Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” opened in more than 3,600 theaters this weekend, earning an estimated $23 million in the United States and Canada. It is the biggest box office opening for the director since the $41.4 million opening for “Shutter Island” (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) in February 2010 and is notable given both its length – three and a half hours – and its lack of promotional support. This is a special achievement. Due to the actors’ strike the cast, including Mr. DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
It grossed an additional $21 million in its international release.
“Killers” is the biggest theatrical release for Apple Studios, which will return to the box office with the Ridley Scott epic “Napoleon” at Thanksgiving and then in February with the spy film “Argyll.”
(Its strong performance did not earn bragging rights at this weekend’s box office. The No. 1 spot for the second week in a row went to “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” which cost $15 million. It grossed an estimated $31 million overall.) At $129.8 million – a boon for AMC Theaters Distribution’s first release.)
According to worldwide distributor Paramount Pictures, the film, about the killings of members of the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe in Oklahoma in the 1920s, performed well in the top film markets of Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, but it also attracted . Spectators in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Mr. Scorsese shot the film in Oklahoma and cast several Osage in the film.
More men than women saw the film, and 44 percent of the audience was under the age of 30, which was a surprise for Paramount.
“This really bodes well for the future of cinema,” Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution, said in an interview. “I didn’t know that a lot of young people would see this movie because, on the surface, you wouldn’t think there would be that much appeal.”
He said issues related to the cruel treatment of the Osage Nation seem to resonate. “Even though it happened 100 years ago, it’s a story that deserves to be told and seen,” he said.
“Killers” also received an A- score in the exit poll, according to the market research firm CinemaScore, the same score given to Mr. Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” and “The Departed.”
With a budget of nearly $200 million, even if it makes five times that amount in its opening weekend — as many of Mr. Scorsese’s films do — it is unlikely to recoup its costs at the box office. Perhaps this isn’t an issue for the wildly acclaimed “Assassins.” The film, which was produced and financed by Apple in conjunction with Imperative Entertainment, has generated strong reviews, with The New York Times calling it a “heartbreaking masterpiece”. It’s likely to be part of the awards conversation this year.
Plus, Apple’s plan to put it directly on its own service after its theatrical run should be a welcome bonus for the Apple TV, which, despite doing quality work, is having trouble attracting a significant following on its streaming service.
David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on box office information, declared “Killers” an important film for the industry for two reasons. One, because Mr. Scorsese is considered a “master storyteller” and “filmmakers and audiences believe this is ‘real cinema’.” And two, because Apple is venturing into new territory.
“If ‘flexibility’ is the new mantra of the theatrical film business,” he wrote, “then this is a significant success – it establishes a viable option for companies.”