After the steep drop for “Thor: Love and Thunder” this past weekend, it’s clear that the summer bonanza the box office has enjoyed is coming to an end. Now it’s up to films like Universal/Monkeypaw’s “Nope” to ease theaters through what will be a much slower August and September.
There’s a lot of anticipation among horror buffs and cinephiles for Jordan Peele’s third horror film, but the question is whether it will be able to expand to a larger audience like the filmmaker’s breakthrough 2017 debut, “Get Out.” As we noted on Monday, “Get Out” became such a cultural lightning rod that it legged out in theaters even with popular franchise blockbusters like “Logan” competing against it. “Us,” on the other hand, performed more like a typical horror movie with a frontloaded run but still enjoyed the best opening weekend ever for an original horror film with $70 million.
Current tracking suggests that “Nope” will have an opening between these two films at around $47-$50 million. With a $68 million budget, “Nope” should be a decent success for Universal. But to be as big a hit as Peele’s past work and to provide solid support for theaters through early August, “Nope” is going to need strong word-of-mouth.
Critics have heaped plenty of praise on the film’s cast, led by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as siblings on a Hollywood horse ranch that’s attacked by aliens. But while “Get Out” had a fairly simple concept rooted in timely racial themes, “Nope” takes a page from sci-fi films like “Alien” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” where the nature of the alien threatening the film’s heroes isn’t entirely explained.
While early reviews have been strong with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of writing, we will have to see if wider audiences beyond Peele’s fan base and horror devotees embrace a narrative that’s more opaque and, in some senses, more viscerally disturbing than “Get Out” and “Us.”
As with “Thor: Love and Thunder,” keep an eye on the CinemaScore and PostTrak ratings for “Nope.” If CinemaScore grades come in at an A or A-, there’s a chance for some strong legs heading into August. But if the grade is a B — as was the case for “Us” — expect drops of around 50% in each successive weekend.