Supernatural horror Ouija topped the US box office at the weekend with a haul of $20m as the latest action thriller from Keanu Reeves proved a surprise hit in second place.
Ouija, based on the Hasbro board game, cost just $5m to make and is being hailed as another low budget triumph for Jason Blum, the producer of the similarly pitched Paranormal Activity series of movies. It centres on a group of friends who begin experimenting with a Ouija board after one of their number dies in mysterious circumstances following a session.
John Wick, the well-reviewed action movie starring Keanu Reeves as a widowed hitman who comes into conflict with Russian mobsters, pulled in $14.2m in second place. Analysts had been expecting around half that figure, so the news represents something of a triumph for the erstwhile star of Point Break and The Matrix.
Reeves, 50, has been experiencing a difficult period in his career following disappointing box office returns for directing debut Man of Tai Chi and martial arts fantasy 47 Ronin.
However, the Canadian actor’s decision to go public with his disappointment over the lack of studio roles being offered to him in recent times – along with positive reviews for John Wick – may have helped the new movie find its audience thanks to social media buzz.
• Review: John Wick
“Moviegoers and people in general appreciate his candour,” analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Variety. “Major stars don’t say things like that. They’re too worried about their image. But his honesty resonated and audiences respect a star who is willing to talk that way.”
The top five was rounded out by Brad Pitt tank drama Fury in third, with $13m in its second week of release, David Fincher thriller Gone Girl with $11.1m in its fourth week and Halloween themed animation The Book of Life with $9.8m in its second week.
• Review: Fury
The only other debutant in the top 10 was Bill Murray comedy St Vincent, the Toronto film festival smash about an irascible retiree who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a 12-year-old boy for whom he is providing babysitting duties. The film, written and directed by first timer Theodore Melfi and co-starring Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd, was released in limited locations three weeks ago Stateside but only debuted on wide release at the weekend. It took a tidy $8.1m this time around.
• Review: St Vincent
Elsewhere there were more positive returns on limited release for the Oscar-tipped black comedy Birdman, starring Michael Keaton as the one-time star of blockbuster superhero movies fallen on hard times. The film, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, expanded from four to 50 cinemas, taking $1.4m.
• Review: Birdman
US box office top 10 (24-26 October)
1. Ouija, $20m. New entry.
2. John Wick, $14.2m. New entry.
3. Fury, $13m. $46.1m to date.
4. Gone Girl, $11.1m. $124.1m to date.
5. The Book of Life, $9.8m. $29.9m to date.
6. St. Vincent, $8.1m. $9.2m to date.
7. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, $7m. $45.5m to date.
8. The Best of Me, $4.7m. $17.7m to date.
9. The Judge, $4.34m. $34.4m to date.
10. Dracula Untold, $4.3m. $48.3m to date.