Veterans Day weekend was a washout at the North American box office as an army of new movies disappointed.
Roland Emmerich’s pricey World War II epic Midway may have topped the chart with a better-than-expected $17.5 million from 4,086 theaters in a surprise upset over the horror-thriller Doctor Sleep, but it was somewhat of a hollow victory considering Midway‘s $100 million budget (luckily, U.S. and U.K. distributor Lionsgate carved out a deal that will leave the studio in the black).
Warner Bros.’ Doctor Sleep — a sequel to The Shining — had been expected to easily win the weekend with $25 million or more. Instead, the Stephen King adaptation debuted to a drowsy $14.1 million domestically from 3,855 locations. It is also faring poorly overseas, where it earned $13.1 million from 68 markets for a foreign tally of $20 million and a global cume of $34.1 million.
A big chunk of frequent moviegoers aren’t well-versed in the mythology of The Shining, which opened in theaters 39 years ago, and felt no urgency to see the R-rated follow-up, which cost north of $50 million to produce and stars Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Danny Torrance. There also was the issue of Doctor Sleep‘s running time of roughly 151 minutes, and a post-Halloween release.
Midway, which chronicles the famous WWII battle in the Pacific between American and Japanese forces, is billed as one of the most expensive indie projects ever made. The film is produced by Emmerich’s company Centropolis and financed by Chinese money and foreign sales arranged by AGC International.
Emmerich is hopeful that Midway — fueled domestically by a strong turnout in America’s heartland — will follow the course of Mel Gibson’s World War II pic Hacksaw Ridge (2016), which grossed $175.2 million globally, including a robust $62 million in China, where audiences were drawn in by the scenes of the Japanese being defeated. (One difference: Hacksaw Ridge was a key player in the Oscar race.
Midway has earned a subdued $21.8 million so far internationally, including a China debut in the $15 million to $16 million range for local distributor Bona. The film stars Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas. Lionsgate, also home of Hacksaw Ridge, timed the film’s U.S. release to Veterans Day, and the studio is predicting a four-day gross of $20.1 million. Heading into the weekend, Midway was tracking to open in the low- to mid-teen millions domestically.