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Nope’s dusty desert setting might be a desolate and lonely place, but theaters filled with fans eager for Jordan Peele’s latest horror adventure are proving to be anything but. The much-anticipated followup to Peele’s 2019 freak-fest Us, Nope debuted to a first-place finish at the box office over the weekend, taking in $44 million to outpace even Peele’s own Oscar-winning Get Out, which bowed to a $33 million haul back in 2017.
The $44 million figure reflects Nope’s global take as well, at least for now, since the Universal-distributed film hasn’t yet premiered overseas. Following in the footsteps of its unsettling predecessors, the Peele-written and directed movie follows a pair of siblings (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) as they head to the California backcountry to take over the family business — a lonesome, tourist-friendly horse ranch with old-time Hollywood roots.
The bucolic setting is deceptively tranquil, of course: A looming sky starts sending bad omens, hinting that the place might be the target of an alien visitation. Bro and sis see all the strange occurrences as their chance to tap the ranch’s fading movie magic, by dramatizing all the newly-discovered weirdness with their own UFO documentary. It’s meant as a bit of showmanship to attract fresh attention to their fading frontier-days home…but this is a Peele movie, which of course means those innocent intentions can’t go unpunished.
Peele has said that Nope is as much an ode to falling in love with movie spectacle as it is a straight horror film, and the early response from critics seems to suggest that’s a winning formula: Reviewers dig the film’s fun callbacks to the sci-fi spectacle of 1950s UFO movies, as well as its ambitious reach at toying with genre conventions in the vein of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter. Judging by Nope’s strong weekend start, this looks like one of those pleasant occasions when the critics and the viewers are actually catching the same vibes.
In a movie world jammed with sequels, reboots, and franchise tentpoles, Nope is definitely unique as an original horror flick, and its chart-topping debut weekend has even managed to set a recent record of sorts. As Variety reports, the movie claimed the highest-grossing box office for an original film in its opening weekend since Peele’s last film, when Us bowed to a $71 million haul back in 2019.
If you haven’t had the chance yet to say “yep” to Peele’s latest, well, the weather may not be on your side — but at least time is. The clouds have only just begun to part on Nope’s theatrical stay, chasing the wind on the strength of the movie’s July 22 premiere.