‘Winchester’ Claims No. 3 at Box Office Amid Super Bowl Slowdown

Posted February 4, 2018 4:11 p.m. EST

LOS ANGELES — In their Super Bowl tradition, the major Hollywood studios sat on the sidelines over the weekend. Only one new low-cost movie, the horror-themed “Winchester,” arrived in wide release, an effort by a small film company to counterprogram the big game by going after female ticket buyers.

That left two holdovers to lead the box office. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (Sony Pictures) reclaimed the No. 1 spot, selling about $11 million in tickets at North American theaters, for a seven-week domestic total of $352.6 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. It is almost unheard-of for a movie to continue to perform so strongly so late in its run.

“Maze Runner: The Death Cure” (20th Century Fox) was second, collecting an estimated $10.2 million, for a two-week total of $39.8 million.

Third was “Winchester,” inspired by the true story of Sarah Winchester, a firearm heiress who, in the early 1900s, came to believe that people killed by the Winchester rifle were haunting her labyrinthine house. The film took in roughly $9.3 million, a bit more than analysts were expecting before release. Critics eviscerated the movie, which stars Helen Mirren, but ticket buyers gave it a B-minus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, a relatively good result for the horror genre.

CBS Films paid $3.5 million for the rights to “Winchester,” which was distributed by Lionsgate. Founded in 2007, CBS Films aims to release about four modestly priced movies a year. It focuses on counterprogramming. For instance, the last CBS Films effort, the action thriller “American Assassin,” arrived in September, a month when competitors mostly focus on more serious genres as students return to school. “American Assassin,” the lone CBS Films wide release in 2017, took in a soft $36.2 million. Ticket sales were likely hindered by “It,” which became an unexpected blockbuster for Warner Bros.

“Winchester” did not perform like a typical horror movie. Ticket sales increased from Friday to Saturday; horror movies often drop after opening day. Horror also tends to appeal primarily to teenage girls. But women over the age of 25 — the line that marks “older” ticket buyers in Hollywood’s view (yes, really) — made up 64 percent of the opening-weekend audience for “Winchester,” CBS Films said.

Casting veteran actresses in horror movies has become a trend. The Oscar-winning Mirren is 72. Lin Shaye, 74, anchored the recent “Insidious: The Last Key.” Another Oscar winner, Octavia Spencer, 45, was just cast as the lead in “Ma,” a coming film from the Blumhouse horror factory.