The Steven Soderbergh-directed thriller about the global spread of a deadly pandemic opened to a solid $23.1 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. That sum was enough to knock out "Warrior," a mixed-martial-arts drama from the director of "Miracle" that has received excellent reviews but was sent to the mat with just $5.6 million.
Contagion" played in 3,222 theaters this weekend — more than 1,000 more than each of the other three films in wide release. The pandemic flick appealed to females and males in equal measure, although an overwhelming 81% of the crowd was older than 25. The film, which stars A-list actors including Matt Damon and Kate Winslet, has gone over well with critics since premiering at the Venice Film Festival this month. But moviegoers who saw the film this weekend gave it a so-so average grade of "B-," according to market research firm CinemaScore.
"Adult movies are really strong in the fall, and the only other adult movie out there this weekend was 'The Help,'" said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., the studio that released the film. "This movie also has a lot of star power, but it's subject matter that makes everybody a little uneasy. The marketing brought that out and tapped into our own insecurities — we sit there and say, 'That's awful,' but we're interested in it."
The picture was produced by Warner Bros. and Participant Media for about $60 million, meaning the movie is off to a decent start domestically. "Contagion" also opened in six small foreign markets this past weekend and collected $2.1 million there. The movie is ultimately poised to do respectable business overseas, where some of its stars —- such as French actress Marion Cotillard and Brit actor Jude Law — hail from.
Burns says Matt Damon is another great collaborator. (Let’s not forget the actor won an Oscar at the age of 25 for co-writing Goodwill Hunting.)
“I think part of why it’s easy to work with Matthew is because he has written and so he’s got respect for the craft, I think he also knows that a movie isn’t a screenplay, and that you can use the page as a point of departure, if the moment suggests that it’s wise to depart, and there are times where we’ll talk in the morning and we’ll try and come up with a better idea then what I wrote, which makes sense to me because when you’re there in the moment, and you’re confronted with the location, and the work you did the day before, and there are new ideas. So… having some sort of misplaced orthodoxy about how you treat the screenplay can be a problem. On the other hand there are times where I feel really good, and he’ll say no, you know what, what you wrote is great and I’m going to do it exactly the way you wrote it. Those days feel really great when they happen.”