Audiences Give Gibson a Warm Welcome in 'Daddy's Home 2'

By Ben Fritz Features Dow Jones Newswires

Americans welcomed Mel Gibson back to the big screen as his comedy "Daddy's Home 2" scored a solid opening at the box office. Along with a new version of "Murder on the Orient Express," it contributed to a robust weekend for Hollywood.

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"Thor: Ragnarok," from Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel Studios, was No. 1 at the box office in the U.S. and Canada, with an estimated $56.6 million in the U.S. and Canada. After playing for two weeks domestically and three overseas, the third film featuring Chris Hemsworth as the comic book god of thunder has grossed $650.1 million world-wide, making it another major hit for Marvel.

"Daddy's Home 2," from Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, and "Murder" from 21st Century Fox Inc.'s Twentieth Century Fox, both performed better than studios had been expecting based on prerelease surveys, debuting to $30 million and $28.2 million, respectively.

The first "Daddy's Home" opened to $38 million in 2015, but that was over the Christmas holiday weekend. The new film is well positioned to draw family audiences through Thanksgiving weekend. It is a much-needed hit for Paramount, which is currently ranked last among Hollywood's major studios in box office for the sixth straight year and has suffered from a series of recent disappointments including "Suburbicon" and "Transformers: The Last Knight."

The healthy start for the film indicates many Americans are willing to embrace Mel Gibson as the star of a family comedy, albeit playing a cantankerous grandfather. "Daddy's Home 2" marks Mr. Gibson's first starring role in a studio-financed film in 15 years, after he was virtually exiled for anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks.

Mr. Gibson plays Mark Wahlberg's father and a comic foil to John Lithgow as Will Ferrell's father.

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The movie has yet to open in most foreign markets.

Despite mixed reviews, "Murder on the Orient Express," a new take on the Agatha Christie mystery directed by Kenneth Branagh, is the rare adult drama to perform respectably at the box office this year. That genre has been withering as adults have a multitude of options on television and streaming platforms.

Beyond its solid debut domestically, the new "Orient Express" grossed $45.8 million overseas. That total included $19 million from China, a country that usually goes for visual effects-heavy action films.

It may have benefited from an ensemble cast of well known stars including Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz and Mr. Branagh.

Write to Ben Fritz at ben.fritz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 12, 2017 16:00 ET (21:00 GMT)