1917’ smashes expectations with $37m opening, as ‘Underwater’ sinks without a trace

Universal’s ‘1917’ exploded onto the scene this weekend, with a near-$40m opening that finally saw ‘Star Wars’ relinquish its grip atop the charts. It’s an opening that marks not only one of the best ever January starts, but also one greater than the rest of the weekend’s entrants combined, including ‘Just Mercy’s $10m, and ‘Underwater’s sunken $7m.

How did the new releases get on?

The Sam Mendes war movie ‘1917’ smashed pre-release expectations of a sub-$30m start, by earning an astonishing $37m by its 1st Sunday night. The Golden Globe-winner’s opening now stands just behind another historical epic in ‘The Revenant’, which earned $39.8m back in January 2015 after a similar platform release. ‘The Revenant’, also a Golden Globe winner, went onto earn $183.6m stateside.

Whether or not ‘1917’ can emulate such a performance is to be seen, but we can’t diminish the film’s success thus far. The largest opening of the year thus far, ‘1917’ was able to reach these heights so early due to a number of factors, including its 2-award haul at the aforementioned Golden Globes, where it won the prize for Best Director, as well as the Best Motion Picture for a Drama.

Like similar films in ‘Dunkirk’, ‘1917’ received swarms of critical praise, showcased by its A- on Cinemascore and 90% Tomatometer rating. ‘Dunkirk’, which opened to $50.5m in the summer of 2017, similarly saw an A-and 93% combo (although no wins at the Globes) on its way to a $188m finish. The stars are aligning for a similar finish for ‘1917’, it seems.

What sets ‘1917’ apart from the rest this weekend as a must-see were the unique filmmaking techniques Mendes and DP Roger Deakins implemented – most noticeably its ‘one-shot’ feel. Said to be ‘immersive’ and technically ‘brilliant’, it was marketed as a cinematic experience, successfully drawing not only the older crowd, but the 18-34 year olds too (47% of the audience, to be exact).

The result of this all is the 10th largest January opening of all time, as well as the 4th largest from Universal. A leggy post-Globes, pre-Oscars run looks likely, with a $180m finish not a far-off shout. An early contender for Jumpcut’s Box Office performance of the year, perhaps?

Paramount comedy ‘Like a Boss’, starring Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne, couldn’t lead by example this weekend, as it earned $10moff of a $29m budget. The R-rated comedy couldn’t nail the art of counter-programming, partly due to its shocking reviews (just 21% on RT), but also perhaps due to ‘1917’s surprise over-performance.

Slightly better news though for ‘Just Mercy’, as its wide expansion into 2,400 cinemas culminated in a $9.7m weekend. Starring Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, and Michael B. Jordan, the biographical drama saw a similar start to 2015’s ‘Selma’, whose $11.3m opening led to a $52m domestic total.

Finally, we have the 1st official Box Office bomb of the year, as Kristen Stewart’s sci-fi thriller ‘Underwater’ sunk without a trace with just $7m. The Fox/Disney film similarly failed to make a splash internationally, mirroring its domestic opening from 21 overseas countries.

How did the others do?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ finally relinquished the top spot this weekend as it dropped 56% to earn $15.2m. It was nearly caught by ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’, whose $14m weekend puts it at an astonishing $257.1m domestically.

Star Wars’ has now entered its 4th weekend, and has failed to reach the $1bn mark, a total that previous instalment ‘The Last Jedi’ managed in just 17 days. A disappointing end to the saga for Disney and Lucasfilm, who’d have hoped to have at least replicated the $1.3bn from the aforementioned film.

Other notables from the weekend

  • For the 2nd weekend in a row, this weekend’s total gross ($131.8m) is ahead of 2019’s equivalent ($120.1m) – this time by 10%.
  • The Rise of Skywalker’ is now less than $1m ahead of ‘Rogue One’ at the same point in its run. ‘Rogue One’ went onto finish on $532.2m domestically, and $1.06bn worldwide.
  • Uncut Gems’ is now just $6m away from overtaking ‘Lady Bird’ ($49m) as A24’s biggest-grossing film in the U.S.
RankLast Week RankFilmBUDGETSTUDIOTotal U.S. GrossWeekend Gross Weekend dropWeek number 
21Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker$275mDisney$478.3m$15.2m-56.0%4
32Jumanji: The Next Level$125mSony$257.1m$14m-46.6%5
4New!Like a Boss$29mParamount$10m$10m1
529Just MercyWarner Bros$10.1m$9.7m+12,578.0%3
63Little Women$40mSony$74.2m$7.8m-42.7%3
84Frozen 2$150mDisney$459.5m$5.9m-50.1%8
97Knives Out$40mLionsgate$139.5m$5.6m-36.9%7
106Spies in Disguise$100mFox-Disney$54.7m$5.2m-50.2%3