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Fox on the Run: ‘Ready or Not’ Gives Disney Its Second Success Post-Acquisition

The gory black comedy is one of Fox Searchlight’s best openers and a sea change after a number of Fox flops.
Ready Or Not Hide And Seek
Fox Searchlight
By  · Published on August 26th, 2019

Sixth place on the box office chart might not seem like much for a new release. But Ready or Not is a Fox Searchlight “indie” that opened on fewer screens than most titles opening wide and it actually exceeded expectations. The dark horror comedy sold about 890,000 tickets domestically at 2,855 locations. And it opened Wednesday, making its five-day debut total roughly 1.2 million. While Box Office Pro never reported a long-range forecast for the movie, last week’s prediction was only for about 577,000 tickets over the weekend and a five-day total of just 844,000.

I’ll give the gross dollar amounts this time, too, just to show how Ready or Not appears to be a financial success for Fox Searchlight and its new parent company, Disney. The forecast figures were $5.2 million and $7.6 million while its actual gross over three days was $8 million with the five-day total (including Tuesday night preview money) being $11 million. That’s not a terrific amount on its own, especially given that its screen count was Fox Searchlight’s highest of all time and yet the movie’s per-screen average was fairly low. But according to the LA Times, which made its own guess that it’d open in the $8 -11 million range, Ready or Not only cost $6 million to make. So it could wind up turning a profit.

It should also be noted that the movie gave Fox Searchlight one of its best openings this decade. Out of 185 titles going back to 1995, Ready or Not‘s debut comes in at number 12. Of course, most Fox Searchlight movies open on a small number of screens, not the distributor-record-high that Ready or Not did, but in this era of greater exposure for the indie label, their latest only fell short of such modest hits as Baggage Claim and Just Wright plus the sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for this decade. And word of mouth could put its total gross above most of them.

That makes two Fox movies now that have been successful for Disney, which has otherwise been churning out billion-dollar hits left and right this year. Their first was actually the first Fox title released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures following Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox: Breakthrough. The Christian drama, which was co-produced by Fox 2000, opened on Wednesday, April 17th to a five-day audience of 1.6 million ($14.8 million gross) and went on to a worldwide box office total of $50.4 million against a reported budget of just $14 million.

Since then, Fox Searchlight had their first and only other post-Disney release, Tolkien, only gross $7.8 million worldwide against a reported budget of $20 million, while major Fox titles Dark Phoenix, Stuber, and The Art of Racing in the Rain have all been disappointments. The first, an X-Men sequel, was an atrocious failure, giving the franchise its worst domestic and international showing by a longshot, finishing with $252.4 million versus a production budget reportedly as high as $200 million. That flop contributed to a $170 million write-down for Disney, according to Variety.

The other two Fox releases are much smaller movies, with the mid-summer-opening buddy action-comedy Stuber reportedly priced at $16 million and the dog-focused adaptation The Art of Racing in the Rain costing anywhere between $18 million and $50 million depending on which report you trust (come on, Deadline and Fortune, that’s a huge difference). The former managed $31.4 million worldwide while the latter has only grossed $23.7 million globally since opening earlier this month. Neither was really a big sell, especially with negative reviews. The only fresh Fox films on the Tomatometer of Disney releases has been, yep, Breakthrough and Ready or Not. Most of the other Fox films also received lower Cinemascore grades, too.

“The Fox studio performance … was well below where it had been and well below where we hoped it would be when we made the acquisition,” said Disney boss Bob Iger on a quarterly earnings call this month. But these are only a handful of products they acquired in a deal that will be profitable for them in many other ways. And looking ahead through the end of 2019, they’ve got promising astronaut movies from both sides of Fox (Ad Astra and Lucy in the Sky), a silly yet appealing animated feature (Spies in Disguise), a star-studded James Mangold-helmed biopic (Ford v Ferrari), Taika Waititi’s bold Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, and — internationally only, where it matters — Terminator: Dark Fate.

We’ll have to see how those future releases do, but a few of them have reported budgets that are likely too high for their value (nearly $100 for Ford v Ferrari!). The lesson so far seems to be that low-cost movies made well are going to fare better for Disney, and the company would obviously do well to focus on that going forward. Disney may be gobbling up a lot of media, but they don’t tend to make billions on bad content. Most of their own movies are popular for a few reasons, and quality is more often than not one of them. Hopefully, they at least recognize that Ready or Not and the Radio Silence collective behind it as more than their opening-weekend chart position implies.

In other box office news, another Christian movie, Overcomer, also exceeded expectations. As did the Fallen franchise installment Angel Has Fallen. The sequel gave the series its worst debut yet but it was still very close to the previous installment, London Has Fallen. Amazon’s Sundance pickup Brittany Runs a Marathon had the best per-screen average, grossing $181K at just five locations. The biographical documentary Miles Davis: Birth of Cool was next on that chart with $18K on just one screen. The top-grossing doc this weekend, though, was Maiden, once again, lifting its total past the $2.5 million mark.

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

1. Angel Has Fallen – 2.4 million (2.4 million)
2. Good Boys – 1.3 million (4.7 million)
3. Overcomer – 0.9042 million (1 million)
4. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – 0.8955 million (16.4 million)
5. The Lion King – 0.8951 million (56.7 million)
6. Ready or Not – 0.8896 million (1.2 million)
7. The Angry Birds Movie 2 – 0.71 million (3 million)
8. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – 0.65 million (5.6 million)
9. Dora and the Lost City of Gold – 0.59 million (4.8 million)
10. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – 0.56 million (13.7 million)
11. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged – 0.4 million (1.7 million)
12. The Peanut Butter Falcon – 0.3 million (0.4 million)

All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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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.