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Box Office Breakdown: Super Mario Bros. Takes Its Billion-Dollar Victory Lap Pre-Guardians of the Galaxy

April comes to a close with one movie dominating so boldly, it was almost forgivable how poorly most of the other releases did, though this coming weekend starts the anticipated summer movie season, which hopes to keep things rolling. (Look for Above the Line‘s summer box office preview sometime early this week.)

This Past Weekend

Right about now, Universal Pictures may be regretting its lawsuit against Nintendo back in the early ’80s while trying to protect its copyright for King Kong, because the animated The Super Mario Bros. Movie is now the first movie of 2023 to cross the billion mark worldwide. Domestically, it’s whizzed by every other animated movie produced by Illumination Entertainment, and this weekend, it even passed Disney blockbuster sequels like Frozen II and Finding Dory to enter the top 20 domestic blockbusters of all time.

As of Thursday, Super Mario Bros. had grossed $450 million, only one of 25 movies to ever cross that mark domestically, and it added another estimated $40 million over the weekend (down 33 percent) in 4,204 theaters to bring its domestic total to $490 million.

Overseas, the Nintendo hit finally opened in Japan and North Korea for $14.3 million and $5.7 million respectively, adding to its $68.3 million overseas total for the weekend. As mentioned, it’s the first movie of 2023 to cross the billion dollar mark globally with $1.02 billion, just waiting for the first summer movie to catch up to it.

The New Line horror reboot, Evil Dead Rise, remained in second place with $12.2 million, down 50 percent from its opening weekend, with $44.4 million grossed domestically. It added another $14.2 million internationally this weekend for a global total of $86.5 million, which might bode well for creator Sam Raimi to make a follow-up to it, rather than waiting another 10 years.

Lionsgate had high hopes for its adaptation of Kelly Fremon Craig‘s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, starring Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, and Benny Safdie, but despite fantastic reviews (99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), the movie didn’t even come close to projections, making an estimated $6.8 million in 3,343 theaters or $2,034 average per location. Its third place opening must seem like a disappointment, especially since audiences seemed to like the movie as much as critics did, going by its “A” CinemaScore.

Lionsgate has done considerably better with Keanu ReevesJohn Wick: Chapter 4, which became the highest-grossing movie in the franchise with another $5 million this weekend (down 14 percent) for a domestic total of $176.2 million. Normally, an R-rated male-targeted movie like Wick wouldn’t be able to remain in the top 5 for six weeks, but even with Evil Dead Rise, there just hasn’t been particularly strong adult-oriented genre fare in April.

Lucasfilm decided to give the third “Star Wars” movie, Return of the Jedi, a 40th anniversary re-release into 475 theaters this weekend. Even without many premium screens (i.e. IMAX, Dolby), it still was able to average almost $10k per theater (on par with Super Mario) to make $4.7 million for fifth place.

Paramount Pictures‘ action-adventure Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, also continues to hold up well sans stronger fare, and this weekend, it made another $4.1 million (down 25 percent) for sixth place to bring its total to $88.2 million.

It even pulled ahead of Ben Affleck‘s Air, starring Matt Damon and Viola Davis, which made another $4 million this weekend (down 27 percent) to bring its total to $47.6 million, quite a theatrical coup for Amazon Studios.

The Telugu-language sequel, Ponniyin Selvan: Part II, opened in 600 theaters where it made roughly $3.8 million, which is less than the $4 million made by the previous chapter in fewer theaters.

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant dropped to ninth place in its second weekend with $3.6 million (down 43%) for a weak $12.3 million total as its last ditch effort in the top 10.

At least Lionsgate was able to bolster its weekend with the surprise hit, SISU, from Finland filmmaker Jalmari Helander – look for our interview with him soon – which opened in 1,006 theaters, undoubtedly the widest release for a movie from Finland into North America. It brought in a reported $3.3 million for the weekend or $3,231 per location, which was better than Margaret.

Sony just hasn’t had a very good year, not helped at all by how badly its biopic, Big George Foreman, starring Khris Davis and Forest Whitaker, bombed over the weekend, making an estimated $3 million in 3,054 theaters to open outside the Top 10.

Although A24 expanded Ari Aster‘s Beau is Afraid, starring Joaquin Phoenix, into 2,125 locations this weekend, doubling its domestic presence, it still took a tumble right out of the top 10 with just $1.4 million, down 49% from last weekend.

Focus Features‘ decision to release We Are Lady Parts creator Nida Manjoor‘s coming-of-age comedy Polite Society into 927 theaters didn’t fare much better, as it opened with just $800k or an average $863 per theater.

