'Spectre,' 'The Peanuts Movie' Provide Box Office Boost

Dow Jones Newswires

The returns of James Bond and Charlie Brown helped fuel Hollywood's best box office weekend in three months.

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The new 007 film "Spectre" and "The Peanuts Movie" both made strong, if not spectacular, debuts despite competition from each other. Over the weekend, they took in an estimated $73 million and $45 million, respectively, in the U.S. and Canada.

The total domestic weekend box office was $164 million, according to Rentrak, the industry's highest total since mid-July and a much-needed boost after what had been a quiet fall.

"Two pictures this size opening provided juice to the entire marketplace, " said Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment, which released "Spectre." The new Bond movie had the second-highest opening ever for the series, behind only 2012's "Skyfall," which also starred Daniel Craig.

Reviews for "Spectre" were poor, but audiences gave the new movie an average grade of A-, according to market-research firm CinemaScore, a good sign for word-of-mouth.

International results were more impressive, with "Spectre" outpacing "Skyfall" in many foreign countries where it is opening, with particularly big numbers in the U.K., Mexico, and Russia. Its total international gross so far is $223.1 million.

Sony and independent studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer spent about $250 million to make "Spectre," a significant uptick from the $209 million budget of "Skyfall."

Though the studios split the budget equally, MGM, gets 75% of the profits and Sony 25%, because of the generous deal the latter had to make to land distribution rights. MGM and production company Danjaq LLC control the movie rights to Bond but needed a distribution partner to release the movie in theaters.

The strong performance of "Spectre" could help Sony hold on to those rights, as its current agreement with MGM is expiring. Other studios, including Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox's 20th Century Fox, and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, are said to be interested.

Though Snoopy and his friends are well known to adults, "Peanuts" is brand new to many children, and Fox treated it as such in marketing the film. The opening was similar to other non-sequels from Blue Sky Studios, Fox's animation company, including the first "Ice Age" in 2002 and 2008's "Horton Hears a Who."

"Peanuts" drew strong reviews. With an average audience grade of A, according to CinemaScore, word-of-mouth could help it attract families for several more weeks. The film opened in just a few foreign countries this weekend, but had a soft start in China, fetching just $2.8 million.

Despite the healthy openings for two new films, Some previously released films held on with brisk ticket sales domestically, including "The Martian," "Goosebumps" and "Bridge of Spies."