“Gone Girl” and “Annabelle” enjoyed sizzling debut weekends, as David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-seller racked up $38 million and “The Conjuring” spin-off scared up $37.2 million.
The films’ debuts continue a fall box office turnaround following a devastating summer for the movie business. The overall box office was up nearly 20% from the same weekend a year ago when “Gravity” lifted off to $55.8 million.
“We were due for some breakout performances,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com “The market has the ability to expand if there are two quality films in it, even if both are R-rated thrillers.”
Produced by 20th Century Fox and New Regency for $61 million, “Gone Girl” unspooled across 3,013 locations. It ranks as the biggest debut of Fincher’s career, topping “Panic Room’s” $30 million premiere, and the third best in Ben Affleck’s, behind “Daredevil’s” $40.3 million and “Pearl Harbor’s” $59.1 million openers. “Gone Girl” and “Annabelle” are the tenth and eleventh biggest October debuts in history.
The film was aided by fans of the book, Affleck’s recent hot streak at the box office and superb reviews, as “Gone Girl” received nearly a 90% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With its hard R rating and chilly look at a marriage from hell, Fox was conservative going into the weekend, insisting it would be happy with a debut in the $20 million range. Early tracking suggested they’d have to content themselves with that kind of number. After the film received an enthusiastic reception at last weekend’s New York Film Festival, the numbers began to tick upwards.
“David Fincher made an incredibly provocative film,” said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at Fox. “We did an excellent job of marketing the movie and making it a cultural event where people had to see it in order to be part of the conversation.”
It continues Fox’s torrid run at the multiplexes this year. The studio has a clear lead in market share thanks to hits such as “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” after three consecutive years in sixth place. It still has “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” left to open among its upcoming releases.
“Gone Girl’s” opening weekend audience was 60% female and skewed older with 75% of the audience over the age of 25, according to Rentrak. Aronson said he was surprised the film was so evenly balanced between the genders.
“That’s a testament to the film becoming a zeitgeisty film,” he said.