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From left, Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in “Nope.” Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Jordan Peele ‘s UFO thriller ‘Nope’ topped the North American charts in its first weekend in theatres with an estimated $44 million in ticket sales, Universal Pictures said Sunday.

Though it doesn’t come close to the $71 million debut of ‘Us,’ it is still significantly impressive for an original, R-rated film — and the biggest of the pandemic for an original screenplay.

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Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer in 'Nope' Image Credit: Universal Pictures

‘Nope,’ which releases on August 25 in the UAE, is the most expensive film Peele has made to date with a reported $68 million production budget, not accounting for marketing and promotion costs. ‘Us’ cost around $20 million to produce, while ‘Get Out’ was made for only $4.5 million. Both films ultimately made over $255 million worldwide.

Critics were largely positive about ‘Nope,’ which stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun and pays homage to UFO films like ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Signs,’ and is currently resting at 83 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Nope director Jordan Peele Image Credit: AFP

“It’s a great number,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “It’s amazing how broadly it’s playing too.”

“Jordan Peele crafted an incredible film,” Orr added. “And it is absolutely something that should be seen on the big screen.”

The film got off to a strong start with $6.4 million from Thursday previews. By the end of Friday, it had grossed $19.3 million. About 68 per cent of the opening weekend audience was between the ages of 18 and 34, which is the “sweet spot” for a horror film.

Word of mouth is going to be critical in the coming weeks for ‘Nope,’ which begins its international rollout on August 12.

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Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in 'Thor: Love and Thunder' Image Credit: Marvel Studios

‘Nope’ knocked ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ to second place in its third weekend. The Disney and Marvel blockbuster starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman added $22.1 million, bringing its global total to $598.2 million.

Universal’s ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ landed in third place with $17.7 million in its fourth weekend. The animated pic has made $640.3 million globally.

The Sony-released adaptation of the bestseller ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ meanwhile, is enjoying a modest second weekend drop. The film starring Daisy Edgar-Jones added an estimated $10.3 million from 3,650 locations. It’s now grossed $38.3 million domestically.

Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun: Maverick'
Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun: Maverick' Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Paramount’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rounded out the top five in its ninth weekend with an additional $10 million. Earlier this week it surpassed ‘The Avengers’ to become ninth biggest domestic release of all time with its total now sitting at $635.6 million.