‘The Grinch’ Rakes in the Green at the Box Office

Posted November 11, 2018 3:08 p.m. EST

LOS ANGELES — The Grinch, 61 years old, may be “as cuddly as a cactus” and “as charming as an eel,” to quote his creator. But slather him with high-fructose corn syrup (perky computer animation), roll him in a mega-marketing campaign (10 million Grinch-themed boxes shipped by Amazon alone), and the green critter is as sure a bet as there is in mass holiday entertainment.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” based on the 1957 book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” — and following in the Whoville-hating footsteps of the classic TV special, a stage musical and a live-action film starring Jim Carrey — arrived in 4,141 theaters in North America over the weekend and took in a strong $66 million. The new film, with Benedict Cumberbatch leading the voice cast, cost Illumination Entertainment about $75 million to make and was distributed by Universal Pictures.

“Christmas came early this year,” the studio said in a statement Sunday. “The Grinch,” marketed with Grinchy ads that poked fun at itself (“Another remake?! Hope you’re proud Hollywood”), took in an additional $12.7 million from 23 overseas markets, according to Universal.

Domestic ticket sales for the movie were on par with those for the first installment in Illumination’s blockbuster “Despicable Me” franchise. The first “Despicable Me” collected $56.4 million over its first three days in July 2010, or $66 million based on today’s ticket prices. But “The Grinch” fell behind Illumination’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” which arrived to $78.2 million in ticket sales in March 2012, after adjusting for inflation.

Second place for the weekend went to the surprise smash hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” (20th Century Fox), which took in an estimated $30.9 million for a two-week domestic total of $100 million, according to Comscore, which compiles box-office data. Turnout overseas has been equally astonishing: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a musical biopic about Queen and its flamboyant frontman, Freddie Mercury, has collected an additional $185 million outside the United States and Canada.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” has sparked renewed interest in Queen songs, benefiting an unusual owner of the music: Disney, which bought rights to the Queen catalog almost 30 years ago for its little-known Hollywood Records division.

Aside from “The Grinch,” it was not a great weekend for new wide-release movies. “Overlord” (Paramount), a World War II horror thriller from a producing team that included J.J. Abrams, arrived to about $10.1 million in ticket sales, on the low end of prerelease expectations. “Overlord,” which cost $38 million to make and tens of millions more to market, collected an additional $9.2 million in extensive release overseas.

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” (Disney) was fourth, taking in $9.6 million for a two-week domestic total of $35.3 million.

Rounding out the top five was “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” which fizzled with about $8 million in ticket sales. Poor reviews likely held back “Spider’s Web,” an R-rated thriller based on the best-selling novel of the same name. The film cost Sony, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Regency roughly $43 million to make, not including marketing. Overseas, “Spider’s Web,” directed by Fede Alvarez, has collected $8.3 million.

On the plus side for Sony: “Venom,” based on one of the lesser-known superheroes in Sony’s stable, rolled out in China and took in a jaw-dropping $111 million, far surpassing opening-weekend totals for recent Marvel movies. Worldwide ticket sales for “Venom” now stand at $674 million.