‘Midway’ Is a Surprise Winner at the Box Office

The World War II action movie “Midway” was an unexpected winner at the box office this weekend, swooping into the lead as the horror movie that had seemed poised to take the top spot, “Doctor Sleep,” instead took a snooze.

“Midway” opened to an estimated $17.5 million in domestic ticket sales Friday through Sunday. The movie, distributed by Lionsgate, is expected to make about $2.6 million more in sales during the Veterans Day holiday on Monday.

“Midway” revolves around the pivotal 1942 air and sea battle that gives the movie its name. It re-creates that fight with the help of some famous figures: Luke Evans, Woody Harrelson, Patrick Wilson and Nick Jonas are among the members of its ensemble cast. Roland Emmerich, best known for “Independence Day,” was the director.

Reviews for “Midway” were relatively lackluster: It currently holds a 41 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In his review for The New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg called the movie “rousing and respectful in its best moments and faintly ridiculous in others.”

[Read our critic’s review of “Midway.”]

That “Midway” topped the box office is largely a product of the humdrum response ticket buyers gave to “Doctor Sleep,” a Stephen King adaptation from Warner Bros. that inadvertently lived up to its own name. The film is based on the 2013 sequel to “The Shining” novel.

Prerelease surveys that track interest indicated last week that “Doctor Sleep” was positioned to bring in $25 million or more this weekend. The actual response was far less robust: “Doctor Sleep” sold an estimated $14.1 million in tickets Friday through Sunday. That Warner Bros. had a box-office knockout a couple months ago with another King adaptation, “It Chapter Two,” makes that figure all the more disappointing.

“Doctor Sleep” follows Dan, the child of the troubled couple at the center of “The Shining,” who in the sequel is shown as an adult dealing with the continued fallout of the first novel’s events. Ewan McGregor plays Dan in the film, which was directed by Mike Flanagan.

That the new film lives in the shadow of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 1980 version of “The Shining” made it a tricky movie to market because the studio had two distinct fan bases to handle: King’s and Kubrick’s. “Doctor Sleep” currently holds a 73 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In third place was “Playing With Fire,” a Paramount Pictures comedy with Keegan-Michael Key, John Cena and Judy Greer that opened this weekend to around $12.8 million in sales according to Comscore, which compiles box office data.

Universal’s “Last Christmas,” a romantic comedy directed by Paul Feig that pairs the “Crazy Rich Asians” breakout Henry Golding and the “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke, opened in fourth place with $11.6 million.

Paramount’s “Terminator: Dark Fate” rounded out the top five. But its anemic $10.8 million second weekend didn’t reverse its fate after a bomb of an opening.

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