Box Office: ‘A Haunting in Venice’ Gondolas to $5.5 Million Opening Day, ‘Nun II’ Contends for No. 1

Hercule Poirot is back on the case this weekend, with Kenneth Branagh’s “A Haunting in Venice” hoping to best a very quiet box office in its opening. The horror-tinged whodunnit scored $5.5 million from 3,305 theaters on its opening day, a figure that includes $1.2 million in Thursday previews. The film gets a boost from increased ticket prices for premium large formats like Imax.

“Haunting” is pacing a bit ahead of last year’s “Death on the Nile,” which opened to $12.8 million on Super Bowl weekend after some prolonged shuffles around Disney and 20th Century Studios’ schedule due to the COVID pandemic. “A Haunting in Venice,” the third Agatha Christie adaptation from Branagh, arrives with less of a financial burden — the production budget of $60 million is a notable drop from its predecessor’s $90 million. There’s a less starry cast, a more intimate setting and Branagh went digital for this one after shooting on large format 65mm for the previous two entries.

More from Variety

There’s probably no expectation to reach the box office heights of Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” which opened to $28 million in 2017 before finishing with $102 million in North America and $352 million worldwide. But “A Haunting in Venice” has drawn the strongest reviews of the trilogy. It landed a middling “B” grade through research firm Cinema Score, but that’s also on par with Branagh’s previous entries. Along with the story’s seasonal supernatural edge and an aim for older audiences, 20th Century Studios will hope for Branagh’s film to have some staying power in the weeks ahead.

Branagh directs and re-dons that mustache to star in “A Haunting in Venice,” which is adapted from Christie’s 1969 novel “Hallowe’en Party.” This time Poirot must get to the bottom of a murder during a Venetian seance. The ensemble cast also includes this year’s Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey, Kyle Allen and Camille Cottin, while also reuniting Branagh with his “Belfast” boys Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill.

“The Nun II” still has a shot at besting “A Haunting in Venice” and keeping the top slot on domestic charts. The “Conjuring” spin-off showed $4.3 million on Friday, with rivals projecting a 58% or so tumble from its opening last week. That’s not too shabby a drop for a horror film. The Warner Bros. release should push to a $55 million domestic gross through the weekend.

“The Equalizer 3” is falling to bronze, projecting $7.3 million in its third weekend to push its domestic total to $73 million. The first entry in the Denzel Washington action series finished with $101 million in North America, while the 2018 sequel ended with $102 million. Perhaps the fates will intervene and the three-qualizer could wrap up with $103 million. If that pattern continued, Sony Pictures would have a billion-dollar grosser on its hands by the 1000th entry!

Moving on, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is headed for fourth place, as the Focus Features release looks to drop 54% in its sophomore outing. Domestic gross should push beyond $18 million through Sunday — about half of the $36 million that “Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” earned in its first ten days.

Now available on premium video-on-demand, “Barbie” is still sticking around the top five. This weekend, the Warner Bros. release will surpass “The Avengers” ($623 million) to become the 11th-highest grossing North American release of all time.

Opening in limited release, Sony is putting Craig Gillespie’s ripped-from-the-headlines meme-stock comedy “Dumb Money” out in eight theaters in six markets, before expanding next weekend and going wide after that. The film earned $92,000 on its opening day — on its way to a roughly $200,000 haul for the three-day frame.

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.