Horror Overkill Dooms ‘Abigail’ as ‘Civil War’ Ekes Out Narrow Second Weekend #1

One of the truisms in film calendar slating is that it’s a real plus to be the first new horror film released in a while. With the weak opening of Universal’s “Abigail” this weekend, the inverse also seems to hold.

The seventh wide release in the genre over the past eight weeks from a studio that has been quite reliable for sustaining horror success, from Blumhouse and elsewhere, fell short with only $10.1 million. That allowed “Civil War” (A24) to hold on to # 1 with $11.2 million despite a 56 percent drop.

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With such a low gross at #1 and the rest doing less, the weekend struggled to reach close to $66 million. That’s the fifth sub-$70 million total out of 16 weekends so far this year. By comparison, pre-Covid 2019 — with ticket prices more than 15 percent lower than now — had none.

The weak performance, down nearly 50 percent from last year’s $127 million, brought the year to date to down 19 percent. April, despite a handful of bright spots, has been a disaster.

Henry Cavill and Alan Richson in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare
‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’Lionsgate

Two other new releases, both originals, were badly needed to keep things from getting worse. But though Guy Ritchie’s “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” (independently produced for $60 million, domestic rights acquired by Lionsgate) exceeded expectations at $9 million, and the anime “Spy x Family Code: White” (Sony) from Crunchyroll added a little under $5 million, the three new films combined fell short of what “Civil War” opened to last week.

And though its $25 million debut topped projections and was A24’s biggest opening, theaters need first weekend grosses at or above that level as a general rule, not the exception. And with Alex Garland’s dystopian America-at-war-with-itself film dropping 56 percent its second weekend (the high end of a normal drop), the total ended up being anemic.

Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers” (Amazon MGM) rounds out the month this Friday, but it isn’t too soon to state the obvious: Originals aren’t going to solve the box office doldrums. Four of the top eight films this weekend are March franchise titles, with a combined total of $825 million so far.

“Abigail” got a B Cinemascore, which is actually not bad for a horror film. But the latest effort from Universal’s classic monsters reimagining series (it is based on the lesser-known 1936 film “Dracula’s Daughter”) seems to have lacked the elements to make it stand out over the numerous recent similar titles, including several from independent distributors.

“Civil War” wasn’t helped by a second military-themed title which competed for male viewers. “Ministry,” based on real World War II events portraying an early example of what are now known as special ops, with Henry Cavill in the lead, found a niche audience. With an A- Cinemascore, it has a chance to sustain some further interest before likely scoring with home audiences.

“Sasquatch Sunset” (Bleecker Street), which showed modest promise in its initial platform release, disappointed in its second week expansion. It only took in $453,000 in 856 theaters.

STRESS POSITIONS, from left: Qaher Harhash, Theda Hammel, 2024. © Neon / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Stress Positions” © Neon / Courtesy Everett CollectionCourtesy Everett Collection

Among new releases, Neon’s Sundance-premiered Covid quarantine comedy/drama “Stress Positions” opened at New York’s IFC Center exclusively for an impressive $28,000 total. “We Grown Now,” a well-received documentary set in Chicago public housing, grossed $36,000 in nine theaters in three cities.

The Top 10

1. Civil War (A24) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$11,128,000 (-56%) in 3,929 (+91) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $2,832; Cumulative: $44,884,000

2. Abigail (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic:; Est. budget: $28 million

$10,200,000 in 3,384 theaters; PTA: $3,014; Cumulative: $10,200,000

3. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$9,455,000 (-39%) in 3,658 (-189) theaters; PTA: $2,585; Cumulative: $171,617,000

4. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly War (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 57; Est. budget: $60 million

$9,000,000 in 2,845 theaters; PTA: $3,163; Cumulative: $9,000,000

5. Spy x Family Code: White (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 66; Est. budget: $

$4,875,000 in 2,018 theaters; PTA: $2,427; Cumulative: $4,875,000

6. Kung Fu Panda 4 (Universal) Week 7; Last weekend #4; also on PVOD

$4,600,000 (-17%) in 2,955 (-149) theaters; PTA: $1,557; Cumulative: $179,980,000

7. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #3

$4,400,000 (-24%) in 3,109 (-241) theaters; PTA: $1,415; Cumulative: $102,914,000

8. Dune: Part Two (Warner Bros.) Week 8; Last weekend #5; also on PVOD

$2,900,000 (-33%) in 2,014 (-387) theaters; PTA: $1,440; Cumulative: $276,593,000

9. Monkey Man (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #6

$2,200,000 (-46%) in 2,641 (-396) theaters; PTA: $833; Cumulative: $21,670,000

10. The First Omen (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #7

$1,700,000 in (-55%) 2,430 (-945) theaters; PTA: $700; Cumulative: $17,765,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first three weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed. Metacritic scores and initial film festivals recorded.

Stress Positions (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Sundance 2024

$28,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $28,000

We Grown Now (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Toronto 2024

$36,545 in 9 theaters; PTA: $4,061

Sasquatch Sunset (Bleecker Street) Week 2

$453,110 in 856 (+847) theaters; PTA: $529; Cumulative: $566,058

Arcadian (IFC) Week 2

$63,232 in 379 (-721) theaters; PTA: $167; Cumulative: $790,649

The Beast (Janus/Sideshow) Week 3

$53,200 in 59 (+36) theaters; Cumulative: $182,102

Housekeeping for Beginners (Focus) Week 3

$80,000 in 251 (-176) theaters; Cumulative: $237,000

The People’s Joker (Altered Innocence) Week 3

$50,196 in 52 (+16) theaters; Cumulative: $118,000

Wicked Little Letters (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$419,238 in 431 (-578) theaters ; Cumulative: $3,590,000

La Chimera (Neon) Week 4

$89,233 in 112 (-104) theaters; Cumulative: $550,000

Immaculate (Neon) Week 5; also on PVOD

$127,239 in 200 (-400) theaters; Cumulative: $15,581,000

Late Night with the Devil (IFC) Week 5; also on PVOD

$150,238 in 251 (-356) theaters; Cumulative: $9,666,000

One Life (Bleecker Street) Week 5; also on PVOD

$68,894 in 123 (+30) theaters; Cumulative: $5,502,000

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