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‘Old’ is a New Low for M. Night Shyamalan at the Box Office

At least it opened bigger than the lastest ‘G.I. Joe’ would-be blockbuster and franchise starter.
Old Movie Review Box Office Etc
Universal Pictures
By  · Published on July 25th, 2021

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we primarily look at the opening box office attendance numbers for the new M. Night Shyamalan movie Old and the G.I. Joe spin-off Snake Eyes. Plus: newcomers Joe Bell, Ailey, and Without Getting Killed or Caught.

Despite all the chatter online about Old, the movie hasn’t translated that buzz to box office success. M. Night Shyamalan‘s latest grossed $16.8 million in its opening weekend, which means only roughly 1.8 million people paid to see it. That’s the smallest crowd for a Shyamalan movie in its debut, at least as a director, since his pre-breakout feature Wide Awake in 1998. That movie only played on twenty-nine theaters, though, and had a better per-screen average. The only Shyamalan movie with a genuinely worse opening was Devil, which he wrote and produced, and which only drew 1.6 million people in its first few days.

Before that, the record for Shyamalan’s worst opening belonged to Lady in the Water, which sold 2.8 million tickets in 2006. The filmmaker has rarely had a huge debut, with his last really decent movie, Signs, opening to a crowd of 10.3 million in 2002. His subsequent movie, The Village, drew in a bit less, with 8.4 million tickets sold. Shyamalan has been up and down since, most recently disappointing with the trilogy capper Glass.


M. Night Shyamalan's Box Office Attendance

Rank Movie TitleOpening Weekend AttendanceTotal Attendance
1.Signs10.3 million39.2 million
2.The Village8.2 million18.4 million
3.Unbreakable5.6 million17.6 million
4.Sixth Sense5.3 million57.8 million
5.The Last Airbender5.1 million16.7 million
6.Split4.6 million16 million
7.Glass4.4 million12.1 million
8.The Happening4.3 million9 million
9.After Earth3.4 million7.4 million
10.The Visit3 million7.7 million
11.Lady in the Water2.8 million6.5 million
12.Old1.8 million1.8 million
13.Wide Awake0.02 million0.06 million


Why Old disappointed at the box office

Old should have given him a boost at the box office even with the ongoing pandemic, though, because it’s a horror movie (even if Shyamalan says it isn’t) and wasn’t available anywhere but in theaters. Perhaps the premise — vacationers on a secret beach start to suddenly age and die at a rapid rate — just hits too close to home after the past year and a half.

It’s not like Old gave Shyamalan his worst reviews — not by a long shot (see ours here). Even though it’s one of his features that leans negative with critics (52% score on Rotten Tomatoes, 53 score on Metacritic), it is his sixth-best-reviewed, out of thirteen directorial efforts on the board. The audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes are about equal, though.

Did the fans expect something fresher?

And Old also wound up with one of Shyamalan’s worst Cinemascore grades based on opening-night polls of moviegoers. I wonder if the movie would have fared better with both critics and ticket buyers had the ending not felt so tacked on and unsatisfying. Especially for those expecting more of a shocking twist or fewer plot holes.

Cinemascore grades for M. Night Shyamalan movies:

The Sixth Sense – A-
After Earth, Glass, Signs B
Lady in the Water, The VisitB-
Old C+
The Last Airbender, Unbreakable, The VillageC

On the positive side, Old did exceed expectations a bit, considering last week, Box Office Pro predicted an opening gross equivalent to just 1.7 million tickets sold. And the result fell into their forecast range of 1.4 million to 2.1 million tickets. Plus, Old gave Shyamalan his seventh number-one opener — albeit only his third in a row. It even beat the latest G.I. Joe action movie, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, which actually came in well under its forecast figure.

G.I. Joe is old news

Box Office Pro had Snake Eyes primed to still open in second place, but the forecast gross was equivalent to a very close crowd size of 1.6 million. The origin story instead grossed $13.4 million, which comes out to roughly 1.5 million tickets sold. That’s pretty terrible for a movie that should have reignited the G.I. Joe movie franchise for Paramount.

In 2009, the first live-action installment, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra debuted with an opening weekend audience of 7.3 million. The 2013 sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation fell to just 5 million tickets sold in its opening in 2013. Even those debuts weren’t ideal. And to think the 1987 animated G.I. Joe: The Movie went straight to VHS to avoid embarrassing box office numbers. It still couldn’t have done much worse than Snake Eyes.

Similar to Old, Snake Eyes also did poorly with critics and audiences alike (see our review here). Even worse, actually (42% score on Rotten Tomatoes, 43 score on Metacritic). Yet still not as bad as the other two G.I. Joe movies! But at least the fans liked those. The spin-off received a B- grade from moviegoers polled by Cinemascore. The earlier G.I. Joe movies received a B+ and an A- respectively. Maybe they should have brought Dwayne Johnson back somehow.

Cinemascore grades for G.I. Joe movies:

G.I. Joe: RetaliationA-
G.I. Joe: The Rise of CobraB+
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe OriginsB-

More new movies at the box office

In other new release box office news, the critically panned Mark Wahlberg anti-bullying drama Joe Bell did poorly enough to not even break the top ten for the weekend. And while its screen count wasn’t tremendous, neither was its per-screen average. One new movie with a terrific average, though — and in fact, the best one overall — is the documentary Ailey. The dance film, about Alvin Ailey, grossed just $16,014 in its first weekend, but that was on two screens, making its per-screen figure $7,545. Second-best was Kaamelott: First Installment with $7,230. And the third-best per-screen average of the weekend was another doc, Without Getting Killed or Caught, with $6,350 on a single screen.

Box Office Chart for July 23-25, 2021


*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures.

** Ticket sales and attendance figures are determined with each year’s average ticket prices. Currently, for 2021, that average is $9.16.

All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

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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.