New Line/Warner Bros., and Universal and Blumhouse’s The Purge: Election Year.

“To more than double your production budget on opening weekend is a fantastic result,” said Sony worldwide president of marketing and distribution Josh Greenstein. “It’s the latest in a string of low-budget movies that have been very profitable movies for Sony, including The Shallows and Sausage Party. And Fede is a master storyteller.”

More: ‘Southside With You’ Director on Where His Obama Date Movie Fits in the Current Presidential Race

After ruling the box office for three consecutive weekends, David Ayers’ anti-superhero tentpole Suicide Squad fell to No. 2 with $12.1 million from 3,582 theaters for a domestic total of $282.9 million.

The late-August weekend included three other new nationwide releases: Obama biographical romance Southside With You, action film Mechanic: Resurrection and the Roberto Duran boxing biopic Hands of Stone, although Southside and Hands of Stone, both indie films, opened in far fewer theaters.

Jason Statham-starrer Mechanic: Resurrection debuted to $7.5 million from 3,246 theaters, below the $11.4 million opening of The Mechanic in 2011. Lionsgate’s label Lionsgate Premiere is releasing Resurrection on behalf of Millennium Films, which put up much of the financing. The two partners are hoping for a strong afterlife in home entertainment.

Ben Foster and Jessica Alba star opposite Statham in the male-fueled action film, which only managed a seventh-place finish.

Southside With You, which follows a young President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama (then Michelle Robinson) on their first date in 1989 when they were young lawyers at the same Chicago firm, opened to roughly $3 million from 813 theaters.

Overall, Southside With You’s opening is mediocre, although it did do decent business in certain cities including Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, New York and Los Angeles. (African-Americans made up a majority of the audience.)

More: 'Mechanic: Resurrection’: Film Review

A passion project for first-time feature director Richard Tanne, Southside stars Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter and was fully financed by IM Global. Miramax and Roadside Attractions partnered in picking up U.S. rights to Southside out of the Sundance Film Festival, where the film was met with critical acclaim.

Miramax and Roadside initially planned a limited release but decided for a somewhat wider footprint based on a successful screening program and glowing reviews.

Southside With You was able to knock out the Weinstein Co.’s Hands of Stone starring Robert De Niro and Edgar Ramirez, which opened to $1.7 million from 810 locations. The film, which debuted out of competition in Cannes in May, tells the true story of famed Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran (Ramirez), who was coached to greatness in the 1970s by trainer Ray Arcel (De Niro).

TWC notes that Hands of Stone earned an A CinemaScore, which could bode well for the film’s major expansion into as many as 2,500 theaters on Wednesday, Aug. 31, the eve of the long Labor Day weekend.

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CBS Films and Lionsgate’s Hell or High Water — one of the best reviewed films of the year — continues to prosper as it expands into a total of 909 theaters. The modern-day Western, a heist film starring Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster, will out-grossed both Southside and Hands of Stone with $3.7 million, pushing its domestic total to $8.6 million, one of the strongest showings of the year for a film getting a platform release.