In what feels like of the first real “big” weekends of the summer, in that there are multiple “big” movies opening concurrently (from different studios no less), Universal’s Old kicked off its opening weekend with $1.5 million in Thursday previews. The self-financed, $18 million M. Night Shyamalan thriller is loosely based off of Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters’ Sandcastle. Both the French graphic novel and the movie concern a handful of vacationers who end up on a mysterious beach which makes them rapidly age, cost just $18 million and is another one of the filmmaker’s self-financed chillers.
The film’s review embargo held until yesterday morning, with a truly mixed critical reception (57% fresh and 5.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes). Even in non-Covid times, I might have argued that this one was going to open closer to The Visit ($25 million in 2015) than Split ($40 million in 2017). Universal and Blumhouse’s Split was riding a wave of buzz following a September debut at the 2016 Fantastic Fest and a buzzy screening at the LA Film Festival. Moreover, Split had a well-liked actor (James McAvoy) playing a character with two dozen personalities, a more primal “teen girls in peril” plot and a “Don’t tell anyone!” connection to Shyamalan’s Unbreakable.
Anyway, again, in better times, I’d argue that Old would open closer to his found-footage comic chiller, which was the first of his self-financed low-budget flicks and his best movie since Signs. Old is a solid three-star Shyamalan, and none of the cast (Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie, Alex Wolff, etc.) are a butts-in-seats draw. This flick is all about “M. Night Shyamalan’s…” on a Covid curve.
The Visit nabbed $1.02 million toward a $25 million launch while Split earned $2 million out of its eventual $40.2 million debut via previews. Glass, which was a sequel to both Split and Unbreakable, opened with $3.7 million in Thursday previews in January of 2019, eventually earning $40.3 million over the Fri-Sun portion of a $46.5 million MLK weekend debut. As much as I’d like to look at The Visit or Split as viable comparisons, which would translate to $25-$30 million over the weekend, Glass is likely the better comparison.
The Bruce Willis/Sam Jackson/James McAvoy sequel earned 9.25% of its Fri-Sun debut and 7.9% of its holiday launch via Thursday previews. That would put Old in for a likely $16-$18 million opening weekend, which is on the “safe guess” side of projections. Could Old play like a “normal” M. Night chiller and end up well above $20 million? I suppose so, as the eccentric auteur is very much a marquee filmmaker/butts-in-seats director.
We should remember that Escape Room: Tournament of Champions earned just $8.8 million last weekend from a $1.2 million Thursday preview gross. That would give Old a disappointing $11 million debut. Although, again, we’re dealing with a self-financed flick with a $18 million budget. With frankly more buzz and (presumably) less competition than from Snake Eyes than Escape Room 2 had from Space Jam 2, I’d argue that Old will be at-worst another “successful disappointment,” in that it opens about as well as it would have had it underwhelmed under non-Covid circumstances.
But I’ll happily take the patented M. Night surprise.