Box Office: ‘Smile’ Chomping Into $19 Million, Billy Eichner’s ‘Bros’ Debuting at No. 4

Smile” has something to grin about this weekend.

The creeper is projected to land a $19 million debut from 3,645 locations. It’s a fantastic start for the Paramount release, which carries a modest $17 million production budget. Compared to other original horror entries this year, “Smile” is coming in below Universal’s supernatural kidnap thriller “The Black Phone,” which kicked off with $23 million, but surging past 20th Century Studios’ “Barbarian,” which opened to $10 million.

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“Smile” landed a mildly positive “B-” grade through research firm Cinema Score, though such a figure is standard for a horror release. The film has drawn good buzz with solid reviews, scoring a 79% from top critics on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. Variety‘s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised the film in his review, writing that it “sets up nearly everything — its highly effective creep factor, its well-executed if familiar shock tactics, its interlaced theme of trauma and suicide — before the opening credits.”

Paramount’s “Smile” stars Sosie Bacon as a therapist who witnesses a traumatic event at work and becomes haunted by creepy, smiling figures. It was written and directed by Parker Finn, and also stars Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn and Rob Morgan.

The creepy horror film earned $2 million in Thursday previews, setting it up for a top debut. This weekend’s other big release, Billy Eichner’s LGBTQ rom-com “Bros,” grossed $500,000 in previews.

The Universal release now looks to be land a muted opening, projecting a $4.7 million gross from 3,350 locations — enough for fourth at the box office.

“Bros” wasn’t a burdensome financial bet, carrying a modest $22 million production budget. Even so, an opening below $5 million marks a pretty discouraging start for the film.

Over the past few years, romantic comedies have faced an extremely diminished presence in theaters. This year saw the Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum two-hander “The Lost City” manage to cross $105 million at the domestic box office, but Jennifer Lopez’s “Marry Me” struggled ($22 million domestic) and Searchlight Pictures’ “Fire Island” debuted on Hulu, forgoing theaters entirely.

“Bros” has been embraced by critics, racking up a 92% approval rating from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences that went were receptive too, offering a glowing “A” grade on Cinema Score. With a disappointing opening at the box office, Universal will see how far strong word-of-mouth can take the film in the coming weeks.

“Bros” is the first gay rom-com to receive a wide theatrical release from a major studio. The film boasts an entirely LGBTQ cast. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, Eichner plays a cynical museum exec who falls for a buff lawyer (Luke Macfarlane). The film also stars Guy Branum, Ts Madison, Dot-Marie Jones, Bowen Yang and Jim Rash.

Warner Bros.’ “Don’t Worry Darling” looks to fall to second place in its sophomore outing. The psychological thriller grossed $2.35 million on Friday, down 75% from its opening day last week. At first glance, that’s a bit of a harsh drop, but it’s fairly normal for a genre film to turn in a more front-loaded box office performance.

The Olivia Wilde-directed release should expand its domestic gross to $32 million through the weekend. Though “Don’t Worry Darling” isn’t having the zeitgeist-y staying power that its relentless prerelease gossip cycle would suggest, the bottom line is that the thriller is still performing solidly for an original film, bolstered by star turns from Florence Pugh and Harry Styles.

Sony’s “The Woman King” is putting in another solid hold, projecting a 43% tumble from last weekend for a $6.2 million gross. The Viola Davis action-epic will push its domestic gross beyond $46 million through Sunday.

The Indian film “Ponniyin Selvan: I” will round out the domestic box office’s top five, opening stateside to $4.1 million from 510 theaters. The Tamil-language epic has received strong reviews abroad, covering roughly two-and-a-half entries of a beloved five-part book series. To compare to other Indian blockbusters releasing in North America, the now-phenomenon “RRR” opened to an impressive $9.5 million in the spring, while “Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva” drew $4.5 million in its opening in September.

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