'The House With a Clock in Its Walls' Is No. 1 as 'Life Itself' Fizzles

Posted September 23, 2018 3:24 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2018 4:31 p.m. EDT

The weekend box office boiled down to a competition between two very different kings: Steven Spielberg, who has reigned over the film business for more than 40 years, and Jeff Bezos, the Amazon titan who would love to add Hollywood to his list of conquered lands.

It was not a happy outcome for Amazon, to put it mildly.

“The House With a Clock in Its Walls,” produced by Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg’s company, was the No. 1 movie at North American theaters, taking in roughly $27 million and surpassing prerelease analyst expectations. The PG-rated movie, which cost about $42 million to make (not including marketing costs) and was released by Universal, harkens back to Amblin hits from the 1980s like “The Goonies” and “Harry and the Hendersons” — live-action movies in which ordinary children find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

Starring the young Owen Vaccaro as an orphan and Jack Black as a secretly benevolent warlock, “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” was directed by Eli Roth, who is known for R-rated films like “Hostel” and “Death Wish.” Cate Blanchett co-stars.

But audiences rejected the weekend’s other new wide-release movie: “Life Itself,” which was booked into 2,609 theaters by Amazon Studios, arrived in 11th place, with ticket sales of about $2.1 million, according to comScore, which compiles box-office data. “Life Itself,” a romantic drama, was written and directed by Dan Fogelman, the creative force behind the hit NBC drama “This Is Us.”

Amazon paid $10 million for rights to the independently produced “Life Itself” and hoped the film would strike a chord similar to “This Is Us.” But critics attacked Fogelman’s movie as a mawkish melodrama. It was Amazon’s fourth flop — out of four tries — since the company began self-distributing movies in December. (Amazon previously teamed up with outside distributors, including Roadside Attractions, which released Amazon’s hit “Manchester by the Sea” in 2016.)

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.

The executive responsible for bringing “Life Itself” to Amazon, Jason Ropell, left the company in July. Amazon has several more movies lined up for release in the weeks ahead, including the horror fantasy “Suspiria,” directed by Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me by Your Name”); and a high-profile adaptation of the best-selling memoir “Beautiful Boy.”

Second place for the weekend went to the Lionsgate-distributed comedic crime drama “A Simple Favor,” which collected a strong $10.4 million in its second weekend, for a new domestic total of $33 million. Holdover films also filled out slots three through five: “The Nun,” with $10.3 million ($101 million total); “The Predator,” with $8.7 million ($40 million); and “Crazy Rich Asians,” with $6.5 million ($159 million).

Among other new releases, Michael Moore’s latest polemic, “Fahrenheit 11/9” (Briarcliff Entertainment), about the state of politics in general and President Donald Trump in particular, took in about $3.1 million. “Fahrenheit 11/9,” which received mostly positive reviews, was released in 1,719 theaters.

The film is a follow-up of sorts to Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which arrived to $32.5 million in 2004, after adjusting for inflation, and went on to collect $300 million worldwide.