The summer movie season is officially off to the races, not with the enormous record-breaking blockbuster we have frequently seen from Marvel Studios, but with something slightly more subdued. In case you missed it, my summer box office preview ran last week, and already, the narrative is being changed by finicky moviegoers, who want nothing other than superhero movies… until they don’t.
This Past Weekend
James Gunn may have taken a bit of a tangent before completing his trilogy with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, but he returned to it with the entire returning cast back for more, most notably Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, as well as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel in key voice roles. They were joined this time by Will Poulter as Adam Warlock and Chukwudi Iwuji as the High Evolutionary, as well as Maria Bakalova, Sylvester Stallone, and more.
Walt Disney released Marvel’s latest into 4,450 theaters nationwide on Friday, but not before the normal Thursday previews, which brought in $17.5 million, not much more than the 2017 sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, which ultimately made $389.8 million. That also opened with $146.5 million and Vol. 3 didn’t even come close, with just 48.2 million on Friday and an estimated $114 million over the three-day weekend. (MONDAY UPDATE: Actual box office for Guardians’ openign weekend is $118.4 million.)
The movie ultimately received mixed reviews but better reviews than some other recent Marvel movies, scoring an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics but a far more positive 95% audience score, confirmed by the movie’s “A” CinemaScore, the same for both previous movies.
The conclusion of Gunn’s trilogy did better overseas with another $168.1 million for a global opening of $282.1 million, which really isn’t so bad. Being allowed to open in China helped, since the Middle Kingdom alone brought in $28.1 million, twice as much as the next biggest region, the United Kingdom, with $14.7 million.
$25 million of Guardians’ global opening came from the IMAX screens on which it debuted, broken down to $10.7 million domestic, $5.6 million in China, and $8.7 million in the rest of the world.
Universal and Imagination Entertainment’s massive animated hit, The Super Mario Bros. Movie (also featuring Pratt in a voice role) took its first big hit since opening over Easter weekend, although that’s at the same time as it crossed the $500 million mark. It made $18.6 million this weekend, down 54% from last weekend, to bring its domestic cume to $518.1 million. (As far as domestic records, that makes it the 17th-highest domestic grosser, putting it right between Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Rogue One.
Mario Bros. grossed another $50.3 million overseas this weekend, with another $18.2 million grossed in Japan, the video game’s country of origin, where the movie has made $48.4 million with a more recent release than the rest of the world.
New Line’s horror reboot, Evil Dead Rise, originally intended as fodder for HBO Max, took third place with $5.7 million, down 53 percent, from last weekend with $54.1 million grossed domestically and another $9.1 overseas this weekend. With an international total of $60.7 million, the movie has grossed $114.8 million in theaters globally.
The Judy Blume adaptation, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig – look for an interview with her soon – dropped to fourth place with $3.4 million, down 50 percent from its opening weekend with $12.7 million grossed so far.
The other wide release was the rom-com Love Again, starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, and Celine Dion, which Sony dropped (literally) into 2,703 theaters, hoping for the best. After an awful $240,000 on Thursday in previews, the movie made less than a million on Friday (including those previews) and ended up with an estimated $2.4 million for the weekend. Even with such a dismal opening, it still managed to open in fifth place, but don’t expect it to stay in the top 10 for very long going by the horrible reviews with Sony once again (wisely?) hiding the movie from critics, as well as holding the movie’s CinemaScore to avoid ridicule in box office reports such as this one. The Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 94% might not mean that much.
Other than Guardians and Super Mario, the big box office story of the weekend may be how many theaters dropped other returning movies, with only a few exceptions. Maybe it’s a little inside baseball, but that is something that will be coming up again and again over the summer, as studios try to make deals to keep their blockbusters in theaters as long as possible. You can see from Thursday’s theater count chart that many movies lost 700 theaters or more, with April’s Renfield and The Pope’s Exorcist being dumped especially hard as they hit VOD.
Even so, Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 4, starring Keanu Reeves, still brought in $2.36 million for sixth place right behind Love Again, down 53 percent with a domestic total of $180 million, the best for the franchise.
Dungeons & Dragons, Air, and Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant followed, each with 60 percent or greater drops for less than $2 million, although the first two movies’ $90 million and $50 million total domestic grosses are nothing to scoff at.
Essentially, one major blockbuster was replaced by another this weekend, leaving room for little else. You can scroll down to the bottom of this week’s column to see if that phenomenon will continue through this coming weekend.
