April is off to a great start thanks to a better-than-usual Easter weekend, although that didn’t help any of the six new movies that received wide releases this weekend.
This Past Weekend
There were many people who thought Universal‘s animated The Super Mario Bros. Movie would be an enormous blockbuster hit, but far fewer predicted it might cross $300 million domestically in less than two weeks. After making $22.6 million on its second Friday, down 62 percent from the elevated Good Friday, Mario Bros. won its second weekend with an estimated $87 million, which is more than the rest of the top 10 made in total. That is also the highest second weekend for an animated movie ever, surpassing the $86 million second weekend record set by 2019’s Frozen 2. With $347.8 million grossed so far, Super Mario Bros. is not only the highest-grossing movie of 2023, but it’s surpassed the second-highest grosser, Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, by over $120 million.
UPDATE: Actual box office for The Super Mario Bros. Movie ended up being quite a bit more than the Sunday estimates with it bringing in $92.3 million in its second weekend (still a record) and $353.2 million domestically in less than two weeks.
Overseas, Super Mario Bros. took in another $94.1 million from 71 territories, bringing its international total to $330 million and its global total to $678 million. With no other family-friendly movies until June, it should continue to lead the way for the rest of April.
Second place went to Sony‘s horror-thriller, The Pope’s Exorcist, starring Russell Crowe, which came into the weekend with no domestic reviews, although American critics did eventually watch it, giving it mixed to negative reviews. The movie opened in 3,178 theaters where it made an estimated $9.1 million over the weekend after kicking things off with $3.5 million on Friday ($860,000 of that from Thursday previews). It made another $10.4 million overseas this weekend with a $1.1 million launch in Italy and the movie’s global cume currently at $36.6 million.
Third place is a bit more of a crapshoot with three movies making within $500,000 of each other, based on estimates. As of Sunday, Lionsgate is claiming the third place victory for Keanu Reeves‘ John Wick: Chapter 4 with it bringing in an estimated $7.9 million in 3,033 theaters. That brings its running total to $160.1 million, still behind the domestic take for Chapter 3 in 2019.
Universal’s horror-comedy, Renfield, starring Nicholas Hoult as the title character and Nicolas Cage as his toxic master, Dracula, had received some buzz from its premiere at the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans (where the film shot), but its 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes quickly plunged to under 60 percent. The movie received the widest release of the new movies into 3,375 theaters and after making $900,000 in Thursday previews and $3.1 million on Friday, it had to settle for fourth place with an estimated $7.7 million.
Unlike The Pope’s Exorcist, Universal released a CinemaScore for Renfield, which was a poor “B-,” on par with the movie’s lackluster reviews – including one from Above the Line‘s own Isaac Feldberg.
Ben Affleck‘s well-regarded sneaker drama, Air, co-starring Matt Damon and Viola Davis, was right behind it, also having made an estimated $7.7 million this weekend in 3,507 theaters, down 47 percent from its own opening weekend. It has grossed $33.3 million so far, which is quite a coup for Amazon Studios, who rarely has received its box office info.
Paramount‘s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves also dropped 47 percent from Easter weekend with an estimated $7.4 million for sixth place and $74.1 million grossed domestically.
Sony anime division, Crunchyroll, released Suzume, the new film from acclaimed Japanese animation filmmaker Makoto Shinkai, into 2,170 theaters, where it estimated $5 million or $2,304 per theater to open in seventh place.
Bleecker Street Films released the Catherine Hardwicke-directed comedy, Mafia Mamma, starring Toni Collette and Monica Bellucci, into 2,002 theaters, where it brought in an estimated $2 million or $1,019 per theater for eighth place.
The indie horror film, Nefarious, received a wide release into 933 theaters from distributor Soli Deo Gloria Releasing, where it grossed an estimated $1.3 million with a better per-theater average than Mafia Mamma. That was also enough for it to break into the top 10.
Briarcliff released the basketball drama, Sweetwater, into 1,204 theaters, but with very little promotion, it bombed with just $350,000 or $291 per theater.
Ari Aster‘s new absurdist comedy, Beau is Afraid, starring Joaquin Phoenix, was released by A24 into four theaters in New York and L.A. where it scored the best per-theater-average over the 2020s with an estimated $320,000 or $80,000 per venue.
Bob Berney‘s Picturehouse has returned to release Wild Life, the new ecological doc from Oscar winners Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), into two theaters in New York and Washington, D.C., where it made $47,000. The NatGeo production will continue to open in other locations before hitting the streamer.
Just one week after Sonic the Hedgehog 2 topped the charts over Easter weekend, Warner Bros. released Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third (and presumably final) chapter in J.K. Rowlings‘ Harry Potter prequel series. It opened with $42.1 million in 4,208 theaters, lower than the previous two installments.
