March kicks off with the latest installment of a long-running sports franchise that did far better than projections and launches a month that could offer the strongest recovery for the box office yet.
This Past Weekend
After starring with the original Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, in two spin-off installments of the popular boxing franchise, Michael B. Jordan ventured behind the camera for his directorial debut on Creed III.
Even before being released into 4,007 theaters on Friday by MGM, who really could use another non-Bond hit, Creed III made $5.5 million in previews on Wednesday and Thursday, which was then rolled into the movie’s $22 million Friday. MGM reports an estimated $58.7 million for the weekend, claiming it to be the highest-opening sports movie of all time, although it’s a little too close to the opening of Sony’s 2010 The Karate Kid to make that claim.
The “Creed” movies were spun-off from Stallone’s popular “Rocky” boxing franchise that reigned in the ’70s and ’80s but faltered after the first four movies. After two more attempts by Stallone to save his action series, filmmaker Ryan Coogler took over in 2015 with frequent leading man Jordan playing the role of Adonis Creed, son of Rocky’s long-time rival, Apollo Creed. The first two “Creed” movies grossed more than $100 million in North America after opening over Thanksgiving in 2015 and 2018.
Critics and audiences seemed to enjoy “Creed III” almost equally, as it went into the weekend with an impressive 87% score on Rotten Tomatoes, while audiences gave it an “A-” rating on polling service CinemaScore.
“Creed III” added another $41.8 million overseas for an impressive global opening of $100.4 million, with $9.6 million of that coming from global IMAX screens. (North America made twice as much in IMAX with $6.5 million to the $3.1 million made overseas on IMAX screens.) France and the UK claimed the biggest international openings, with $7.7 and $6.1 million, respectively. This is indeed the biggest non-Bond hit for the venerable studio bought by Amazon just a few years back, which should bolster the company’s plans on focusing on some of its most popular IP over the next few years.
Despite also starring Majors, Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania took another major crash in its third weekend, dropping 61% to second place with $12.5 million with a still respectable domestic cume of $186.8 million. Maybe there’s some consolation in Marvel’s latest crossing $400 million globally this weekend, but Ant-Man continues to be the company’s red-headed stepchild, at least as far as audiences are concerned.
Universal‘s hit Cocaine Bear took third place with $11 million (down 53% from its opening weekend) with $41.3 million grossed domestically. Reportedly budgeted at $35 million, the Elizabeth Banks-directed horror-comedy grossed another $3.3 million overseas for a global total of $52 million, so it’s close to breaking even.
Crunchyroll released its anime sequel, Demon Slayer: To the Swordsmith Village, into 1,774 on Friday with no previews, but it still brought in $4.2 million to open in second place on Friday ahead of Ant-Man and the Wasp. It grossed an estimated $10.1 million for the weekend, roughly $5,693 per venue, so slightly better than Crunchyroll’s November release, One Piece Film: Red, which opened with $9.3 million but then quickly crashed and burned after opening weekend.
Lionsgate‘s historical faith-based drama, Jesus Revolution, dropped 46% to fifth place with $8.7 million in its second weekend, bringing its domestic total to $30.6 million.
Guy Ritchie‘s action-comedy, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, starring Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Hugh Grant, and Josh Hartnett, was picked up by Lionsgate (from the failed STXfilms) for a release this weekend, announced just a few short weeks ago. By then, the movie had already been released in many other countries, which didn’t help the movie make more than $3.2 million over the weekend in 2,150 theaters after opening with $1 million on Friday. ($220,000 of that came from Friday previews.)
Critics (at least those who were allowed to see the movie) weren’t too hot on the movie, with 52% on Rotten Tomatoes from 104 reviews. Despite it bombing, Ritchie’s film also scored a “B+” CinemaScore, but we’ll have to see if it is still in the top 10 next weekend. (It won’t lose as many theaters as other movies currently in theaters.)
For the first time since opening, both 20th Century‘s Avatar: The Way of Water and DreamWorks Animation‘s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, fell out of the top five with James Cameron‘s sequel taking sixth place with $3.6 million (down 27%) and Puss in Boots dropping to eighth place with $2.7 million (-34%). Cameron’s latest blockbuster is so close to surpassing his 2009 hit, Titanic, with $670.6 million grossed domestically. It took a little longer, but Puss in Boots has also passed the $450 million mark globally.
