Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation faced sobering numbers at this weekend’s North American box office, losing out to The Girl on the Train, according to preliminary box office results.
Both films opened this week in Canada and the U.S.
The Girl on the Train, starring Emily Blunt and adapted from the bestselling thriller by Paula Hawkins, grossed an estimated $24.7 million US ($32.7 million CAD).
The Birth of a Nation, a biopic about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion in the U.S., had a much less successful opening, with $7.1 million US ($9.4 million CAD).
The film, directed by and starring Parker, received rave reviews at many film festivals before officially opening in theatres. It sparked Oscar buzz when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and even broke an acquisition record, after Fox Searchlight Pictures purchased it for a cool $17.5 million US.
But Parker hasn’t been able to escape controversy surrounding a past rape allegation against him. He has maintained his innocence and was acquitted of charges in 2001, but the issue has remained in the spotlight after news surfaced in August that the accuser committed suicide in 2012.
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The film landed in sixth place, behind Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Deepwater Horizon, both of which opened last week.