Sonic 2 dropped to second place with $29.3 million, a 59 percent drop from its opening weekend, with $118.9 million grossed in its first ten days.
A24 continued to expand Daniels‘ future Oscar Best Picture-winner, Everything Everywhere All at Once, into 2,220 theaters nationwide where it took fourth place with $6.2 million, just behind Paramount’s The Lost City.
Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson starred in Rosalind Ross‘ faith-based dramedy biopic, Father Stu, which Sony released into 2,705 theaters, but it didn’t do great, opening in fifth place with $5.4 million or less than $2,000 average per theater.
With the caveat that Super Mario Bros. is likely to continue to run rampant for a third weekend, probably with close to $50 million, Warner Bros. is releasing its horror remake, Evil Dead Rise, directed by Irish filmmaker Lee Cronin, into more than 3,000 theaters, hoping this will do better than the last two planned HBO Max releases that got theatrical releases. (That would be House Party from January and Magic Mike’s Last Dance from February.)
Produced by Sam Raimi‘s Ghost House Pictures (who previously had a release deal through Sony), the movie premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and racked up solid reviews with 95 percent at Rotten Tomatoes, which hopefully will help it in a similar way as that festival has helped other recent movies, including Air and Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Other than this past weekend, horror has generally done well at the box office this year with hits like M3gan and Cocaine Bear, and at least Evil Dead Rise has the namebrand value of the cult horror series created by Raimi with actor Bruce Campbell in the ’80s. The previous Evil Dead remake ten years ago opened with $25.8 million, released by Sony.
At one point, I thought Evil Dead Rise could also open with over $20 million, but with theaters being dominated by so many other movies, this will probably end up with somewhere between $16 and 20 million instead.
Filmmaker Guy Ritchie returns with his second movie of the year, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, which will be released by MGM into over 3,300 theaters Friday. This is a very different movie from Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, a more dramatic story seemingly based on real life involving Staff Sergeant John Kinley (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who is rescued from an ambush by his interpreter Ahmed (Dar Salim), who then becomes the Taliban’s #1 enemy when he’s trapped in Afghanistan.
Wartime dramas like this one have done particularly well, with hits like Peter Berg‘s Lone Survivor and Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, although there have been plenty of other movies that haven’t done quite so well, such as Doug Liman‘s The Wall. It definitely feels like movies that take place in Afghanistan (whether they be true stories like this one, or not) may be losing favor with the Taliban no longer being in the news so much.
This is Ritchie’s fourth movie since 2020 with 2021’s Wrath of Man, starring Jason Statham, being the last one released by MGM to an $8.3 million opening and $27.5 million domestic, opening shortly after movie theaters reopened. This one should have a pretty strong pull with older American males over other movies in theaters, which should allow it to open with between $8 and 10 million.
After its platform release this past weekend, A24 releases Ari Aster’s Beau is Afraid nationwide into an unreported number of theaters. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as a neurotic man with Mommy issues, the movie is hoping to bring in the fanbase from Aster’s previous movies. Heredity made $44 million domestically and $81.2 million globally, although 2019’s Midsommar didn’t fare nearly as well, despite having quite a rabid cult following.
In fact, A24 teased the release of the director’s cut of Midsommar at a few Alamo theaters a few weekends back, which ended up being a sneak preview of Beau, which has received mixed positive reviews. Unlike Aster’s previous two films, Beau isn’t a horror film persé, which might limit its audience even with the Oscar-nominated Joker star as its lead. It will probably be fighting it out with Guy Ritchie for third place with somewhere between $7 and 9 million.
Also on Friday, Searchlight Pictures will release Stephen Williams‘ historic biopic, Chevalier, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Cyrano), into 1,350 theaters. Harrison plays 18th century French composer Joseph Bologne, the illegitimate son of a French plantation owner and an African slave, who found favor under French Queen Marie Antoinette. The movie also stars Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton, Minnie Driver, and Marton Czokas, and after a high-profile premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), it’s been held until mid-April, which doesn’t show a lot of confidence from the studio. (Look for interviews with Williams and Harrison on Above the Line this week.)
Also, Wild Tales filmmaker Damián Szifron returns with the crime-thriller To Catch a Killer, which will get a moderately wide release this weekend via Vertical. It stars Shailene Woodley as a Boston police officer that gets pulled into the FBI’s search for a serial killer with Ben Mendelsohn playing her FBI liaison.
Choreographer Benjamin Millepied‘s directorial debut, Carmen, starring Oscar nominee Paul Mescal and Michelle Barrera (Scream VI), will get some form of platform release by Sony Pictures Classics on Friday, as well.
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 more.
Box Office Breakdown will be posted each week by Monday morning. You can read other features by Edward Douglas over at Below the Line and Above the Line.