B.O. Analysis, Sept. 14: ‘Burn After Reading’ Is Coen Brothers’ Biggest Opening Ever

As I first projected Friday night, the Coen Brothers have delivered their best opening weekend ever with the well-reviewed Burn After Reading (Focus). After a strong $6.5M Friday, the star teaming of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich spy comedy received a 24 percent bump to $8M Saturday, and Focus expects the movie to finish the three-day with $19.4M. That is easily the best wide opening on Joel and Ethan’s resume, topping Lady Killers ($12.6M) and Intolerable Cruelty ($12.5M). Although tonally Burn After Reading is more similar to Fargo and The Big Lebowski, there is no question that the commercial success ($75M) of No Country For Old Men, not to mention those four Academy Awards including Best Picture, have made the eclectic work of these auteur brothers must-see with a much broader audience.

Tyler Perry Studios and Lionsgate have met industry expectations with an $18M weekend for Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys. This represents a real breakthrough for the Atlanta-based movie maverick because there is no “fat suit in drag” character in The Family That Preys. Instead, this is a far more sophisticated drama about the intertwining of two families–one black, with Alfre Woodard as matriarch, and the other white, featuring Oscar winner Kathy Bates as head of family.

Hollywood execs like to look down their noses at Tyler Perry and his Gospel-infused, low budget pictures, but it should be pointed out that he knows his audience, has a near spotless box office resume (Daddy’s Little Girls his only “miss” with $11.2M), makes his movies for a price, and he retains ownership rights of every project. He is a mogul to be reckoned with, and the critics have not completely dismissed The Family That Preys with a not-wful 40 percent Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Perry has a reasonable shot at generating a domestic cume of $45M-$50M, which makes it a good solid hit.

In the No. 3 spot for the weekend is the critically-reviled Righteous Kill (Overture) starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, which performed far better than its score of 23 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes would indicate. The business model of producer Avi Lerner and his Millennium Films –give big paycheck to big stars in order to get them to commit to underwhelming material – apparently works…sometimes. Overture reports $5.9M Friday, a softer-than-expected 10 percent Saturday bounce to $6.5M and the relatively new distributor forecasts $4.1M Sunday. Righteous Kill ‘s $16.5M almost matched the $16.9M total domest gross of Lerner’s spring bomb 88 Minutes (also starring Al Pacino). Clearly, putting Pacino and DeNiro on the marquee has sold tickets.

Righteous Kill  has a shot at $37M-$40M domestic, which would make it the second-best Millennium take in the last two years, trailing only Rambo ($42.75M cume), and ahead of bombs like The Wicker Man starring Nicolas Cage ($23.6M cume), The Black Dahlia ($22.5M cume), Mad Money  ($20.6M cume), War, Inc. starring John Cusack ($580,000), Home of the Brave ($52,000 cume), Pam Anderson in Blonde & Blonder ($42,000 cume) and the memorable Jessica Simpson vehicle Blonde Ambition (only $6,500 domestic). We should not expect the Avi Lerner “schlock train” to stop after the surprisingly solid opening of Righteous Kill .

After a $3.6M Friday, The Women (Picturehouse) did not quite get the uptick I expected on Saturday. I projected $11.8M Friday night, but the estrogen-laced George Cukor adaptation from Murphy Brown creator Diane English will come in a little lower at just over $10M. The reviews are awful (only 10 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) despite a terrific cast of American actresses, including Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Mendes, Candice BergenCloris Leachman and on and on. This is a decent weekend, but just a fraction of the Sex and the City excitement will likely equate to no more than $35M domestic. 

The House Bunny (Sony) held off Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) to round out the top 5. The Anna Faris comedy slapsticked its way to a $4.3M weekend for a new cume of $42.1M. Meanwhile, Thunder was No. 6 with $4.18M, and the Ben Stiller-directed movie satire will have a new domestic cume of almost $103M by Monday morning.


1. Burn After Reading (Focus) – $19.4M, $7,319PTA, $19.4M cume

2. Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys (Lionsgate) – $18.02M, $8,696 PTA, $18M cume

3. Righteous Kill (Overture) – $16.5M, $5,234 PTA, $16.5M cume

4. The Women (Picturehouse) – $10.08M, $3,405 PTA, $10.08M cume

5. The House Bunny (Sony) – $4.3M, $1,566 PTA, $42.1M cume

6. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $4.18M, 1,428 PTA, $102.9M cume

7. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) – $4.01M, $1,832 PTA, $517.68M cume

8. Bangkok Dangerous (Lionsgate) – $2.4M, $904 PTA, $12.5M cume

9. Traitor (Overture) – $2.13M, $1,058 PTA, $20.7M cume

10. Death Race (Universal) – $2.01M, $1,004 PTA, $33.19M cume