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The gothic family fantasy The House With a Clock in Its Walls exceeded expectations to debut with an estimated $26.9 million (Dh98.7 million) in ticket sales at the US weekend box office, while audiences showed considerably less interest in Michael Moore’s Donald Trump-themed documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, than his George W Bush-era one.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls was easily the biggest draw on a quiet weekend at North American movie theatres, where the other three new wide releases all disappointed or downright flopped.

Fahrenheit 11/9 opened with $3.1 million in 1,719 cinemas — a huge debut for most documentaries but a fraction of the $23.9 million opening generated in 2004 by Moore’s record-breaking Fahrenheit 9/11. That film went on to make $222.4 million worldwide, a record for documentaries.

But Universal Pictures’ The House With a Clock in Its Walls, based on the classic book written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, capitalised on a recent dearth of child-friendly options. The film, directed by the horror veteran Eli Roth with a budget of $40 million, stars Jack Black and Cate Blanchett.

“This was on the high end of any expectations,” said Jim Orr, head of distribution at Universal. Orr credited the studio’s producing partners at Amblin Entertainment as well as the release date in a normally slow month. “We really saw an opportunity in late September to kick off the fall season with this PG family film, and obviously it was well-positioned.”

The film releases in the UAE on September 27.