Mon | Jul 16, 2018

The 'Girl on the Train' takes box office honours

Published:Tuesday | October 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
In a scene from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children are (from left) Lauren McCrostie, Pixie Davies, Cameron King, Thomas Odwell, nd Joseph Odwell and Ella Purnell.
Luke Evans (left) and Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train.


Propelled by the popularity of Paula Hawkins' bestseller, the fast-tracked big-screen adaptation of The Girl on the Train led North American cinemas in ticket sales with US$24.7 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. Less successful was Nate Parker's Nat Turner biopic The Birth of a Nation, which moviegoers largely greeted with a shrug after a 17-year-old rape allegation resurfaced against its star and director.

The Girl on the Train, a psychological thriller starring Emily Blunt, appealed significantly to female moviegoers, who made up 68 per cent of the audience according to the film's distributor, Universal Pictures. The film, directed by Tate Taylor (The Help), is about an alcoholic suburbanite woman who becomes embroiled in a mysterious disappearance.

Released just last year, Hawkins' novel went from bestseller lists to the top of the box office in short order. DreamWorks acquired film rights to the book ahead of its publication. While reviews for the film were weak, Blunt's lead performance was largely praised.

But perhaps the most closely watched opening was Fox Searchlight's The Birth of a Nation. Playing in 2,105 cinemas, the film opened with a disappointing US$7.1 million.

The movie fetched a record US$17.5 million at its much-lauded Sundance Film Festival premiere, where it was hailed as an Oscar contender and an answer to the then boiling 'OscarsSoWhite' backlash. But Parker became enveloped in a rape allegation from his past, when he was a sophomore at Penn State. Parker, who has maintained his innocence, was acquitted in 2001. The alleged victim killed herself in 2012.

As the controversy continued through the summer and fall (Parker appeared on 60 Minutes last weekend), Fox Searchlight worked in vain to direct focus back toward Parker's movie. On opening night Thursday, protesters held a silent vigil for victims of rape and sexual assault outside a Los Angeles cinema.

Also opening in wide release was the CBS Films and Lionsgate release Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, based on the James Patterson books about a teenager who terrorises his principal with pranks. It debuted with US$6.9 million.

Last week's top film, Tim Burton's Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children, slid to second place with US$15 million in its second week for 20th Century Fox. The Lionsgate real-life disaster film Deepwater Horizon took in US$11.8 million in its second week.