Tim Burton took the box office to school with his latest bunch of misfits.
The iconic director's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, based on the popular young-adult book by Ransom Riggs, made its debut at No. 1 with $28.5 million, according to studio estimates from comScore.
Starring Eva Green as a magical headmistress at an orphanage full of odd youngsters, the film received mostly positive reviews from critics (64% at aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com) and won over audiences as well (with a B-plus at CinemaScore).
Miss Peregrine marks the biggest opening for Burton since Dark Shadows started with $29.7 million in 2012, and it's the seventh movie of his career to hit No. 1.
"Tim Burton is one of the most unique voices in film and he builds his reputation on being so different from pretty much every other filmmaker," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "He hasn’t had a major hit in quite a while, so this is good news for him."
The oil-rig thriller Deepwater Horizon, starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson, drilled home $20.6 million, good enough for second place. The true-life disaster movie met with strong approval from both critics (82% liked it on Rotten Tomatoes) and moviegoers (A-minus at CinemaScore).
Adding in the fact that Wahlberg is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, "I actually thought it would do much better," Dergarabedian says. "But the movie has a lot of long-term playability."
The top two movies stand in stark contrast to last year's at this time, when The Martian opened huge with $54.3 million and Hotel Transylvania 2 bit off $33.2 million for its second weekend.
The Western remake The Magnificent Seven dropped to No. 3 in its second weekend, pulling in $15.7 million. The top five was rounded out by the animated Storks with $13.8 million and Tom Hanks' Clint Eastwood-directed rescue drama Sully with $8.4 million.
The other notable debut of the weekend, the heist comedy Masterminds, fumbled its opening with only $6.6 million. Despite boasting an all-star cast including Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig, the movie wasn't warmly embraced by critics (38% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes).
With its stars and concept, Dergarabedian figures Masterminds could do well when released for home viewing, "but in this current marketplace, it’s going to be hard to get a (theatrical) foothold for these smaller movies."
The chess-centric biopic Queen of Katwe made $2.6 million in its first weekend of national release. The feel-good awards contender with David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o won over reviewers (91% liked it on Rotten Tomatoes) and is "getting a lot of buzz," Dergarabedian says. "There are some solid movies out there, but the audience has to get riled up and excited to go see them."
Final figures are expected Monday.