LOS ANGELES, Oct 9 (Variety.com) - "The Girl on the Train"
pulled into the station with a $24.7 million opening, a solid
result despite the fact that the mystery debuted as much of the
U.S. Southeast was being pummeled by Hurricane Matthew.
Its success is a shot in the arm to DreamWorks, which
optioned the Paula Hawkins' best-seller about an alcoholic woman
(Emily Blunt), who must piece together a mysterious
disappearance. The company has suffered a string of duds in
recent years, most recently shouldering the twin duds of "The
BFG" and "The Light Between Oceans." However, "The Girl on the
Train" kicks off a new five-year distribution deal with
Universal Pictures. One that will see the company rebranded as
Amblin Partners, complete with backing from Reliance,
Entertainment One, and Participant. Over the weekend, Amblin
announced that Alibaba Pictures will take an equity stake in the
production company. "The Girl on the Train" cost $45 million to
Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" was not as fortunate,
premiering to a disappointing $7.1 million across 2,105
theaters. The biopic about slave rebellion leader Nat Turner was
a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered to
a rapturous standing ovation and sold to Fox Searchlight for a
record-shattering $17.5 million. But the release was derailed
after rape allegations against Parker and his "The Birth of a
Nation" co-writer Jean Celestin resurfaced. Both men were
accused of assaulting a college classmate over a decade ago.
Though they were ultimately acquitted of those charges, news
broke this summer that their accuser had committed suicide in
2012. The ensuing controversy overshadowed the strong reviews
and may have hurt the film's Oscar chances.
The weekend's other wide release, "Middle School: The Worst
Years of My Life," attempted to court younger crowds, opening to
$6.9 million from 2,822 theaters. The film follows a teenager
who cooks up a series of pranks to embarrass his autocratic
principal. It is based on a popular series of books by James
Patterson. CBS Films produced the movie for $11 million, with
Lionsgate distributing the picture.
Last weekend's champ, "Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar
Children," fell roughly 50% to $15 million for a second place
finish. That puts the Tim Burton fantasy's total at $51.1
million. Fox backed the film, which carries a sizable $110
million price tag.
Lionsgate's "Deepwater Horizon" continued to struggle,
taking in $11.7 million, and bringing its domestic total to
$38.5 million. The action-drama about the men and women caught
up in one of the worst oil spills in history earned solid
reviews, but cost a massive $120 million after tax credits were
taken into account.
Sony's "The Magnificent Seven" took fourth place with $9.1
million, pushing the Western remake's haul to $75.9 million.
"Storks," the Warner Bros. animated comedy, rounded out the top
five with $8.4 million, bringing its stateside receipts to $50.1