Sideshow/Janus Films released the foreign drama, The Eight Mountains, into two New York locations on Friday, where it brought in $36,000 or $18,000 per theater with plans to expand to L.A. on May 5.

Weekend Box Office

Rank Entry Distributor Revenue Theater Count Total Revenue
1 The Super Mario Bros. Movie Universal $40,835,805 4,204 $490,851,630
2 Evil Dead Rise Warner Bros. $12,131,173 3,417 $44,347,368
3 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Lionsgate $6,739,037 3,343 $6,739,037
4 Star Wars Ep. VI: Return of the Jedi 20th Century Studios $5,100,654 475 $314,305,733
5 John Wick: Chapter 4 Lionsgate $4,865,706 2,481 $176,021,002
6 Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Paramount Pictures $4,171,348 2,709 $88,231,735
7 AIR Amazon Studios $4,006,136 2,402 $47,632,574
8 Ponniyin Selvan: Part II (பொன்னியின் செல்வன்: பாகம் 2) Zee Studios $3,813,000 600 $3,813,000
9 Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant MGM $3,595,774 2,631 $12,274,737
10 Sisu Lionsgate $3,330,891 1,006 $3,330,891


Last Year

Liam Neeson Memory
Liam Neeson in Memory / Open Road Films

There was only one new wide release offered over the April closing weekend last year, Liam Neeson‘s crime-drama Memory, which Open Road released into 2,555 theaters, though it didn’t matter much, since it only opened in eighth place with $3.1 million. DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys led the top 10 with $16.2 million, followed by Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with $11.5 million.

Upcoming 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3
(L-R) Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 / Marvel Studios-Disney

After four weeks of The Super Mario Bros. dominating the box office, along comes Marvel Studios with its second sequel of the year, with filmmaker James Gunn ending his run at the studio with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, getting a typical release into over 4,000 theaters. This will be Marvel’s fifth sequel in a row, as it’s relegated the introduction of new characters to the Disney+ streaming service.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 kicked off the summer movie season in 2017 with a $146.5 million opening on its way to $389.8 million domestic and $869 million globally, but the continuation of its story was disrupted by the two-part Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame in 2018 and 2019. At the same time, a third movie was delayed when Gunn was cancelled for comments made on Twitter, so instead, he went over to Warners to direct The Suicide Squad. That, in turn, led to him writing and directing the HBO Max series, Peacemaker, before becoming co-head of DC Entertainment with producer Peter Safran earlier this year. COVID probably didn’t help matters in Gunn concluding his trilogy, but he was able to crank out a Christmas Special on Disney+ just to keep fans excited.

Before getting into his relaunch of the DC brand with Superman Legacy in 2025, Gunn reunited the entire cast from the previous movies, including Chris Pratt – by far, one of the most successful actors working today, regardless of whether you like him or not  – Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, with the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. They’re joined by Will Poulter as Adam Warlock and Chukwudi Iwuji (Peacemaker) as the High Evolutionary, two of Marvel’s cosmic characters.

Going beyond the opening for Guardians, Vol 2, the end of the trilogy comes after four sequels that opened with more than $100 million, ranging from last year’s Doctor Strange into the Multiverse of Madness with an $187.4 million opening and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with $181.3 million to February’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and its $106.1 million opening. (How far have we come that the box office has survived a full-on pandemic, and we’re back to a movie opening with more than $100 million being considered a “bomb”?)

Guardians, Vol. 3 is looking more likely for an opening in the $140 to 150 million range ala Taika Waititi‘s Thor: Love and Thunder last year (in which the Guardians had a prominent cameo), with reviews generally being mixed to positive (on par with 2021’s Black Widow) and much of the focus being put on Rocket’s emotional origin story. Kicking off the summer after a relatively slow month (for all but one movie) gives Vol. 3 a chance at opening on par with Vol. 2, but maybe with even slightly more.

Love Again
Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Sam Heughan in Love Again / Sony Pictures

Offering some awkward counterprogramming is Sony’s romantic dramedy, Love Again, starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, and Celine Dion (as herself). It’s the new movie directed by Jim Strouse (Grace is Gone), which will be released into 2,800 theaters in hopes of getting some business away from Guardians. It involves a woman who loses her husband who then connects with the new man who inherits his cell phone number.

Sony has not been doing great so far this year with many low-key releases being dumped with little fanfare ala this one. Other than the popularity of Jonas (and her musical husband) and Dion, there doesn’t seem to be much of general interest for audiences that might get them into theaters to see this. Because of that, this might not do much better than Big George Foreman, although it could still get into the top 10 with so many returning movies losing theaters to Guardians.


Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas

Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.netThe Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film JournalThe New York Daily NewsDen 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.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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