‘Smile’ Beaming $22M Opening Weekend For Paramount – Sunday AM Box Office

SUNDAY AM Writethru after Saturday PM update w/chart: Unlike other genre films during this lackluster time at the box office, Paramount’s Smile isn’t even beginning to frown this weekend. Paramount officially reports this morning, after we heard last night that the Parker Finn directed/written horror pic had a very strong Saturday of $8.6 million. That’s now +4% from Friday and previews’ $8.2M, which will soar Smile to a $22M opening. Worldwide, Smile is exuberant at $36.5M. The pic only cost a reported $17M before P&A. Note, this is the first $20M+ opening at the domestic box office since Sony’s Bullet Train debuted to $30m during the first weekend of August.

SMILE, Sosie Bacon, 2022. © Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
SMILE, Sosie Bacon, 2022. © Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

How does a B- CinemaScore movie like Smile overindex on Saturday night, when a starry film like Don’t Worry Darling, with the same grade, did not in its opening? One is a horror movie with a clearly defined demographic of 18-34 (68% turnout) and multicultural audiences (40% Caucasian, 32% Hispanic and Latino, 16% Black, 7% Asian and 5% other), and Paramount never lost sight of that in their marketing.

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The Olivia Wilde-directed film was an arthouse movie conceived for upscale adults, but wound up attracting younger females (the Harry Styles fans), and neither crowd yielded enough heat coming out of the theater to propel the film’s demand. Still, thank God for Styles, or else Don’t Worry Darling would never have opened to $19.3M. Warners is reporting the second weekend for Don’t Worry Darling at $7.3M, -62%, with a running total of $32.8M. Worldwide the pic stands at $54.7M.

“It’s hard to open original IP in this marketplace. But we created a mystique around Smile and ran a clever campaign,” beamed Paramount Domestic Theatrical Distribution Boss Chris Aronson, “This is a very good start for Parker Finn; there is a style to this movie that is clever and smart.”

Paramount leaned in heavily with the digital spend, we understand, and aired TV spots during sporting events. The pic trailered in-theaters on such movies as Bullet Train, Black Phone, Beast and Barbarian in recent months. RelishMix noticed that TikTok views were driving engagement at 42M, plus YouTube views at 39M, prior to the weekend, fueling the pic’s social media universe to 110.2M across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. That figure is above the horror averages measured by the analytics company. One zany stunt the studio pulled to raise awareness for the film was to have people infiltrate MLB games. Paramount placed these individuals in the crowd, and had them smile throughout the entire game directly into broadcast cameras. Really.

Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak says that those who decided to buy tickets to Smile: 41% came because it was a horror movie, 27% came with a friend who wanted to see it, while 25% heard it was ‘good’. For those polled by PostTrak, the most effective pieces of marketing for Smile were the in-theater trailer (15%), the YouTube trailer (14%) and social media personality endorsements of the film (17%).

What did we learn this weekend at the box office? It pays to go theatrical, not streaming. Kudos once again to Paramount Motion Pictures boss Brian Robbins for not sending this one to Paramount+.

According to PostTrak, those who saw Smile: 24% saw it with a date, 19% saw it with 2 to 4 friends, while 16% went with a friend.

The overindexing of Smile puts total weekend ticket sales at around $64.2M. But the sad state of affairs remains that compared to the same weekend in 2019, when DreamWorks Animation’s Abominable opened –coincidentally at the same level as Smile with $20.6M, and all films grossed, $94.5M– there’s $30.3M missing in the current domestic theatrical marketplace. Yes, sure, there’s a lack of supply of big pics, and 2019 then had It Chapter Two in its 4th weekend, ranking 4th with $10.2M. However, the holdovers of older adult and upscale fare was immensely stronger, and underscores how we continue to lack the drive and interest from that demographic. Three years ago, in second place, we had Downton Abbey‘s second sesh making $14.3M, -54%; the third weekend of Jennifer Lopez’s crime caper movie Hustlers earning a beefy $11.3M (-32%), and the $10M second weekend of 20th Century Studios/Regency/Disney’s Ad Astra (which we gave a hard time to back then over its $100M cost and arthouse sensibility; by today’s standards the slow sci-fi pic looks like a blockbuster) in No. 5. The point is, we’re still not back, even with the lack of movies.

