We may not be able to see the effects of National Cinema Day until actual box office numbers are released on Monday afternoon, but the weekend before Labor Day is notorious for being one of the worst weekends to release a new movie, so we’ll have to see how that helps. Furthermore, Denzel Washington returns with his first ultrawide release in five years with The Equalizer 3, which you can read about below as well.
This Past Weekend
The presumptive winner of the weekend was going to be Sony’s Gran Turismo, a real-life racing biopic that also happens to relate to the popular Playstation racing simulator. Very last minute, Sony decided to delay the movie for two weeks into what is normally a terrible weekend to release a new movie, but the mindset was to allow for more previews to build word-of-mouth and interest in the story of Jann Mardenborough, as played by Archie Madekwe (Midsommar). Directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9), the movie also starred David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, and Djimon Hounsou.
Sony reported just $1.4 million in Thursday previews, but that didn’t include another reported $3.9 million from earlier previews, so it’s Friday take of almost $8.5 million in 3,856 theaters was somewhat deceptive. Sony has reported a weekend take of $17.3 million, which accounts for the movie’s frontloading but also projects its bump from National Cinema Day.
Overseas, Gran Turismo added another $11 million with $2.2 million from its Mexico debut, bringing its international take to $36.5 million, having opened outside North America two weeks back. With its domestic opening, it’s grossed $53.8 million so far globally.
Whenever there’s a close race for first place, there’s going to be controversy, and of course, Warner Bros. – who now has the highest-grossing blockbuster of the year and of its entire 100-year-plus history – took issue with Gran Turismo winning the weekend with over $5 million coming from previews.
MONDAY UPDATE: Gran Turismo has won the weekend proper with $17.3 million, while Warner Bros. ended up overestimating the effects of National Cinema Day and only grossed $15.1 million to take second place.
Warner Bros reported that Greta Gerwig‘s Barbie made an estimated $17.1 million this weekend in 3,850 theaters to take second place, down just 19 percent from last weekend, as it has grossed $594.8 million, less than $6 million away from $600 million. Overseas, Barbie added another $18.2 million, which is enough to put its global total over $1.34 billion, making it Warners’ highest-grossing blockbuster worldwide ever, surpassing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
Warners’ superhero movie, Blue Beetle, which was #1 last weekend, dropped to third place with $12.8 million, down 49 percent, but also getting a projected bump from National Cinema Day’s $4 movie tickets. It has grossed $46.3 million, which is not great for a movie that’s clearly taken a backseat to Barbie for the studio.
Universal settled on fourth place for Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer with $9 million, down 16 percent, to put its domestic just over the $300 million mark, making it Nolan’s biggest domestic non-Batman hit. It added another $29.1 million overseas this weekend with $9.2 million from its debut in Italy to bring its global total to $777.2 million. Oppenheimer has grossed $154.5 million just from global IMAX screens, which may be why IMAX has repeatedly extended the movie’s run in IMAX 70mm theaters.
Paramount‘s animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem took fifth place with a projected $6.1 million, down 29 percent, with $98.1 million grossed through Sunday, allowing it to join the $100 million club for the summer.
The Warners action sequel Meg 2: The Trench, starring Jason Statham, had a 25 percent drop in its fourth weekend, to remain in sixth place with $5.1 million in 2,932 theaters for a domestic total of $74.4 million. It continues to do much better overseas where it opened in Japan with $2.9 million for an international weekend take of $15.2 million and a global box office of $352.5 million.
The R-rated comedy Strays dropped to seventh place with $4.7 million (down 44 percent) with a definite Sunday bump from National Cinema Day that will help it hit $16.1 million domestic, which is no consolation as Universal just can’t have a summer hit outside Oppenheimer.
There were other new movies in wide release this weekend, as Roadside Attractions released Liam Neeson‘s action-thriller Retribution, directed by Nimród Antal, into 1,750 theaters, though with horrid reviews, it was never going to do well. Sure enough, it opened with an estimated $3.3 million, less than $2,000 per venue, which was par for the course this weekend.
Briarcliff, normally the proponent for Neeson action movies, instead went with the faith-based inspirational sports story of The Hill, starring Dennis Quaid, which opened in 1,570 theaters on Friday but was only able to pull in $2.5 million or $1,605 per theater.
There’s a bit of a feeding frenzy for tenth place between three movies vying to stay in the conversation, with Disney putting Haunted Mansion just slightly ahead of A24‘s Talk to Me and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 2, with $2.1 million.
Bleecker Street just can’t get a movie into the top 10, although Guy Nattiv‘s biodrama, Golda, starring Helen Mirren, did get Wednesday previews via Fathom Events, which helped it make $1.7 million over the weekend in 883 theaters, less than $2,000 per theater. (Also, check out Abe Friedtanzer‘s excellent interview with Golda director Guy Nattiv.)
