That Honest Thief opened with 1/3 of what’s expected from a Liam Neeson action movie means Hollywood was right to postpone the likes of Black Widow and No Time to Die.
In weekend box office news, such that it is, Open Road’s Honest Thief was the top movie over the weekend, earning $3.7 million in America and $4.2 million counting its Canadian grosses from the last week. That includes $225,000 in Thursday previews, which marked the first time a major studio had actually released Thursday previews since domestic theaters reopened back in August, and $1.3 million on Friday. That gives the Liam Neeson action thriller, about a bank robber who falls in love and tries to clear his record, a decent 2.8x weekend multiplier. That’s also about on par with the $4 million domestic launch ($5 million including Canada from the week prior) of Russell Crowe’s Unhinged in mid-August.
The film was the first theatrical newbie from a relaunched Open Road. Ironically, their first big hit the first time around was Liam Neeson’s The Grey, which opened with $19.655 million and legged out to $51.5 million domestic and $79.7 million worldwide on a $25 million budget in January of 2012. The original intent of Open Road was to provide studio programmers for theater chains during “off-season” periods otherwise lacking in tentpole flicks. It ran headlong into the new normal whereby A) studios program event movies and franchise-friendly tentpoles year-round and B) audiences no longer went to the movies for old-school movies, instead choosing to stay home with Netflix NFLX or related streaming or VOD content.
Like Unhinged, the hope is that Honest Thief legs out over the next few months, and with theaters outside of NYC finally reopening in the state of New York next Friday and California starting to reopen as well, there’s a halfway decent chance of legs for this sturdy if unremarkable Neeson-led action drama. The film played well in Miami, Chicago, San Diego and Atlanta. Open Road will next weekend bring After We Collided, an already very successful romantic melodrama (it’s the sequel to After which was loosely based on “What if Harry Styles was the romantic lead in Fifty Shades of Grey” fan-fic) that has earned $42 million overseas over the last couple of months.
That boost from Canada will prevent the film from becoming the lowest-grossing number 01 debut since Gorillas in the Mist in 1988, a milestone that will still belong to The War with Grandpa ($3.6 million last weekend). In terms of previous Liam Neeson action movies, nobody was expecting grosses in the realm of Non-Stop ($30 million in 2014) or Taken 2 ($45 million in 2012). Nor was this anywhere near the likes of Cold Pursuit ($11 million in 2019), The Commuter ($13.7 million in 2018), Run All Night ($11 million in 2015) and A Walk Among the Tombstones ($12.75 million in 2014). That’s almost a good thing.
I argued last week that Unhinged (which has earned $20 million from a $5 million domestic debut) and The War with Grandpa (which opened with $3.6 million) were thus far performing pretty much in sync with how I’d expect a Russell Crowe star vehicle and a Robert De Niro comedy, both original films and neither with strong reviews, to perform in 2020 with or without pandemic-related restrictions. Okay, so obviously missing out on much of California and all of New York didn’t help, but it’s not like either film was going to pull a respective $15 million launch in ideal circumstances.
But that Honest Thief opened with about 1/3 of what would otherwise be expected from this kind of movie. What that means is that the underperformance of Tenet wasn’t remotely just about Tenet not being as crowd-pleasing or (subjectively) good as Inception. That may be an obvious point, but it does show that Hollywood was right to pull back on the next wave of big-scale tentpole movies, at least in terms of probably domestic performance. Considering how well The Commuter performed overseas ($36 million domestic and $120 million worldwide), I’m very curious to see if Honest Thief slides into “hit status” in foreign grosses.
Source: Forbes – Business