Still, let’s give it up for the major studios committing to the big screen at this point in time: If you think about it — Woman King, Bros, Don’t Worry Darling, Smile — these are all very original movies, and extremely ambitious. All of them were greenlit during the pandemic. See any one of them and, you’ll agree, they deserve a theatrical treatment, and that will carry their legacy through in home ancillaries. Even though Universal’s Bros tanked with a $4.8M opening (after a $1.74M Saturday, -5% from Friday+previews’ $1.84M), the pic will only make Peacock that more attractive and have more leverage on a streaming menu amid the noise of several titles than had it went straight to the service.

Said Universal domestic distribution boss Jim Orr about Bros, “All of us at Universal are incredibly proud of Bros. Billy Eichner, Nick Stoller, and Judd Apatow have crafted the funniest film of the year, as evidenced by our very enthusiastic audience and critical reaction scores, which will no doubt lead to great word of mouth as Bros continues to find its audience in the coming weeks. “

Sheila Atim stars in The Woman King
Sheila Atim stars in The Woman King

While box office for most of these titles isn’t as robust as it was pre-pandemic, it means originality will have to come at a very low cost for such projects moving forward (not that any of them cost north of $50M before P&A), but it puts a strain on P&L. Streamers can easily outbid the motion picture studios for the packages of such original movies, however, in regards to pure word of mouth, will we be talking about Netflix’s Blonde three weeks from now? The discourse for The Woman King continues, and that’s a movie that demands to be seen on a big screen, not a mobile phone (the pic made $7M in weekend 3, -36% with a running total of $46.7M). In the end, it’s up to filmmakers and producers where they want their movie to be seen: in homes, possibly lost on a streaming menu, or with a loudspeaker multi-million global campaign in theaters. Sometimes, that higher budget which the streamers are offering is just too much to resist.

Elsewhere at the box office, Sarigama Cinemas title Ponniyan Selvan: Part One looks to have held to its industry estimate with $4.1M at 500 sites in the No. 6 spot.

Studio reported Sunday numbers for the weekend of Sept. 30-Oct. 2:

1.) Smile (Par) 3,645 theaters, Fri $8.2M, Sat $8.6M, Sun $5.15M, 3-day $22M/Wk 1

2.) Don’t Worry Darling (NL/WB), 4,121 (+8) theaters, Fri $2.35M (-75%), Sat $2.9M, Sun $2M, 3-day $7.3M (-62%)/Total $32.8M/ Wk 2

3.) The Woman King (Sony) 3,504 (-261) theaters Fri $1.75M (-41%), Sat $3.1M, Sun $2.1M, 3-day $7M (-36%)/Total $46.7M/Wk 3

4.) Bros (Uni) 3,350 theaters, Fri $1.84M, Sat $1.74M, Sun $1.22M 3-day $4.8M, Wk 1

5.)Avatar (re) (20th/Dis) 1,860 theaters, Fri $1.16M (-65%), Sat $2.2M, Sun $1.3M, 3-day $4.696M (-62%), Total $779.09M (re-issue running total through ten days is $18.5M)/Wk 2 of re-issue

6.) Ponniyan Selvan: Part One (Sar) 500 locations, Fri $2.1M, Sat $1.1M, Sun $818K, 3-day $4.1M/Wk 1

7.) Barbarian (20th/Dis) 2,720 theaters (-145), Fri $809K (-42%), Sat $1.25M, Sun $754K, 3-day $2.8M (-42%)/Total $33.1M/Wk 4

8.) Bullet Train (Sony) 1,931 (+24) theaters, Fri $370K, Sat $630K, Sun $400K,  3-day $1.4M (-23%)/, Total $101.3M/Wk 9

9.) DC League of Super-Pets (WB) 1,924 (-427) theaters, Fri $250K (-31%), Sat $620K, Sun $435K, 3-day $1.3M (-25%)/Total $91.7M Wk 10

10.) Top Gun: Maverick (Par) 1,561 (-464) theaters, Fri $335K (-27%), Sat $575K, Sun $320K 3-day $1.23M (-24%), Total $713.4M/Wk 19

SATURDAY AM: Paramount and other studios are calling Smile at a $19M opening. In a deja vu to last Sweekend with New Line’s Don’t Worry Darling, another genre pic, this R-rated horror film has received a B- CinemaScore and a severe 69%/53% definite recommend on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, a standard audience reaction for such fare. We see one studio calling Smile at $20M, and frankly with this audience score, and the front-loaded nature of horror films, only tonight will determine if this goes up. Last weekend, everyone got excited about the initial numbers they were seeing for Don’t Worry Darling, got over their skis, and called the weekend at $20M on Saturday AM before it eased to $19.3M by Monday. Smile‘s Friday is $8.2M, which includes Thursday’s $2M previews.

