By Rebecca Rubin
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Audiences responded with a resounding "yep" to Jordan Peele's science-fiction thriller "Nope," which topped the box office with its $44 million debut.
Those ticket sales were slightly behind projections of $50 million and fall in between Peele's first two films, 2017's "Get Out" (which opened to $33 million) and 2019's "Us" (which opened to $71 million). "Nope" may not have cemented a new box office record for Peele, but it marks a strong start for an original, R-rated horror film.
"The opening isn't as big as 'Us,' but it's still extremely impressive," says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.
It's worth noting that Peele's sophomore feature "Us," a scary story about menacing doppelgangers, enjoyed an especially huge opening weekend because it followed the runaway success of the Oscar-winning "Get Out." After his directorial debut captured the zeitgeist by delivering scares while encouraging audiences to think, audiences were more than a little eager to watch Peele's next mind-bending nightmare. Box office expectations for "Nope," another complex social thriller, were comparatively a little more Earth-bound.
"Nope" cost $68 million, which is significantly more than "Get Out" (with its slender $4.5 million budget) and "Us" (with its $20 million budget). So the movie will require a little more coinage than Peele's past films to turn a profit. "Get Out" and "Us" were wildly successful in theaters, with each collecting $255 million at the global box office.
"Nope" reunites Peele with "Get Out" star Daniel Kaluuya -- and adds Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun to the mix -- in the story of siblings who live on a gulch in California and attempt to uncover a video evidence of a UFO. Critics were fond of "Nope," which holds an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave the film a "B" grade, the same CinemaScore as "Us."
Since "Nope" was the only new movie to open this weekend, several holdover titles rounded out North American box office charts.
Disney's "Thor: Love and Thunder" slipped to second place after two weeks in the No. 1 spot. The Marvel adventure added $22.1 million (a 53% decline) from 4,370 locations, taking the film's domestic tally to $276.2 million. Globally, the fourth "Thor" movie has grossed $598 million and will imminently cross the $600 million mark. It's already out-earned two of its three predecessors, 2011's "Thor" ($335 million) and 2013's "Thor: The Dark World" ($446 million). However, it still has a ways to go to match (or beat) 2017's charmer "Thor: Ragnarok" ($853 million).