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Kirsten Dunst in Civil War.The Associated Press

Civil War, Alex Garland’s ominous American dystopia, remained the top film in theatres in its second week of release, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The A24 election-year gamble, the indie studio’s biggest budgeted film yet, took in US$11.1-million in ticket sales at 3,929 theatres over the weekend. The US$50-million film, set in a near-future U.S. in which Texas and California have joined in rebellion against a fascist president, has grossed US$44.9-million in two weeks.

Its provocative premise – and A24’s marketing, which included images of U.S. cities ravaged by war – helped keep Civil War top of mind for moviegoers.

But it was a painfully slow weekend in theatres – the kind sure to add to concern over what’s thus far been a down year for Hollywood at the box office.

Going into the weekend, Universal Pictures’ Abigail, a critically acclaimed R-rated horror film about the daughter of Dracula, had been expected to lead ticket sales. It came in second with US$10.2-million in 3,384 theatres.

That was still a fair result for a film that cost a modest US$28-million to make. Abigail, which remakes the 1936 monster film Dracula’s Daughter, is about a 12-year-old girl taken by kidnappers who soon realize they’ve made a poor choice of hostage. It’s directed by the duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett whose production company goes by the name Radio Silence.

Review: Alex Garland’s new thriller Civil War makes audacious predictions about America’s fate

More concerning was the overall tepid response for a handful of new wide releases – and the likelihood that there will be more similar weekends throughout 2024. Last year’s actors and writers’ strikes, which had a prolonged effect on the movie pipeline, exacerbated holes in Hollywood’s release schedule.

Horror films, in recent years among the most reliable cash cows in theatres, also haven’t thus far been doing the automatic business they previous did. According to David A. Gross, who runs the consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, horror releases accounted for US$2-billion in worldwide sales in 2023.

Guy Ritchie’s The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare debuted with US$9-million in 2,845 theatres. In the based-on-a-true-story Lionsgate release, which reportedly cost US$60-million to produce, Henry Cavill leads a World War II mission off the coast of West Africa.

Though Ritchie has been behind numerous box-office hits, including the live-action Aladdin and a pair of Sherlock Holmes films, his recent movies have struggled to find big audiences. The Lionsgate spy comedy Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre grossed US$48-million against a US$50-million budget, while MGM’s The Covenant, also released last year, made US$21-million while costing US$55-million to make.

Interview: Civil War director Alex Garland talks extremism, social division and the war against journalism

A bright sign for The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: audiences liked it. The film earned an A-minus CinemaScore.

The anime Spy x Family Code: White, from Sony’s Crunchyroll, also struggled to stand out with audiences. Though the adaptation of the Tatsuya Endo manga TV series Spy x Family has already been a hit with international moviegoers, it debuted below expectations with US$4.9-million in 2,009 U.S. theatres.

The mightiest film globally, though, continues to be Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. The Warner Bros. monster movie has for the past month led worldwide ticket sales. It added another US$9.5-million domestically and US$21.6-million internationally to bring its four-week global total to US$485.2-million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. Civil War, US$11.1-million.

2. Abigail, Us$10.2-million.

3. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, US$9.5-million.

4. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, US$9-million.

5. Spy x Family Code: White, US$4.9-million.

6. Kung Fu Panda 4, US$4.6-million.

7. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, $4.4 million.

8. Dune: Part Two, $2.9 million.

9. Monkey Man, $2.2 million.

10. The First Omen, $1.7 million.

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