‘Smile’ tops the box office with horror as ‘Bros’ bombs.

Paramount Pictures’ “Smile” made a frightening debut at the domestic box office this weekend, opening in first place with $22 million, according to estimates from metrics firm Comscore.

Topping box office expectations, the horror film is the first title to open with more than $20 million since Brad Pitt’s “Bullet Train” opened to $30 million in the first weekend of August. Meanwhile, Universal Pictures’ rom-com “Bros” underperformed in North American markets this weekend, debuting in fourth place with $4.8 million.

Rounding out the top five of this cycle is Warner Bros.’ “Don’t Worry Darling,” which collected $7.3 million in its second weekend for a steep 62% drop and a North American cume of $32.8 million. “The Woman King,” which added $7 million in its third weekend (down 36%) for a North American total of $46.7 million. and 20th Century Studio’s 2009 remake of “Avatar,” which grossed $4.7 million in its second weekend (down 55%) for a North American cume of $18.6 million.

Written and directed by Parker Finn, ‘Smile’ stars Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) as a therapist who catches a sinister, fatal curse from one of her patients. The ‘Smile’ cast also includes Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Rob Morgan and Kal Penn.

The horror flick scored a solid 75% fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes and a paltry B-minus from audience polled by CinemaScore. “Smile” — which did particularly well with moviegoers 18 to 34 — also marks Paramount’s sixth No. 1 title this year, following previous releases such as “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “The Lost City” and “Top Gun: Maverick”.

“Writer-director Parker Finn’s feature debut, ‘Smile,’ features the subtlest of installations based on a laundry list of horror film trends and tropes, from the historical to the contemporary,” writes film critic Katie Walsh for Los Angeles Times.

“But Finn kicks it up a notch with some dizzying cinematography by Charlie Sarroff, a chillingly effective score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer and an unbelievably insane performance by Sosie Bacon. Oh, and jump scares, a whole lotta jump scares.”

Led by Nicholas Stoller, ‘Bros’ stars Billy Eichner as a popular podcast host who falls for a hunky real estate attorney (Luke Macfarlane). Billed by Universal and heavily marketed by Eichner as the first gay romantic comedy to be distributed by a major studio, “Bros” received a glowing 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an outstanding A rating from audience members who attended CinemaScore poll.

However, the much-anticipated film posted the third-lowest opening of the year among titles released in more than 3,000 theaters. (Behind only Universal’s action thriller “The 355,” which opened in January to $4.6 million, and the studio’s reboot “Firestarter,” which opened to $3.8 million in theaters day-to-day with its streaming premiere on Peacock.)

“‘Bros,’ which has little use for straight actors (or tragedy), is set as an essential corrective,” writes film critic Justin Chang for the Times.

“While it’s not the only gay rom-com to emerge in recent months (such as Hulu’s ‘Fire Island,’ whose Bowen Yang appears here as a flamboyant Provincetown millionaire), it boasts the notable precedent of a major studio entirely LGBTQ leader. cast, albeit one whose racial and sexual diversity happens to support a love story between two white, cisgender, gay men – something the film acknowledges with as much a wink as a wink.”

It’s also worth noting that Sony Pictures’ aforementioned “Bullet Train” officially crossed the $100 million mark during its ninth weekend in North American theaters. while Sarigama Cinemas’ historical epic ‘Ponniyin Selvan: Part One’ opened in sixth place with $4.1 million at 500 locations — earning the top 10’s highest per-screen average.

Next weekend sees Disney’s star-studded ensemble drama “Amsterdam” and Sony Pictures’ family friendly “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” open in wide release.

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