‘Greatest Showman’ Becomes a Sleeper Hit as Disrespected Films Flourish


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Hugh Jackman stars in “The Greatest Showman,” which has overcome a soft start to become a rare sleeper hit.

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Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox, via Associated Press

Talk about a death-defying stunt.

“The Greatest Showman,” a musical about the circus impresario P.T. Barnum, was dismissed by many critics when it arrived in theaters just before Christmas. Uncool. Old-fashioned. Mawkish. And when initial ticket sales were poor, most box office analysts decided “The Greatest Showman” was a prime example of Hollywood being unable to pry people away from their Netflix accounts. Better stick to the superheroes and sequels.

Over the past four weeks, however, “The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox) has become a rare sleeper hit, lifted by positive word of mouth, stunt marketing (singalong screenings) and a popular soundtrack album. Ticket sales in the United States and Canada now stand at $113.5 million, including an $11 million haul between Friday and Sunday, good for fifth place over the weekend. The movie stars Hugh Jackman and Zendaya and was produced by a team that included Peter Chernin and Laurence Mark.

Similarly underappreciated movies dominated the weekend box office, with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (Sony) leading the charge. Derided by most of Hollywood before its release as an act of desperation by a franchise-starved Sony, “Jumanji” was No. 1 for a third consecutive weekend, collecting about $20 million, for a new domestic total of $317 million. That astounding result is roughly in line with “Skyfall,” the 2012 James Bond hit, after adjusting for inflation.

“Jumanji” is now closing in on $770 million worldwide.

Next came two new dramas — critical duds both — aimed at older men, a fickle group that studios rarely focus on anymore. (It’s easier for studios to concentrate on family-oriented mega-movies because they are more likely to attract a global audience.) Surprise: Both did well.

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The military drama “12 Strong,” set in Afghanistan and starring Chris Hemsworth (center), arrived to solid ticket sales over the weekend.

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David James/Warner Bros. Entertainment, via Associated Press

“12 Strong,” starring Chris Hemsworth and based on the nonfiction book “Horse Soldiers,” about a Special Forces operation in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, sold about $16.5 million in tickets. It was produced for roughly $30 million by Alcon and Black Label Media, two companies backed by the FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith. Jerry Bruckheimer was also a producer.

“Den of Thieves” (STXfilms and Diamond Film Productions), which was independently financed for roughly $30 million, according to the trade news website Deadline.com, took in an estimated $15.3 million. Starring Gerard Butler and Jordan Bridges, “Den of Thieves” is about a grizzled Los Angeles cop who tracks a group of bank robbers.

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