“Game Night” opened nationwide this weekend in the United States and debuted second place in the box office, after Marvel’s Black Panther. Box Office Mojo is reporting that the movie earned $5.2m from 22 mostly smaller markets and opens in a further 23 this week including the UK and Germany. Leading the way was Australia with an estimated $1.5 million followed by Russia ($1.3m) and the Netherlands ($570k). Deadline is reporting the following story:
2) Game Night (NL/WB), 3,488 theaters / $5.6m Fri (includes $1M previews)/$7M Sat/ $4M Sun/3-day: $17M /Wk 1
New Line/Warner Bros.’ Game Night grew 25% on Saturday over Friday with $7M, taking its opening to $16.6M in second place, and as we mentioned, that’s OK, not fantastic, and a bit of a rebound from the studio’s R-rated laugh recession last year with The House, Fist Fight, and Alcon’s Father Figures. New Line kept this comedy as economically sound as possible, with a production cost under $40M, which is their range for the genre. At this box office level with Game Night, New Line is in the same boat of other R-rated original IP comedy openers such as Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates ($16.6M opening, $46M final domestic), Office Christmas Party ($16.9M, $54.8M), and How to Be Single ($17.8M, $46.8M), so figure it comes in within $40M-$50M at the domestic B.O. when all is said and done. R-rated comedies remain the quagmire for many studios (outside of Universal’s Girls Trip geared toward African American audiences), as studios and comedy creators continue to scratch their heads and figure out how to pull in younger crowds who’ll fuel breakout successes.
Another hurdle here with Game Night is in its packaging: The larger cast of Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, and Billy Magnussen aren’t known for their comedy chops, not to mention Jason Bateman typically plays the straight man to someone crazier in his comedies, i.e. Charlie Day in Horrible Bosses and Melissa McCarthy in Identify Thief; even Tony Hale and Will Arnett on Arrested Development. Though McAdams has starred in comedies in the past, such as Mean Girls and Wedding Crashers, she has largely built her track record on more serious fare over the last decade, such as Spotlight, HBO’s True Detective, Doctor Strange, Southpaw and Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder. Really, how can an average potential moviegoer know that this is a comedy?
Knowing that they had a different, clever comedy, Warner Bros. sought to capture that irreverent attitude in its marketing and trailers. This is one of the reasons why they didn’t go with the silly standard stars-on-the-poster concept (though that will be implemented overseas); the studio was looking to break form and keep within the pic’s unique sense of humor. The challenge here lied in selling to the young ‘uns (under 25) on what ‘game night’ is (those of us raised on Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley board games in the ’80s know exactly what it is); and so Warners executed an extensive grass-roots program that tapped into local influencers, game & trivia night takeovers, and an aggressive college program that touched down on nearly 200 campuses across the US & Canada. With test scores solid, Warners screened Game Night extensively with AMC, Regal, Alamo Drafthouse, The CW Plus, and Soho House, as well as with eight influencers whose fan bases reached north of 36M. In purchased media over six weeks, Warner Bros. went after older men during the AFC/NFC Championship Games, the Winter Olympics, and NCAA Basketball, as well as broader demo fare such as Ellen’s Game of Games Finale and The Bachelor’s Winter Games.
Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak shows a 78% overall positive and 3 1/2 stars (out of 5) overall audience response to CinemaScore’s B+ for Game Night. PostTrak polls continually throughout the weekend, not just Friday night. Those females under 25 (repping only 14% of moviegoers) enjoyed the Bateman-McAdams feature the most at 85% positive. Females over 25 (36%) and males over 25 (35%) respectively gave the comedy 76% and 78% overall positive scores. Game Night played best in the big cities, especially in the West and Southwest.
Earlier: We hear Game Night tested well, and as such Warner Bros. held several advance screenings, and ultimately received the blessing of Rotten Tomatoes critics (82% certified fresh) which is quite a feat when you have a comedy, because they can be vicious. “The convo surrounding Game Night is fairly positive, mostly coming from those fans who have attended advanced screenings,” says RelishMix. “Those who have seen it early have described it as hilarious. Also, many have praised the fact that it features strong leads including Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman. The plot has also been well praised as original in a time when many films aren’t seen that way by many moviegoers.” Women, who turned up at 56%, enjoyed Game Night giving it a A-; it’s the over 25 crowd at 86% who are giving this a B+.
On the minus side, we hear that some insiders are grumbling about Game Night‘s release date in the wake of Black Panther. And then there’s the marketing campaign, with trailers that rivals have criticized as being more of a serious sell than funny. Then there’s those absurdist one sheets which are advertising game pieces with burglar masks instead of stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. What’s that all about? Some will try to blame the sluggish environment for R-rated fare, however, it smells like New Line had something to work with here from the decent audience reaction and critical reviews. Says Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers, “Farce is a beast to get right in movies. The fact that Game Night hits the mark more often than it hits a wall is cause for cheering.” Laughter is contagious, so let’s see if Saturday night pegs Game Night toward a better end-game.