'Nope' gallops to the top of the domestic box office — a hat trick for Jordan Peele

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A man in an orange hoodie riding a horse in the desert
Daniel Kaluuya as OJ Haywood in "Nope." (Universal Pictures / Associated Press)

Universal Pictures' "Nope" opened atop the domestic box office with $44 million this weekend, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The latest cinematic offering from writer-director Jordan Peele met early box-office expectations after earning rave reviews from film critics. With "Nope," Peele has achieved a rare Hollywood hat trick: His first three feature films have debuted at No. 1 at the domestic box office.

Set in Southern California, "Nope" stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as siblings and horse ranchers who discover a flying saucer hovering ominously over their family's desert home. Also among the main cast of the sci-fi thriller are Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott and Steven Yeun.

Peele's highly anticipated follow-up to "Get Out" (2017) and "Us" (2019) received a certified fresh 82% rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a lukewarm B-grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

In his review for The Times, film critic Justin Chang deemed the movie “an unusually well-made and imaginative thriller that’s sometimes tripped up by its own high-mindedness — and also, perhaps, by a closing stretch that struggles to bring Peele’s grand intentions together.

“Still, there’s no denying the richness of his ideas or the skill with which he taps into his inner Steven Spielberg,” Chang added, “an inspiration that can seem tiresome in the wrong hands, but which here feels uniquely pointed and purposeful.”

Rounding out the top five at the domestic box office this weekend are Disney and Marvel Studios' "Thor: Love and Thunder," which added $22.1 million in its third weekend for a North American cumulative of $276.2 million; Universal Pictures' "Minions: The Rise of Gru" grossed $17.7 million in its fourth weekend for a North American cumulative of $297.9 million; Sony Pictures' "Where the Crawdads Sing," which made $10.3 million in its second weekend for a North American cumulative of $38.3 million; and Paramount Pictures' "Top Gun: Maverick," which collected $10 million in its ninth weekend for a North American cumulative of $635.6 million.

Opening in wide release next weekend is an extended cut of A24's fantasy epic "Everything Everywhere All at Once," as well as Focus Features' "Vengeance" and Warner Bros.' "DC League of Super-Pets."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.