BY SONAIYA KELLEY
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
LOS ANGELES – The sole new wide release last weekend, Universal’s “Us,” came in first place at the box office with $70.3 million, nearly doubling analysts’ projections of $35 million to $45 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.
The result breaks opening records for an original horror movie, an original R-rated film and for a live-action original film since “Avatar” opened with $77 million in 2009. It is also the third best horror opening of all time after 2017’s “It” ($123.4 million) and last year’s “Halloween” sequel ($76.2 million).
“It’s amazing,” said Jim Orr, the studio’s distribution chief. “The film absolutely blew by the most robust of forecasts and I think that’s all to do with the great appeal of Jordan Peele.”
Follows ‘Get Out’
Peele’s highly anticipated sophomore effort follows a family of four who are terrorized by their own murderous doppelgangers while on a family vacation. It earned a B CinemaScore rating and a 94 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Jordan Peele’s understanding of the movie theater experience is on full display,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore.
“Social media blew up all weekend long with moviegoers recounting their personal experiences of watching the film. The only thing scarier than the movie itself was the FOMO that it inspired among fans.”
“Us” comes two years after Peele’s directorial debut “Get Out” opened with $33 million before going on to become a cultural and commercial sensation, grossing more than $176 million domestically and $255 million worldwide. It also earned Peele an original screenplay Oscar and best picture nomination.
‘A star director’
While “Get Out” featured a production budget of $4.5 million, “Us” was made for a reported $20 million. Despite featuring an original script, “Us” is performing on the level of a sequel in large part because of the runaway success of “Get Out,” which established Peele as a pre-eminent horror writer and director.
“Jordan Peele’s reputation as a filmmaker over the course of just two feature films has made him a star director and a box-office draw for ravenous fans of horror and suspense,” said Dergarabedian.
“Peele just has the ability to really tap into the cultural zeitgeist,” said Orr. “Audiences trust him. He’s extraordinarily talented and just a marvelous storyteller. They trust him and love him and can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.”
Though his follow-up effort is not as political as “Get Out,” “Us” features a polarizing ending that has divided audiences. “What we’re hearing is people come out of ‘Us’ and have to discuss it,” said Orr.
“They compare and contrast what they just saw with what their friends think they saw, a very similar reaction to ‘Get Out.’ ”
Other top films
The film’s success builds on Universal’s strong showing in 2019, including the recent hits “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” which came in at No. 5 this weekend, earning $6.5 million for a cumulative $145.7 million, and “Glass,” which earned $110.8 million domestically during its theatrical run.
In second place for the weekend, Disney’s “Captain Marvel” earned $35 million in its third weekend for a cumulative $321.5 million. Globally, it took in $87.1 million for a worldwide cumulative total of $910.3 million as it closes in on $1 billion.
Paramount’s “Wonder Park” came in third place, adding $9 million in its second weekend for a cumulative $29.5 million. In fourth place, CBS Films and Lionsgate’s “Five Feet Apart” added $8.7 million in its second week for a cumulative $26.5 million.