Dad Movies Dominate the Box Office

'Ford v Ferrari' and 'Midway' were the top movies over the weekend.
Ford V Ferrari Winner

For the second weekend in a row, the box office was topped by a “Dad Movie.” This time, the “genre” even took the first two slots on the chart with Midway holding fort in second place below newcomer Ford v Ferrari in first. The former dropped 51 percent from its previous weekend for an audience of just under a million, as the latter drew an estimated 3.4 million people, mostly older men who may or may not be fathers (reportedly the data shows 62 percent male, 79 percent aged 25 or older).

The war movie doing well isn’t that surprising, but the racing movie kind of is. Excluding the Fast & Furious and Cars franchises, genuine live-action racecar movies aren’t typically huge successes. Consider the disappointment of Ron Howard’s 2013 biopic Rush, which stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as real-life Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Despite great reviews and awards buzz, the drama sold about 3.3 million tickets in its entire domestic run. That’s fewer than Ford v Ferrari sold in its first three days.

Here’s a look at how other racing movies’ attendance compares both in their opening weekend and overall:

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006): 7.2 million (22.6 million)
Days of Thunder (1990): 3.7 million (19.5 million)
Ford v Ferrari (2019): 3.4 million (3.4 million)
Speed Racer (2008): 2.6 million (6.1 million)
Need for Speed (2014): 2.2 million (5.3 million)
Driven (2001): 2.2 million (5.8 million)
Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005): 2 million (10.3 million)
Stroker Ace (1983): 1.5 million (4.1 million)
Six Pack (1982): 0.7 million (6.9 million)
Redline (2007): 0.6 million (1 million)

Referring to Ford v Ferrari as a Dad Movie or just another racecar movie isn’t doing it justice, though. The James Mangold-helmed thrill-drama has been a hit with critics (92% score on the Tomatometer) and first-day audiences with its rare A+ grade from Cinemascore polling. This is the sixth A+ movie of the year and follows in the footsteps of such Dad Movies as Rocky III, Die Hard, The Fugitive, Lone Survivor, and Patriots Day.

This is also a movie that is receiving a lot of awards buzz, particularly for its two leads (Matt Damon and Christian Bale), and may even be a Best Picture contender. It’s worth noting that two of last year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture also received A+ grades via Cinemascore: Black Panther and Green Book; and yep, the latter was crowned as the winner. Only 10 of the 88 A+ movies (going back to 1982) have won the top Academy Award, though, and 23 have been nominated.

Dad Movie or not, Ford v Ferrari has proven to be something enjoyed by just about everyone who sees it. Meanwhile, an action film that seemed engineered for appreciation by multiple demographics did not perform well at all. Elizabeth BanksCharlie’s Angels, which is the latest incarnation of a TV series made for the male gaze back in the ’70s and now remodeled as a more female-empowering exercise while still delivering on action, did not receive good reviews (58% on the Tomatometer), nor the best Cinemascore grade (B+), nor much of a crowd — fewer than one million tickets were sold domestically.

In other box office news, Joker became the first R-rated movie to gross more than $1 billion worldwide (even President Trump apparently screened the movie at the White House recently). Hopefully, that movie’s profits can be used by Warner Bros. to continue funding smaller films for grown-ups like The Good Liar, which did so-so business, not as much as WB’s previous con-artist features, Matchstick Men or even Focus, but fine for a barely marketed thriller starring two actors in their seventies.

Here are the weekend’s top 12 domestic release titles by the estimated number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Ford v Ferrari – 3.4 million (3.4 million)
2. Midway – 0.97 million (3.9 million)
3. Charlie’s Angels – 0.954 million (1 million)
4. Playing with Fire – 0.949 million (2.8 million)
5. Last Christmas – 0.74 million (2.5 million)
6. Doctor Sleep – 0.69 million (2.8 million)
7. The Good Liar – 0.628 million (0.7 million)
8. Joker – 0.625 million (35.8 million)
9. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – 0.58 million (11.8 million)
10. Harriet – 0.53 million (3.5 million)
11. Terminator: Dark Fate – 0.49 million (6.3 million)
12. Jojo Rabbit – 0.3 million (1.5 million)

All box office figures via Box Office Mojo and its hidden archives.

Christopher Campbell: Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.