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Horror pic ‘Smile’ happy at No. 1; ‘Bros’ starts in 4th

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Moviegoers chose the horror film over the romantic comedy to start the month of October. Paramount’s “Smile” topped the North American charts with $22 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates on Sunday, leaving Billy Eichner’s rom-com “Bros” in the dust.

Universal’s “Bros” launched with about $4.8 million to take fourth place behind “Don’t Worry Darling” ($7.3 million) and “The Woman King” ($7 million). But opening weekends probably aren’t the final word on either “Bros” or “Smile.” Horror movie audiences are generally front-loaded, falling off precipitously after the first weekend, while something like “Bros,” which received rave reviews and an A CinemaScore, suggesting strong word-of-mouth potential, is a film that could continue to find audiences. through the fall It’s not unusual for R-rated comedies to open modestly and catch on later.

“Everybody who sees it loves it,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of home distribution. “Billy Eichner, (director) Nick Stoller and Judd Apatow have created a film that is heartwarming and hysterically funny.”

“Bros” is significant for being the first gay rom-com to be given a wide theatrical release by a major studio, as well as the first studio film starring and co-written by an openly gay man. Since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, the film has received stellar reviews from critics and has also been the target of “review bombs” on IMDB. The site last week removed hundreds of one-star reviews for “Bros” that were filed before the movie was released.

It’s also hard to compete with a new horror movie in October. “Smile,” written and directed by Parker Finn in his directorial debut, stars Sosie Bacon as a therapist haunted by smiling faces after a traumatic event.

According to polls, 52% of the audience was male and 68% were ages 18–34 for the R-rated film. Playing in 3,645 locations, “Smile” started off strong with $2 million from Thursday night previews, too, and had a 4% increase Saturday, which is almost unheard of for genre films that typically decline after the first night.

“Smile” also cost only $17 million to produce.

β€œIt’s remarkable, especially when you consider the budget. It’s just a terrific result and validated our thoughts on the film as a whole,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “That Saturday surge bodes well for long-term playability.”

The “Smile” marketing team last weekend planted smiling actors at baseball games around the country as a marketing gimmick, which Aronson said helped push the movie over the top.

“‘Smile’ just shows once again that the horror genre should be put on a pedestal by theater owners,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst.

Second place went to “Don’t Worry Darling” in its second weekend in theaters, with $7.3 million, down 64% from its opening. The mid-century-style psychological thriller starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles earned $32.8 million domestically against a $35 million production budget.

And “The Lady King” was close behind in third place in its third weekend, with about $7 million, down 36% from last weekend. The historical war epic directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood stars Viola Davis as General Agojie and earned $46.7 million.

Rounding out the top five was the re-release of “Avatar,” with $4.7 million from 1,860 locations.

Notably, the film with the highest per-theater average was the Indian epic “Ponniyin Selvan: I,” which earned $4.1 million from just 510 theaters. It is one of several Hindi blockbusters to do well in North America recently, including “RRR” and “Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva.”

“It was a solid weekend,” Dergarabedian said. “We won’t get into the additional $100 million weekends until ‘Black Adam,’ but audiences get a really diverse list of movies to see on the big screen.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.

1. “Smile,” $22 million.

2. “Don’t Worry Honey,” $7.3 million.

3. “The Woman King”, 7 million dollars.

4. “Bros,” $4.8 million.

5. “Avatar” (re-release), $4.7 million.

6. “Ponniyin Selvan: I,” $4.1 million.

7. “Barbara”, $2.8 million.

8. “Gun Train”, $1.4 million.

9. “DC League of Super-Pets,” $1.3 million.

10. “Top Gun: Maverick,” $1.2 million.

Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press

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