Bolstered by stellar buzz from its SXSW premiere and strong critical reviews, Us raked in enough money in its first weekend to make it the largest domestic opening weekend ever for an original horror film (that is, it’s not a sequel, a reboot, or based on another existing property). It topped $70 million domestically, beating the previous record holder, last year’s A Quiet Place.
The film also garnered the biggest domestic opening weekend for an original R-rated film, beating the previous record holder, Ted, which opened to $54 million in 2012. And it had the second-highest opening for a live-action original film, after Avatar in 2009, which came in just over $77 million.
Us even came close to surpassing last year’s other huge horror hit, the 11th entry in the Halloween franchise, which brought in $76 million domestically on its opening weekend. It also opened in 47 territories abroad, bringing in $16.7 million internationally for a worldwide total of nearly $87 million — all on a relatively modest $20 million production budget.
In addition to massive anticipation, Us benefited from opening in nearly 1,000 more theaters than Get Out, which brought in $33 million domestically in its opening weekend. Get Out ended its theatrical run with $176 million in the US, and later netted four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture; Peele won for Best Original Screenplay.
Projections for Us had set the film’s expectations between $38 million and $45 million domestically, with some adjusting their projections upward after the film earned a huge $7.3 million in Thursday previews, nearly matching Halloween’s $7.7 million. The movie almost doubled those expectations, leading some commentators to suggest that the film suffered from a long-running tendency among box office prognosticators to underestimate returns for films with predominantly black casts:
Gonna put a fine point on it:— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) March 24, 2019
If you need any proof that Hollywood undervalues black people, look no further than the consistent surprise that box office for black movies consistently exceeds their assumption of our value.
It’s like clockwork.
Every. Single. Time. https://t.co/w36rgIwNNV
That phenomenon is related to the outdated Hollywood notion that “black films don’t travel,” i.e., that films starring predominantly black casts don’t perform well outside the US. Over the past few years, the huge success both in the US and abroad of movies ranging from blockbusters like Black Panther to more specialized movies such as Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Straight Outta Compton, and Sorry to Bother You — not to mention Get Out — has repeatedly dispelled that myth, but Hollywood learns slowly.
Us seems poised to sustain its success, though it’s worth noting that it earned a B Cinemascore, a measure of the opening weekend audience’s opinion of the film. Us’s Cinemascore is substantially lower than Get Out’s A-, but its lower score is also not particularly surprising, given that Get Out is a funnier film, with a more easily comprehensible central metaphor and a crowd-pleasing ending. Us, in contrast, is the sort of film that takes a lot of work to untangle, with an ending that is far less gratifying.
Sometimes a poor Cinemascore can translate to bad word of mouth, which can subsequently lead to a drop in attendance in a film’s second weekend. But with that said, Us generated substantial social media chatter and is full of mysteries and symbols for audiences to unpack, meaning that many curious viewers may decide they need to see it for themselves.
No matter what happens in the film’s second weekend, though, Us’s success makes it clear that Jordan Peele is one of Hollywood’s most bankable and buzzworthy filmmakers, the relatively rare director (alongside figures like Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino) who can bring people into the movie theater on the strength of his name alone.