That’s it, folks. This is all the accounting-related (or accountancy-related, if you want to be fancy or are one of our overseas readers) wordplay you’re going to get. Nothing about balance sheets, dividends, or being “in the black.” We’re just going to give it to you straight: The Accountant, an action thriller that stars Ben Affleck as a tough and deadly accountant, opened at No. 1 at the box office this weekend with $24.7 million. Obviously, our sister publication is already pursuing legal action.
One might chalk up the movie’s success to the mystique that surrounds the profession of accounting, which has made it such an enduringly popular subject for film. Or it could be the fact that Ben Affleck is still in the midst of a career resurgence and The Accountant had the good luck to open on a weekend with little competition, knocking last week’s champ—The Girl On The Train, an R-rated thriller like The Accountant, made on an almost identical budget—down to No. 3 with $11.9 million. We’d like to believe that it’s the supporting cast: J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow, and Jeffrey Tambor, which is just one Richard Jenkins short of unleashing the character-actor-ocalypse.
The No. 2 spot went to Kevin Hart: What Now?, a title which, like The Accountant, seems like a throwaway gag in an insider-ish showbiz satire where stars cameo as themselves. The stand-up concert film made almost $12 million, edging out The Girl On The Train by less than $10,000. That looks like the largest ever opening for a stand-up film, but only if you don’t adjust for inflation. The $7.8 million opening weekend that Richard Pryor: Live At The Sunset Strip had in 1982, for instance, works out to about $19.5 million in today’s dollars; that’s still the largest ever opening weekend for a stand-up film, narrowly beating Eddie Murphy Raw.
Still, the amount earned by What Now? is a big deal. Only seven other stand-ups have had an opening weekend in that range, and four of them only qualify because they were in The Original Kings Of Comedy. What’s more, unlike Pryor (who never had a hit as big as Live At The Sunset Strip), Martin Lawrence (who had his one big stand-up box office success with Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat), or Eddie Murphy (who never made another theatrically released stand-up film after Raw), Hart is pulling off a hat trick. His previous stand-up film, 2013’s Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, opened with a similar take: around $10 million.
The No. 4 spot went to Tim Burton’s frustrating Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children ($8.9 million), which puts it closer to recouping its over-sized budget than the No. 5 film, Deepwater Horizon ($6.3 million). Both films cost around $110 million, but while Miss Peregrine has benefited from the usually strong international box office performance that greets effects-driven fantasy films, Deepwater Horizon has suffered from the fact that flag-waving American can-do isn’t much of a selling point outside of the U.S. Still, there is the perverse fascination factor; for whatever reason, Deepwater Horizon’s two biggest non-English-speaking markets have been Mexico and Russia.
Speaking of Americana, subverted and otherwise: Clint Eastwood’s Sully landed (get it?) at No. 9 with $2.9 million, bringing its domestic total up to $118 million. Meanwhile, in its second week, Nate Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation slipped to No. 10 with $2.7 million, brining its domestic total to $12 million. Fox Searchlight bought the rights to the Sundance breakout for a whopping $17.5 million, the largest sum in the history of the festival. And though it’s unquestionably underperforming, it’s not a wash on the order of Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, the movie for which Fox Searchlight paid a ridiculous amount at the last Sundance, only to have it barely register at the box office.
Max Steel, the only other super-wide new release of the weekend, ended up at No. 11 ($2.1 million). Things were a little brighter on the indie front, however. Kelly Reichardt’s widely acclaimed new film, Certain Women, had one of the highest per-theater averages of the weekend, earning around $13,000 on each of its 5 screens. The only movie to top that was Christine, a movie that similarly comes with the ringing endorsement of The A.V. Club; Antonio Campos’ biopic of Christine Chubbuck, the TV reporter who committed suicide live on the air in 1974, made just a little over $14,000 as it opened on one screen.
The animated Miss Hokusai, another member of the coveted B+ Club, averaged about $12,500 across two theaters. In a much wider (but still limited) release, Jonás Cuarón’s bordersploitation movie Desierto made $450,000.