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‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Demon Slayer’ Beat Box-Office Expectations for a $55 Million Weekend

“Mortal Kombat” is on HBO Max, but young men showed up at theaters to create one of the best box-office weekends in a year.

“Demon Slayer: Mugen Train”

Mortal Kombat” bested “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train” this weekend, but exhibition was the real winner. Both R-rated films targeted the action audience, and they both doubled their pre-opening estimates with a combined gross of $42 million.

The total for all revenues will come to around $55 million, which is 25 percent better than any weekend since theater closures began and ahead of March 13-15 last year, the weekend before exhibition shut down. It’s a significant step on the steep climb toward recovery.

“Mortal Kombat” took in an estimated $22.5 million — more than “Tenet” grossed in its first eight days. That’s $6 million more than “Wonder Woman 1984” — over Christmas weekend, no less. Per the first-day survey, the moviegoers were predominantly young, male and non-white.

This achievement also came while being available on HBO Max, and while many theaters are still not open. Perhaps most impressive is it succeeded while facing a competitor that sought the same audience.

“Demon Slayer,” an animated film based on a popular manga comic, is also the biggest-grossing film all time in Japan. Here, it was viewed as a potential cult success but advance estimates of $10 million seemed optimistic. Instead, this theatrical exclusive will take in around $19.5 million in nearly 50 percent fewer locations than “Mortal,” and a lot less marketing support.

The success of both films shows that among most active moviegoers — i.e, the demographics behind these successes — there’s a viable path for exhibition. We still don’t know if all audiences will return or if the strong starts will sustain, especially as competition returns. Theaters will still face the challenge of corporate content providers committed to maximizing alternative platforms.

Still, this weekend is the most positive in over a year. Credit foremost to Warner Bros., which stuck to releasing films in theaters; its titles account for about 45 percent of the gross this year.

It’s Oscar weekend, and the contenders have mostly been seen via home platforms. Since nominations were announced March 15, Best Picture nominees grossed something under $20 million in theaters. That’s a bit over 10 percent of the total gross for the period; last year, nominees took in $133 million, or about 20 percent of the gross. Of course, last year was pre-pandemic and the films included major studio titles like “Joker,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and “Parasite” — but most of those were also available at home, too.

It’s another anomaly year. We don’t know how many millions of views the films received at home, but the disconnect between the Academy Awards and theater ticket buyers has never been greater — even among the limited number of people going to cinemas at the moment.

The Top Ten

1. Mortal Kombat (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 44; Est. budget: $55 million; also on HBO Max

$22,515,000 in 3,073 theaters; PTA: $7,327; Cumulative: $22,515,000

2. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train (FUNimation) NEW – Metacritic: 81

$19,500,000 in 1,598 theaters; PTA: $12,203; Cumulative: $19,500,000

3. Gozilla vs. Kong (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #1; also on HBO Max

$4,200,000 (-46%) in 2,856 theaters (-145); PTA: $1,471; Cumulative: $86,576,000

4. Nobody (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #2; also on Premium VOD

$1,860,000 (-26%) in 2,252 theaters (-153); PTA: $826; Cumulative: $21,670,000

5. Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #4; also on Premium VOD

$1,680,000 (-13%) in 1,819 theaters (-126); PTA: $924; Cumulative: $39,844,000

6. The Unholy (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #3

$1,400,000 (-32%) in 1,835 theaters (-222); PTA: $763; Cumulative: $11,545,000

7. Tom and Jerry (Warner Bros.) Week 9; Last weekend #5; also on Premium VOD

$650,000 (-42%) in 1,930 theaters (-98); PTA: $337; Cumulative: $43,472,000

8. Together Together (Bleecker Street) NEW – Metacritic: 70

$522,440 in 665 theaters; PTA: $786; Cumulative: $522,440

9. The Girl Who Believes in Miracles (Atlas) Week 4; Last weekend #7

$(est.) 335,000 (-40%) in 941 theaters (-71); PTA: $; Cumulative: $(est.) 2,477,000

10. The Courier (Roadside Attractions) Week 6; Last weekend #9; also on Premium VOD

$264,175 in 713 theaters; PTA: $370; Cumulative: $5,942,000

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