By Patrick Ryan/Gannett News Service
The lost wife of “Gone Girl” found herself atop the weekend box office.
The psychological thriller made off with $38 million, according to studio estimates from box-office tracking firm Rentrak, narrowly beating horror newcomer “Annabelle” as the fall movie season gets off to a robust start.
Based on the best-selling book by Chicago author Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl” stars Ben Affleck as a man whose wife (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on their fifth anniversary, turning him into a possible murder suspect. The toxic-marriage drama scored well with critics, who awarded it an 87 positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
Audiences embraced the darkly comic film even more so, giving it a 92 percent approval rating on the survey site, no doubt boosted by an underserved adult crowd.
“The summer is all about the big blockbusters chasing the young audience,” says Rentrak’s Paul Dergarabedian. “People know when you go to see this movie, you’re going to see something of quality. This is the kind of film that has long-term playability.”
It was a career-best opening for director David Fincher, surpassing the $30 million bow of 2003’s “Panic Room,” according to Box Office Mojo. Although adult dramas tend to have modest debuts, the prolific director’s films have demonstrated immense staying power: “The Social Network” opened with $22.5 million in 2010 on its way to $97 million, while his last foray into popular literature, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” inked a $12.8 million start in 2011, earning $103 million total.
Girl also marked Affleck’s highest debut since superhero misfire “Daredevil” opened to $40 million in 2003, tallying $102 million. His biggest success since has been his own Oscar-winning “Argo,” which launched with $19.5 million in 2012, netting $136 million.
Trailing “Girl” by a hair is the R-rated “Annabelle,” which landed at No. 2 with $37.2 million. A prequel to last summer’s scary success “The Conjuring,” the fright film is about a haunted doll and stars Annabelle Wallis and Alfre Woodard. Although its reception is nothing to scream about —31 percent positive critical reviews and 54 percent audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes — it easily made back its lean $6.5 million budget.