Demos, as is typical for R-rated horror, are 28% guys over 25, 27% women under 25, 25% guys under 25, and 20% women over 25. If you were at the AMC Porter Ranch last night in California, you wouldn’t know it was the doldrums of the fall box office, as the place was hoppin’ like a 1920s speakeasy. The 18-34 bunch showed up at 73%. Diversity demos are 32% Caucasian, 32% Latino and Hispanic, 20% Black and 9% Asian, 8% other — Smile was always expected to play vibrantly across all demos. Best markets were in the West and Southwest. Eight of the top ten theaters were in the LA market. PLF screens drove 25% of ticket sales so far.

Don't Worry Darling
Florence Pugh and Harry Styles in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’

In second, Don’t Worry Darling at 4,121 theaters is eyeing a $7.56M second weekend, -61% for a 10-day of $33.1M. That’s in early AM estimates. Domestic outlook for this Florence Pugh-Harry Styles-Chris Pine starring, Olivia Wilde-directed New Line movie is $50M. Social media analytics corp RelishMix says, “Fans who state that they ‘have seen the film’, not only runs positive, but are also defending the film and suggesting that Don’t Worry Darling should be seen without watching the trailers so that audiences experience it with a clearest mindset.” Adds Relish, “Some fans are throwing in spoilers as well as incidental political shrapnel into threads. Plus, there are explosive new references to Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, who is now a subject of comparison to Chris Pine’s character in very recent interviews from director Olivia Wilde, which are drawing even more attention.”

The pic’s social media universe stands at close to 184M now across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. YouTube views are drivers, while Instagram pages are where many of the behind-the-scenes and materials are being discovered, along with added conversation and flaming chatter. Cast posts since the opening have spiked and drawn media attention, including Pugh’s two photo essays on Instagram last Friday with 2.5M likes and glowing comments. Wilde has added 124K fans during the last week on Instagram, and there’s strong engagement on her BTS posts. Styles posted on his concert Instagram and Twitter and popped another 1.4M on his HSHQ feeds too.

Bros, courtesy Universal
Bros, courtesy Universal

Universal’s wide release of the Billy Eichner co-scripted/starring LGBTQ romantic comedy Bros is coming up quite short in No. 4 with $4.75M, outpegged by TriStar’s The Woman King in No. 3 with $6.2M. Still, bravo for Uni for having the guts to make this movie, and put it out on the big screen. Friday was $1.8M, with those who turned out for the film giving it a solid A Cinemascore and 80% on PostTrak, and a 69% recommend. Guys showed up at 60%, with 63% between 25-44. Diversity demos were 61% Caucasian, 19% Latino and Hispanic, 6% Black, and 14% Asian/other. The movie was always expected to play well in the big cities, and here we see that NY, LA and San Francisco have all the top ten theatrical runs. Middle America and the South underperformed norms, we’re told. PLF screens only repped 3% of the pic’s B.O. to date.

Popping into the top 5 is the Sarigama Cinemas title Ponniyan Selvan: Part One in 500 locations in 136 markets, with a $4.1M opening after a $2.1M Friday. The glamorous Indian epic follows Vandiyathevan, who sets out to cross the Chola land to deliver a message from the Crown Prince Aditha Karikalan. Kundavai attempts to establish political peace in the land seemingly civil war plotted by vassals and petty chieftains. There were strong sales in NYC, LA, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, DC, Atlanta, Houston and Detroit for the Mani Ratnam-directed movie.

Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in 'The Good House'
‘The Good House’

Booked wide at 1,062, but underperforming greatly, is the Sigourney Weaver-Kevin Kline Amblin dramedy The Good House from Roadside Attractions which is estimated to bring in $688K between Friday-Sunday. The movie about an alcoholic woman reigniting an old flame is the type of dramedy that studios use to make in the 1980s. Pic made its world premiere at TIFF last year, was later acquired by Roadside, and has earned 70% fresh from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences were in line with critics, giving it 74% on PostTrak, and a 51% recommend. Fifty-four percent women attended, 65% over 45 with 52% over 55. Diversity demos were 87% Caucasian, 8% Latino and Hispanic, 3% Black, and 2% Asian/other. Again, not strong business, but where the movie played was the West and Midwest.