Shout! Studios released another rom-com release into 560 theaters, although What’s Love Got To Do With It? from director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) did not report weekend estimates at the time of this writing.
|Rank||Entry||Distributor||Revenue||Theater Count||Total Revenue|
|1||Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3||Walt Disney||$118,414,021||4,450||$118,414,021|
|2||The Super Mario Bros. Movie||Universal||$18,551,620||3,909||$518,079,325|
|3||Evil Dead Rise||Warner Bros.||$5,879,485||3,036||$54,250,975|
|4||Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret||Lionsgate||$3,245,195||3,343||$12,512,609|
|5||Love Again||Sony Pictures||$2,405,000||2,703||$2,405,000|
|6||John Wick: Chapter 4||Lionsgate||$2,348,610||1,658||$180,045,876|
|7||Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves||Paramount Pictures||$1,463,289||1,751||$90,884,920|
|9||Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant||MGM||$1,236,632||1,807||$14,794,184|
Marvel’s 2022 summer kick-off movie, Doctor Strange into the Multiverse of Madness, directed by horror legend Sam Raimi, fared far better than Guardians this weekend, possibly boosted by Benedict Cumberbatch’s title character playing a large part in the global blockbuster, Spider-Man: No Way Home. The movie made an impressive $36 million in Thursday previews, which led to a $90.7 million opening day (nearly twice as much as Guardians) and eventually opened with $187.4 million in 4,534 theaters or $41,337 per theater. It was one of the best openings for a solo Marvel movie after 2018’s Black Panther and 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, and it would even exceed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever later that year. The movie would go onto gross $411 domestically and $540.9 million overseas.
Most of the returning family-friendly movies held up well with DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys taking second place with $9.6 million (down 41 percent), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 taking third place with $6 million (down 49 percent), and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in fourth with $4.3 million (down 49 percent). A24’s eventual Oscar Best Picture winner, Everything Everywhere All at Once, took fifth with $3.5 million, down just 36 percent, despite losing 671 theaters.
Sony Pictures Classics released the late Roger Michell’s final film, The Duke, starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, into 350 theaters (following an Oscar qualifying run in 2021), but it failed to make a mark, opening in 12th place with $371,378 or about $1,000 per theater, clearly showing this had been sitting on the shelf too long since its premiere during the Sept. festival season a year prior.
Although Guardians of the Galaxy shouldn’t have too much problem winning a second weekend in a row, Sunday is Mother’s Day, which means it’s time to spoil your mother, wife or Baby Momma.
The widest new release and probably the most apt to do relatively well due to its appeal to mothers is the comedy sequel, Book Club: The Next Chapter, released by Focus Feature into 3,000 theaters. Once again starring Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen, the sequel from Bill Holderman and Erin Simms takes the long-time best friends to Italy for a bachelorette trip for Bergen’s character, marrying Don Johnson, another returnee from the original movie.
The original movie opened in May 2018 to $13.6 million and made $68.5 million domestic and another $37.7 million overseas, but it was also released by Paramount, who passed on the option for a sequel.
Although Sony tried to offer counterprogramming with this past week’s Love Again, Book Club: The Next Chapter is much stronger in that regard, since it’s unlike anything else in theaters. In some ways, it harks back to Paramount’s February release, 80 for Brady, also starring Fonda, which opened with $12.7 million in more theaters, but without the potential Mother’s Day bump.
Book Club: The Next Chapter should be able to open in the same $12 to 14 million range as the original movie, regardless of how reviews pan out.
Under normal circumstances, a new movie from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez would be a big event movie, but for some reason, his sci-fi thriller, Hypnotic, starring Ben Affleck amidst his victory lap for Air, hasn’t really connected or made much of an impression since original distributor, Solstice Studios, folded. In the movie, Affleck plays a detective looking for his daughter.
It’s being released in an unknown number of theaters by a smaller distributor called Ketchup Entertainment, and though there have been trailers out in front of other movies this year, it’s hard to imagine this will make more than $7 or 8 million this weekend, mostly relying on Affleck’s older male fanbase.
Also this weekend, Sony is releasing Knights of the Zodiac, a live action adaptation of the Japanese anime, Saint Seiya Sagam, directed by Tomasz Baginski and starring Mackenyu, Famke Janssen, Mark Dacascos, Nick Stahl, and Sean Bean. It’s only opening in roughly 750 theaters, but Sony likey won’t be screening until hours before its release, and it will be relying the anime fans that have been fairly unreliable in the past few months, as Sony subsidiary Crunchyroll can attest. Expect this to make $2 to 3 million to get into the top 10 but not much more.
Also opening moderately is Charlie Day’s directorial debut, Fool’s Paradise, a star-studded ensemble comedy in which Day (also in Super Mario Bros.) plays a fool for love who becomes a celebrity. Unfortunately, Day’s commitment to the WGA kept him from getting out there to promote his movie, which Roadside Attractions will release into a few hundred theaters on Friday.
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.