The animated adaptation of a 40-year-old video game provided the best-yet argument that movie theaters are on the road to a real recovery. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal) grossed $146.4 million this weekend and $204.6 million in its first five days. All told, this weekend grossed an estimated $207 million.
Here’s what’s really impressive: This film had fewer premium screens and only 16 percent of attendees purchased child-price tickets. All told, over 20 million people in the U.S./Canada paid to see Illumination’s latest animated feature this weekend and it’s already within $10 million of the total domestic gross of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (Disney) — currently, the biggest gross among 2023 releases.
We haven’t seen a film (over)perform like this in years. It’s not a critical favorite (47 on Metacritic), but brand appeal meant tracking and pre-sales were high; it was also the first wide family release since “Puss in Boots: The Last Exit” (Universal) over three months ago.
To Universal’s delight, this isn’t behaving like a standard family film: 84 percent of the audience is 13 or older, 52 percent were 25 and older, and 70 percent of the attendees were non-white. The studio managed to market this to a wide audience with results resembling a typical blockbuster.
A few more surprises like this and the year could end up above projections. This weekend made a statement — year to date is now 34 percent ahead of last year (if sustained, that project to a $10 billion 2023 total). It was 43 percent ahead of the same (non-Easter) weekend in 2022. Our rolling four-week comparison to pre-Covid 2019 rose to 90 percent.
Ben Affleck’s “Air” (MGM), representing Amazon’s first move into wide releases for an in-house production, came in (tentatively) as a close #4 for the weekend with just under $14.5 million for the weekend, $20.2 million for its five initial days.
“Air” is bunched in with currently #2 “John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate) and weekend two for #3 “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” (Paramount, down 61 percent), with the three titles only $133,000 apart. This virtual tie for second could see the final result be in any order among the three.
Amazon’s R-rated Air Jordan film also exceeded pre-release expectations by about a third. As an adult-appeal title (39 percent initially 45+), its initial total is encouraging. Its first five days grossed more than the total domestic box-office for any top-category, Oscar-nominated film other than “Avatar: the Way of Water” or “Wakanda Forever.”
Its ultimate success will be judged by how well it holds with hoped-for word-of-mouth, as well as its value for the expected initial PVOD and later Amazon Prime. Its production budget before marketing is reported as $70 million-$90 million; if it achieves an expected domestic total of a $50 million-$60 million, that’s less than breakout.
Even so, the added value of the attention for Amazon would likely justify the effort. (Much of the world opened this week, but weekend totals haven’t been reported). It’s going to take multiple releases to be sure of its strategy, but so far so good for theaters.
The rest of the top 10 came in under $4 million, with holdovers falling from just under 40 percent to 65 percent. That’s normal when strong new films open, although sometimes the holiday boosts older films.
“Paint” (IFC) with Owen Wilson, a comedy inspired by PBS’ “The Joy of Painting,” opened in ninth place with $750,000 in 819 theaters. That’s an unusually wide release for IFC, with an under $1,000 per-theater average but still a high-end first weekend result for the company. It increases awareness for a film that likely counts on VOD viewing to boost its earnings.
Three other significant, more-limited releases show promise. Top grossing among these was environmentalist thriller “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” (Neon). With 12 theaters in six cities, it grossed $120,000. Kelly Reichardt’s acclaimed “Showing Up” with Michelle Williams opened with a two-city, four-theater platform release that came to $66,932 for a PTA of $16,733.
“Joyland” (Oscilloscope) was standout among any individual theater showing. The Pakistani film did a very strong $21,142 at New York’s Film Forum, a great total for any subtitled film. Next week sees two new studio wide releases — “Renfield” (Universal) and “The Pope’s Exorcist” (S0ny). The latter opened to $12 million in 43 territories this weekend.
The Top 10
1. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 47; Est. budget: $100 million
$146,360,000 in theaters; PTA (per theater average): $33,700; Cumulative: $204,628,000
2. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$14,600,000 (-48%) in 3,607 (-248) theaters; PTA: $3,787; Cumulative: $147,067,000
3. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$14,500,000 (-61%) in 3,856 (+1) theaters; PTA: $3,760; Cumulative: $62,278,000
4. Air (MGM) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 75; Est. budget: $80 million
$14,467,000 in 3,507 theaters; PTA: $4,125; Cumulative: $20,214,000
5. Scream VI (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #4
$3,315,000 (-38%) in 2,286 (-156) theaters; PTA: $1,450; Cumulative: $103,846,000
6. His Only Son (Angel) NEW – Week 2; Last weekend #3
$3,250,000 (-41%) in 1,920 (+10) theaters; PTA: $1,684; Cumulative: $11,044,000
7. Creed III (MGM) Week 6; Last weekend #5; also on PVOD
$2,816,000 (-44%) in 2,002 (-825) theaters; PTA: $1,407; Cumulative: $153,273,000
8. Shazam!: Fury of the Gods (WBD) Week 4; Last weekend #2
$1,600,000 (-65%) in 2,203 (-1,248) theaters; PTA: $761; Cumulative: $56,603,000
9. Paint (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 47
$750,000 in 819 theaters; PTA: $916; Cumulative: $750,000
10. A Thousand and One (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend #7
$600,000 (-67%) in 926 theaters; PTA: $648; Cumulative: $2,960,000
Other specialized titles
Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.
Showing Up (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Cannes, New York 2022
$66,932 in 4 theaters; PTA: $16,733
How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Toronto 2022
$120,479 in 12 theaters; PTA: $10,400
Joyland (Oscilloscope) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2022, Sundance 2023
$21,142 in 1 theater; PTA: $21,142
La Usurpadora (Pantelion) NEW
$140,000 in 313 theaters; PTA: $447
My Architect (Abramorama) REISSUE
$4,832 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,832
A Good Person (MGM) Week 3
$114,000 in 337 (-340) theaters; Cumulative: $2,111,000
Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV (Greenwich) Week 3
$12,700 in 5 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $54,093
What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? (Abramorama) Week 3 4
$8,129 in 9 theaters (+5) theaters; Cumulative: $35,229
Moving On (Roadside Attractions) Week 4
$12,300 in 32 (-100) theaters; Cumulative: $2,085,000
Champions (Focus) Week 5; also on PVOD
$510,000 in 427 (-696) theaters; Cumulative: $15,709,000
Return to Seoul (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7
$41,375 in 51 (-52) theaters; Cumulative: $702,681
Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 55; also on PVOD
$68,572 in 129 (-124) theaters; Cumulative: $77,148,000