Even with a high-profile sequel this weekend, there was just no way it could outperform Matt Reeves‘ relaunch of The Batman, starring former Twilight star, Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell, and Paul Dano, which Warner Bros. released into 4,417 theaters this weekend last year. The even darker take on DC’s Dark Knight took in $56.6 million just on Friday (with $21.6 million of that in previews), which is almost as much as Creed III made its entire first weekend. The Batman ended up with $134 million in its first weekend, leading to three weeks at #1 and a domestic total of $369.3 million. It also insured inevitably that this weekend at the box office (at least) would be down from the same weekend last year.
Even with Creed III doing so well this weekend, that’s not going to be the end of the March Madness of big movie sequels with Paramount releasing Scream VI, the sequel to its 2022 horror hit that revived Wes Craven‘s popular horror franchise from the ’90s. Last year, horror filmmaking collective Radio Silence, led by directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, took over the franchise with the January-released Scream, which opened with $30 million despite the rising Omicron variant. It was received fairly well by critics and fans alike, and it ended up with $81.6 million domestic and $138.9 worldwide.
Although that was less than Craven’s first three movies, that was more than twice the amount made by Scream 4 in 2011, four years before Craven’s death. Radio Silence brought back many popular characters from the original series, but also introduced new characters played by Melissa Barrera and the now super-hot Jenna Ortega, thanks to her starring role on Netflix’s Wednesday. (She also hosts Saturday Night Live next weekend.) Scream VI moves the action out of Woodsboro to New York City, and this will be the first of the movies not starring Neve Campbell, although Ortega’s presence should more than make up for that.
Reviews for Scream VI won’t be released until sometime Tuesday night, but early reactions seem to be fairly good so far – not that you can always trust the thoughts of junketeers hours before they interview talent – and of course, interest towards horror continues to do quite well this year.
The highest-opening for a movie in the Scream franchise was Scream 3‘s $34.7 million in 2000, and due to the quick turnaround in releasing Scream VI after last year’s hit should allow the new movie to do at least that well, or at least, come darn near close.
Meanwhile, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the writers of another Paramount hit, A Quiet Place, go back behind the camera to direct their most high-profile release yet, the sci-fi thriller, 65, starring Adam Driver as an astronaut whose spaceship travels back in time to 65,000 B.C. Also starring Chloe Coleman from My Spy, this is the type of high concept premise with which the duo have made a name for themselves, the trailers promising big screen dinosaur action, which is never a bad thing. Unless it’s trying to take on a sure thing like a long-running horror franchise.
To say that Sony is hiding or even burying this sci-fi thriller would be an understatement, since they’ll only be screening it for critics in New York and L.A. on Thursday afternoon, not exactly a display of confidence on the studio’s part. This is nothing new for Sony’s Screen Gems genre division, but it’s becoming more and more the case for “big Sony” as well. This one will probably be capped at $15 million for the weekend, despite being released into approximately 3,200 theaters.
On top of that, Focus Features is releasing Bobby Farrelly‘s solo feature directorial debut, Champions, starring Woody Harrelson, into over 3,000 theaters, making it one of the studio’s wider releases since Robert Eggers‘ The Northman last year. Harrelson has been doing the talk show rounds (and he ALSO hosted Saturday Night Live) to promote this sports comedy that has him playing a disgraced basketball coach forced to coach a Special Olympics basketball team as community service.
Reviews won’t hit for this until sometime Tuesday, but this is such a feel-good comedy with Harrelson joined by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star, Kaitlin Olson, that it could pull in some word-of-mouth business from earlier previews. In other words, this is a crowd-pleasing movie that’s not necessarily for the critics, which should allow it to place in the top five with between $5 and 6 million.
There’s a surprising dearth in high-profile limited releases this weekend, though Florian Sigl‘s movie based on the Mozart opera, The Magic Flute, exec. produced by Roland Emmerich, is being released by Shout! Studios into over 300 theaters with a cast that includes Jack Wolfe, F. Murray Abraham, Iwan Rheon, and Asha Banks.
Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.net, The Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film Journal, The New York Daily News, Den of Geek, and other places.