Madea’s Halloween trick? Scaring off all the other sequels at the box office.
Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween bested Tom Cruise's latest action film, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, topping the weekend with $27.6 million. The Jack Reacher sequel earned $23 million.
"The star power of Madea and Tyler Perry is undeniable," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "It's perfectly timed and perfectly themed and it just paid off. Tom Cruise is used to being No. 1, but in this case, Madea was a very formidable competitor."
A longer gestation time may have helped both films says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. Rather than putting out a sequel two years later, Madea and Reacher "waited three and four years, respectively," he says. "There's something to be said for absence making the box office fonder."
Audiences liked Madea best, too, awarding Boo! an A grade on CinemaScore. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back earned a B-plus.
But Cruise can rest easy: He’s still No. 1 worldwide, with Never Go Back earning $54 million globally. "He's a true international box-office star. There aren't very many of those," Bock says. "It's the overseas box office that really will put this into trilogy land."
Horror sequel Ouija: Origin of Evil claimed No. 3, earning $14.1 million (though audiences gave it a middling C). "It's another horror movie this year that has done very well," says Dergarabedian, citing the success of 2016 scare fare such as The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, Don't Breathe and The Purge: Election Year.
While Origin of Evil fell short of expectations, Bock notes it still has next weekend to rake in Halloween cash. "It really is the only offering if you want to get scared at theaters," he says.
Holdovers The Accountant ($14 million), The Girl on a Train ($7.3 million) and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children ($6 million) took fourth, fifth and sixth.
Lagging at No. 7 was Keeping Up With the Joneses, a new comedy from Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot, Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher, which failed to keep pace in the weekend race, earning just $5.6 million and a B-minus on CinemaScore.
"It felt like the wrong film at the wrong time," says Bock. "The action-comedy caper is a tough genre to pull off. Unless you have the chemistry like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, it's almost impossible to make your money back."
Meanwhile, critical favorite Moonlight, starring Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Trevante Rhodes, had a healthy first weekend in New York and Los Angeles, earning $415,000 in four locations. "They virtually sold out every theater," says Dergarabedian. "It's mind-blowing how well that movie did."
Directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight averaged $104,000 per theater. "You don't see that from basically an unknown, someone who hasn't put out a film in eight years," Bock says. "This could be the next Room."
Ewan McGregor's directorial debut, American Pastoral, made $151,000 for the weekend in 50 theaters, while Michael Moore's documentary TrumpLand has earned $64,000 since opening Wednesday.
Final numbers are expected Monday.