Martin Scorsese‘s Western crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon has started off its North American box office run with $2.6 million in Thursday previews, while Taylor Swift‘s Eras Tour won the day with $5.9 million as it prepares to leap the $100 million mark domestically sometime on Friday.
From Apple Original Films, Flower Moon reunites Scorsese with two of his go-to actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Lily Gladstone also stars in the film, which is based on David Grann’s book about the murders of Osage Nation tribe members in the 1920s after oil was found on their Oklahoma land.
Swift and AMC Theatres’ Eras Tour — which opened to a record-smashing $92.8 million last weekend in North America and $123.5 million globally — is tipped to win the weekend but the race between the two films could be closer than expected. Concert films can fall off dramatically and the it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Eras does $25 million or less, even though many box office pundits are predicting $30 million to $35 million. The film is playing Thursday-Sunday.
Killers of the Flower Moon is a hard one to call. One reason is its lengthy running time of three hours and 26 minutes. Another reason is that older adults, a key demo for the film, don’t always rush out on opening weekend (nearly a quarter of Thursday’s audience was 55 and older).
Further complicating matters, DiCaprio — one of the world’s biggest movie stars — and the rest of the cast haven’t been able to do any publicity since the SAG-AFTRA strike commenced July 14. Apple was able to bank some interviews previous to the strike, and generated headlines around the world when it took Killers of the Flower Moon to the Cannes Film Festival in late May but didn’t reap the benefits of a final publicity blitz by the actors (Scorsese, who has a strong fan base, instead did the heavy lifting solo).
Apple and distribution partner Paramount are hoping for a domestic opening of at least $20 million, although some tracking services have it coming in higher and possibly north of $25 million. Perhaps more important than the opening gross is how Flower Moon performs in the ensuing weeks as awards season unfolds.
While there are no direct comps, the adult-skewing Ford vs. Ferrari earned $2.1 million in Thursday previews, while Elvis generated $3.5 million. Thursday exit polls were promising, with the movie carrying an 87 percent positive rating and a strong definite recommend of 72 percent.
This weekend marks a turning point for Apple’s film ambitions. Killers of the Flower Moon, costing $200 million, is arguably the biggest event film to date from a tech giant to be given a conventional theatrical release versus going relatively quickly to streaming.
Earlier this year Apple Original Films reveaIed it intends to spend $1 billion a year to produce movies intended for theatrical, both to boost its streaming service and strengthen its profile in theaters.
Apple’s next major theatrical test after Flowers of the Killer Moon is director Ridley Scott’s historic epic Napoleon, starring Joaquin Pheonix in the titular role. Apple and Sony open the film Nov. 22 on the eve of Thanksgiving.
More to come.