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story.lead_photo.caption Gwilym Lee (left) stars as Brian May, Rami Malik plays Freddie Mercury and Joe Mazzello is John Deacon in 20th Century Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The bio-pic came in first at last weekend’s box office and made about $50 million.

LOS ANGELES -- Last weekend, two films that were dogged by production troubles came out on top at the box office.

Fox's Bohemian Rhapsody opened in first place with $50 million, well above predictions of $35 million, according to figures from measurement firm ComScore. That makes it the best debut for a music biopic since 2015's Straight Outta Compton's $60 million opening weekend.

The highly anticipated classic-rock drama, which cost an estimated $52 million to make, stars Rami Malek as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. With an A CinemaScore, it is the latest movie to overcome less-than-enthusiastic reviews and find box office success, joining recent hits The Meg, The Nun, Night School and Venom.

"It's always gratifying when you know how good your film is," said Chris Aronson, the studio's distribution chief. It's "what a communal moviegoing experience is all about, because you really do feel as though you're at a rock concert, and that's pretty amazing."

Audiences rushed to theaters to see the widely praised performance by Malek, the Mr. Robot star, and to hear Queen's foot-stomping anthems like "We Are the Champions," "Somebody to Love," "Another One Bites the Dust" and the operatic title song. The movie, which Bryan Singer directed before being replaced by Dexter Fletcher, at times has an almost concertlike feel, including a lengthy re-creation of the band's 1985 Live Aid performance.

"Even in the negativity that came out of critics, there was always a 'but,' almost universally: 'But Rami is great,'" noted Aronson. "I'm very happy for ... Rami and the entire filmmaking team. And I'm happy for the home team. This is a big win for Fox."

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, praised Fox's rollout of the film as pitch perfect. Dergarabedian also cited Malek's breakout big-screen performance and the sustained interest in all things musical at the box office. Musically based films have lately been major draws in theaters, from Fox's own The Greatest Showman earlier in the year to Warner Bros.' Oscar favorite A Star Is Born, which collected another $11.1 million in its fifth weekend for $165.6 million overall.

"It seems that audiences can't get enough of movies that have music baked into their DNA," Dergarabedian said. "That's proving to be a very successful formula."

In soaring to No. 1, the Fox release trounced one from Disney, which will soon own the studio. Despite a production budget of $125 million, the Walt Disney Co.'s lavish, big-budget The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opened with just $20 million. Disney is set to merge with Fox in the coming months, effectively ending the 103-year-old Fox, one of Hollywood's six major studios.

"We were hoping for a stronger start, but we do think it's a film that people will find as we head into the holidays," said Cathleen Taff, head of theatrical distribution for Disney.

Though Disney's record of success is the envy of Hollywood, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms marks the studio's third misfire this year following the underperforming A Wrinkle in Time and Solo. The studio's CGI-stuffed resurrection of the E.T.A. Hoffmann story was positioned as an early holiday season release, but flopped with critics (34 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and sparked only modest interest from audiences. It grossed $38.5 million overseas.

Based on Hoffmann's 19th-century Christmas story that later inspired the ballet, The Nutcracker earned mixed reviews, with audiences and critics, with a B-plus CinemaScore and a 34 percent rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is a rare misfire for Disney, which leads the box office this year.

Lasse Hallstrom was originally hired to direct The Nutcracker, but was replaced with Joe Johnston after Hallstrom was unavailable for significant reshoots. Johnston was tasked with completing it in just 32 days.

In third place, Paramount's Nobody's Fool premiered with $14 million.

The first R-rated comedy from director Tyler Perry came in a bit short of analyst predictions of $15 million. The result is the third lowest opening of his 19 films.

Nobody's Fool earned mixed reviews from audiences and critics, with an A minus on CinemaScore and a 25 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

In limited release, Focus Features opened Boy Erased in five theaters to $220,000. The film, based on a memoir about writer Garrard Conley's experience with gay conversion therapy, is being floated as an awards contender.

This week, Universal opens the animated The Grinch, Sony and Columbia Pictures premiere the crime thriller The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story and Paramount debuts the horror Overlord.

Note: The Top 20, which was compiled by The Associated Press, will no longer appear.

MovieStyle on 11/09/2018

Print Headline: Rhapsody, Nutcracker defy production hiccups

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