Audiences responded with a resounding “yep” to Jordan Peele’s science-fiction thriller “Nope,” which topped the box office with its $44 million debut.
Those ticket sales were slightly behind projections of $50 million and fall in between the results of Peele’s first two films, 2017’s “Get Out” (which opened to $33 million) and 2019’s “Us” (which opened to $71 million). “Nope” may not have cemented a new box office record for Peele, but it demonstrates the director’s popularity at the movies and marks a strong start for an original, R-rated horror film. In fact, it stands as the highest opening weekend tally for an original film since “Us” debuted more than three years ago. Yes, that includes Quentin Tarantino’s star-studded “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which started with $41 million in July 2019.
“The opening isn’t as big as ‘Us,’ but it’s still extremely impressive,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “The weekend figure is far above average for the genre.”
It’s worth noting that Peele’s sophomore feature “Us,” a scary story about menacing doppelgängers, enjoyed an especially huge opening weekend because it followed the runaway success of the Oscar-winning “Get Out.” After his directorial debut captured the zeitgeist by delivering scares while encouraging audiences to think, fans of the filmmaker were more than a little eager to watch Peele’s next mind-bending nightmare. Though Peele still has outsized good-will with audiences, box office expectations for “Nope,” another anxiety-inducing social thriller, should have been comparatively a little more Earth-bound.
“Nope” cost $68 million, which is significantly more than “Get Out” (with its slender $4.5 million budget) and “Us” (with its $20 million budget). So the movie will require a little more coinage than Peele’s past films to turn a profit, and word-of-mouth will be key. “Get Out” and “Us” were wildly successful in theaters, with each collecting $255 million at the global box office. “Nope” does not open at the international box office until mid-August.
“Nope” reunites Peele with “Get Out” star Daniel Kaluuya — and adds Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun to the mix — in the story of siblings who live on a gulch in California and attempt to uncover video evidence of a UFO. Critics were fond of “Nope,” which holds an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave the film a “B” grade, the same CinemaScore as “Us.”
Universal’s president of domestic distribution Jim Orr points out that “Nope” is appealing to all demographics; according to exit polls, 35% of ticket buyers were Caucasian, 20% were Hispanic, 33% were African American and 8% were Asian. He says that’s a good sign in terms of its theatrical run.
“We’re thrilled with the results this weekend,” Orr says. “Jordan Peele is an incredible talent. His films are layered and thought-provoking and ridiculously entertaining.”
Since “Nope” was the only new movie to open this weekend, several holdover titles rounded out North American box office charts.
Disney’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” slipped to second place after two weeks in the No. 1 spot. The Marvel adventure added $22.1 million (a 53% decline) from 4,370 locations, taking the film’s domestic tally to $276.2 million. Globally, the fourth “Thor” movie has grossed $598 million and will imminently cross the $600 million mark. It’s already out-earned at least one of its predecessors, 2011’s “Thor” ($449 million globally), and it should soon pass 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World” ($644 million globally). However, it still has a ways to go to match (or beat) 2017’s charmer “Thor: Ragnarok” ($853 million).
Another Universal movie, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” took third place with $17.7 million from 3,816 venues. After four weeks on the big screen, the animated family film has earned $297.8 million in North America and $640.2 million worldwide.
Sony’s literary adaptation “Where the Crawdads Sing” landed at No. 4 with $10.33 million from 3,650 locations. With its better-than-expected debut last weekend, the mystery-drama has amassed $38.3 million to date.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” beat “Top Gun: Maverick” by a hair. Paramount’s blockbuster sequel pulled in $10 million from 3,160 theaters in its ninth weekend of release, bringing its domestic tally to a massive $635 million. “Maverick” recently overtook “The Avengers” ($623.3 million) to become the ninth-highest grossing movie in domestic box office history. Since the “Top Gun” sequel has not made less than $10 million in a single weekend, industry experts believe the movie has enough juice to soon pass the No. 7 and 8 slots, which belong to “Titanic” with $659 million and “Jurassic World” with $653 million.
At the indie box office, A24’s “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” continues to expand at a snail’s pace. The movie, about a resilient inch-tall seashell (voiced by Jenny Slate), collected $846,950 from 590 venues, its widest theater-count to date. So far, “Marcel” has grossed $2.8 million.