How much money does the current fall box office stand to make sans a big tentpole? The same amount of money as last weekend. Industry estimates are at $61.3M for all titles, which is 3% behind last weekend’s $62.9M total, and 35% off from the same weekend in 2019 pre-pandemic, which was $94.5M — and that was considered low at the time (and now looks extravagantly rich). The No. 1 pic three years was the DreamWorks Animation title Abominable which debuted to $20.6M.

Meanwhile, Sony finally chugged Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train past $100M in its 9th weekend. Woo hoo choo choo.

Saturday AM estimates:

1.) Smile (Par) 3,645 theaters, Fri $8.2M, 3-day $19M/Wk 1

2.) Don’t Worry Darling (NL/WB), 4,121 (+8) theaters, Fri $2.35M (-75%), 3-day $7.56M (-61%)/Total $33.1M/ Wk 2

3.) The Woman King (Sony) 3,504 (-261) theaters Fri $1.7M (-41%),  3-day $6.2M (-44%)/Total $45.9M/Wk 3

4.) Bros (Uni) 3,350 theaters, Fri $1.84M, 3-day $4.75M, Wk 1

5.) Ponniyan Selvan: Part One (Sar) 500 locations, Fri $2.1M, 3-day $4.1M/Wk 1

6.)Avatar (re) (20th/Dis) 1,860 theaters, Fri $1.16M (-65%), 3-day $4.04M (-62%), Total $778.4M/Wk 2 of re-issue

7.) Barbarian (20th/Dis) 2,720 theaters (-145), Fri $809K (-42%),  3-day $2.65M (-45%)/Total $32.9M/Wk 4

8.) Bullet Train (Sony) 1,931 (+24) theaters, Fri $365K (-27%),  3-day $1.3M (-28%)/, Total $101.2M/Wk 9

9.) DC League of Super-Pets (WB) 1,924 (-427) theaters, Fri $250K (-31%) 3-day $1.21M (-30%)/Total $91.6M Wk 10

10.) Top Gun: Maverick (Par) 1,561 (-464) theaters, Fri $335K (-27%), 3-day $1.16M (-28%), Total $713.3M/Wk 19

Caitlin Stasey in ‘Smile’

FRIDAY AM: Paramount’s horror movie Smile struck up $2M in Thursday night previews that started at 7 p.m., a figure that’s just above M. Night Shyamalan’s Old from summer 2021, which did $1.5M in its previews, and just under Universal/Blumhouse’s Black Phone Thursday previews which were $3M in June.

Paramount is expecting a high-teens start this weekend, while it won’t be shocking if Smile exceeds $20M. Black Phone opened to $23.6M. Critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for the new pic stand at 78% fresh, still good for a horror film. The movie from writer-director Parker Finn sits at 82% with RT audiences, which is very good. When the movie originally was conceived, there was a possibility it would go to Paramount+, however, a rock concert test screening propelled Smile‘s fate for a theatrical release.


Universal’s Bros, the LGBTQ romantic comedy starring and co-written by Billy Eichner, made $500K from 2,700 theaters, which started showtimes at 5 p.m. The studio is only expecting a number in the high single digits this weekend.

Meanwhile, New Line’s Olivia Wilde genre pic Don’t Worry Darling ended its first week with $25.5M. The pic’s cume for the first seven days is just slightly ahead of TriStar’s first week for The Woman King, which did $25.1M at 4,113 theaters. Don’t Worry Darling posted solid weekdays: $1.66M on Monday, $2M Tuesday, $1.3M Wednesday and $1.2M Thursday. The pic is expected to decline by 55%-60% in its second weekend, around $7.7M.

Peter Bart: Media Fervor Over Olivia Wilde’s ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Obstructs More Critical Inspection

Don't Worry Darling
‘Don’t Worry Darling’

Woman King made $720K on Thursday in second place, -4% from Wednesday, for a second week of $14.5M and running total of $39.7M. The Viola Davis movie was booked at 3,765 venues.

The rerelease of 20th Century Studios/Disney’s Avatar at 1,860 locations grossed $580K, -15% for a first week of $13.8M and running grand total of $774.3M — still the fourth-highest-grossing movie ever at the domestic box office after Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($936.6M, 2015), Avengers: Endgame ($858.3M, 2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home ($814M, 2021).

20th Century Studios/Disney’s Barbarian made $6.6M in Week 3 for a running total of $30.2M. Thursday at 2,865 saw $370K, -17% from Wednesday.

A24’s Pearl in Week 2 made $2.8M at 2,982 sites with Thursday at $170K, -22% from Wednesday and a running total of $7.5M.

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