MGM released Shiva Baby director Emma Seligman‘s raunchy high school comedy, Bottoms, starring Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri, which has received rave reviews since its SXSW Film Festival debut, into ten theaters in New York, L.A., Austin and San Fran on Friday. It fared decently with $516,000 or $51.6k per theater. Bottoms will expand to 700 theaters on Friday, and you can read more about below.
|Rank||Entry||Distributor||Revenue||Theater Count||Total Revenue|
|1||Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story||Sony Pictures||$17,410,552||3,856||$17,410,552|
|3||Blue Beetle||Warner Bros.||$12,158,119||3,871||$45,701,809|
|5||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem||Paramount Pictures||$7,289,592||3,145||$99,332,726|
|7||Meg 2: The Trench||Warner Bros.||$4,802,337||2,932||$74,135,142|
|9||The Hill||Briarcliff Entertainment||$2,301,931||1,570||$2,301,931|
|10||Talk To Me||A24||$2,088,501||1,321||$41,066,389|
Just to give you a better idea how bad this weekend is historically, there were only three new wide releases on this weekend last year. One of them topped the box office with just $6.8 million, the other one (from an Oscar-winning filmmaker) opened with less than $3 million, and Bleecker Street released another movie that opened under a million.
The biggest “success” of the weekend (if you can call it that) was Sony’s vampiric horror-thriller The Invitation, starring Nathalie Emmanuel, which topped the weekend with just $6.8 million in 3,114 theaters, which would be bad for before the pandemic but also showed how bad last summer was compared to this one.
Second place went to Bullet Train with $5.6 million, followed in third place by Idris Elba‘s Beast with $4.9 million, a 58 percent drop from its opening weekend.
Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller returned with Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Tilda Swinton and also Elba, released by MGM into 2,436 theaters, in which it grossed $2.9 million. Not good.
John Boyega and the late Michael Kenneth Williams starred in Breaking, a crime-thriller released by Bleecker Street into 902 theaters where it only made $985,921 or $1,093 per theater to open in 15th place.
It’s Labor Day weekend, and there’s one new wide release. In most circumstances, it would be a big one, since it’s the third movie in filmmaker Antoine Fuqua‘s action-thriller series, The Equalizer 3, once again starring Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, the black ops commando who takes to fighting crime and protecting those that need protecting. For this one, McCall travels to Southern Italy, and ends up getting into trouble with the mob… or rather, they get into trouble with him. Yup, it’s The Equalizer meets The Godfather, as Washington stars in his first nationwide theatrical release in five years. (The thriller, The Little Things, was released into 2,171 theaters in Jan. 2021 as theaters in New York and L.A. remained closed and barely made $15 million domestic.)
Another bonus for this third movie in the series is that Washington is reuniting with Dakota Fanning for the first time since 2004’s Man on Fire, directed by Tony Scott, Fanning having only been ten years old when she starred opposite Washington in that popular cult classic.
Fuqua’s first Equalizer movie opened in Sept. 2014, following its Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) premiere, with a solid $34 million on its way to just over $100 million domestic. Its sequel opened in July 2018 with $36 million to gross roughly the same domestically. (Both movies made about $90 million overseas, proving Washington to be one of the stronger African-American actors in terms of international draw, maybe second only to Will Smith.)
The Equalizer 3 is being released right in between the other two, hoping to take advantage of the Labor Day “last weekend of summer” concept, which should allow it to open around the same general area, maybe $35 to 37 million plus for the four-day weekend.
(Look for Jeff Sneider‘s interview with director Antoine Fuqua sometime this week.)
Rolling out wider, and possibly even nationwide, is Emma Seligman’s raunchy comedy Bottoms, starring Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri, playing queer high schoolers, who hatch a crazy scheme to hook up with cheerleaders by creating a fight club.
Seligman comes from the world of indie with her popular debut, Shiva Baby, also starring Sennott, but Bottoms is a far more high-concept studio comedy in the vein of a female-centric Porky’s. MGM released the movie into ten theaters in select cities (see above), and is now expanding it nationwide in hopes of capitalizing buzz from those screenings.
Reviews and word-of-mouth have been solid for the movie since it rolled out at the SXSW Film Festival back in March, but Joy Ride also debuted there with solid reviews and that barely made any money in theaters. Although Universal’s Strays from last week didn’t premiere at a festival, it also floundered after being delayed from earlier in the summer.
That’s not to say that a comedy can’t do well over Labor Day, especially as counter-programming, but this will definitely be targeting older teen and 20-something audiences in fairly liberal areas. Unfortunately, many parts of our country still has massive homophobia and an intolerance towards anything even remotely “woke,” which Bottoms certainly is. MGM plans to expand Bottoms into 700 theaters this weekend, which should allow it to end up somewhere between $2 and 3 million over the four-day weekend.
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.