November's box office has been particularly interesting, from Thor: Ragnarok's early dominance to Justice League's underperformance to Lady Bird killing it in limited release, there has been a lot to discuss. However, one film that has flown under the radar is Fox's Murder on the Orient Express. Sandwiched between two massive superhero films and never winning a weekend it has been easy to overlook the film, but the little engine that could is proving to be strong counter-programming in this fall blockbuster season. The star-studded, murder mystery has quietly reaped in $195 million worldwide so far. While this may seem like a pittance when a film like Star Wars: The Last Jedi is expected to break that domestically during opening weekend, Murder on the Orient Express has achieved this mark on a budget of only $55 million.
Murder on the Orient Express still has miles of track left to go with eleven territories, including Japan and France, still yet to open. So new estimates indicate those should add to the $74 million domestic and $120 million foreign totals. Forbes believes the movie should hit $275 million worldwide when the box office run is all said and done. If it manages to hit this mark, Murder on the Orient Express will have quintupled its production budget.
While it may not be the kind of number that makes studio execs and shareholders faint, the return on investment here is huge. This more than justifies Fox's recent decision to greenlight the sequel, Death on the Nile, that is teased at the end of the movie. The sequel will follow Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot in an adaptation of the novel, as the detective tries to solve the murder of a socialite in Egypt while onboard a Nile River cruise. It is expected that Kenneth Branagh will return to the director's chair and Poirot's mustache for the next installment.
It will be curious to see what lessons Fox and Hollywood in general learn from Murder on the Orient Express's success. The film was as filled with star power as any film this year but, as we have seen in recent years, stars don't reliably translate to box office success the way they used to. Instead franchises and powerful brands often rule the day. Murder on the Orient Express received mixed reviews but it did stand as something entirely different than the brightly colored explosions that fill the theaters opposite. It was not trying to be a film for everyone, but was instead a film for the more mature audience that was interested in this type of storytelling with talent both in front of and behind the camera.
Murder on the Orient Express was also interesting in that it was in that mid-budget range of films that have all but disappeared from the Hollywood landscape. Hopefully the success of this film on a modest budget will allow other projects that aren't tentpole films with $300 million dollar budgets or indie flicks shot on an iPhone to get studio backing and find an audience.