‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ and ‘Evil Dead Rise’ Continue the Box-Office Resurrection

"Beau Is Afraid" falls short, but with 2023 total box office at $2.5 billion we're seeing the greatest post-pandemic improvement to date.
EVIL DEAD RISE, Alyssa Sutherland, 2023. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
"Evil Dead Rise"
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal) reasserted its potential to be bigger than any upcoming summer movie with a stellar third-weekend showing of $58,230,000. Now at $434,330,000 domestic ($872 million worldwide), the Nintendo animated adaptation from Illumination could outgross all post-Covid titles other than “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($805 million). That includes “Top Gun: Maverick” ($719 million) and “Avatar: The Way of Water” ($684 million).

With a strong $23.5 million opening, “Evil Dead Rise” (Warner Bros. Discovery) also buttressed a sense of improved fortunes for theaters — just in time for exhibitors and distributors heading to Las Vegas for Cinemacon.

The third-weekend drop for “SMB” of 37 percent was a better hold than “Maverick,” which represented the stellar third-weekend hold of 2022. Another curiosity: if Universal doesn’t start its PVOD window countdown until a film grosses less than $50 million, it still have another month as a theatrical exclusive.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney) opening May 5 was meant to launch the summer with expectations of $130 million or more, but it will be hard pressed to outdo “SMB.” Still, the season ahead has multiple titles expected to have strong appeal; if a handful overperform like this, it will indicate an industry with some momentum.

Evil Dead Rise” is a pleasant surprise. It costing less than $20 million and at one point it was expected to be a more muted release along the lines of “House Party” and “Magic Mike’s Last Dance.” Instead, the New Line production not only overcame that expectation but also countered claims that horror films stepped on each other this month. That seemed likely after both “The Pope’s Exorcist” (Sony) and “Renfield” (Universal) stumbled last weekend; more likely is when the audience gets what it wants, it still responds strongly.

Guy Ritchie's "The Covenant"
Guy Ritchie’s “The Covenant”screenshot

“The Covenant” (officially, director Guy Ritchie’s name is part of the title to distinguish it from Renny Harlin’s 2006 Sony film of the same name) received decent reviews and an A Cinemascore to manage under $6.3 million. That’s good enough for #3, but not good for a film that cost $55 million. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as an Afghan veteran who attempts to rescue his local interpreter after the Taliban take over. Cofinanced by STX, at one point set for a United Artists (now MGM) release, Amazon Prime has international rights.

A24’s “Beau Is Afraid” had a major expansion to 962 theaters. Ari Aster’s three-hour film with Joaquin Phoenix beset by personal demons had a stellar four-theater $320,000 platform debut last weekend. But similar to “Licorice Pizza,” which had an even stronger opening (best over the past three years), it didn’t translate into wider success.

As Aster’s budgets have increased (this a reported $35 million), his grosses have fallen. “Hereditary,” his first feature for A24, grossed $44 million. “Midsommar” did $27 million (both added decent foreign numbers). “Beau” will be lucky to reach $8 million domestic. A24 has strong post-theatrical output deals and this film reasserts its image as a producer and distributor of distinctive, original genre titles. Still: It’s a disappointment and a cause for some concern.

Three films, all close together between nos. 4-6, had the best holds in the top 10. “John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate), “Air” (MGM), and “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” (Paramount) all dropped just under 30 percent. “Wick” is at $169 million, “Air” $41 million, “D & D” $82 million. Each has a theatrical showing that will likely extend to lucrative later platforms.

The weekend total of $122 million was $28 million better than the same date last year. Year to date is now over $2.5 billion, maintaining a pace of 37 percent ahead of 2022 so far. With this weekend also ahead of 2019’s similar weekend, our four-week running comparison to that pre-Covid period is now 14 percent — the highest improvement that gauge has ever shown.

This could represent a high-water mark: May starts a period where both 2022 and 2019 saw multiple stellar titles. However, this year’s box-office performance has consistently outperformed expectations.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Samara Weaving in "Chevalier"

Sadly, the specialized market continued to lower expectations. Searchlight’s “Chevalier” starring “Luce” breakout Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ray Romano’s directorial debut “Somewhere in Queens” (Roadside Attractions) managed per- theater averages of just over $1,000 (“Chevalier” in 1,275 theaters, “Queens” in 602). Romano’s film did see a strong 53 percent Saturday increase, suggesting decent word of mouth and a basis for some further expansion.

Platform openers “Carmen” (Sony Pictures Classics) with Paul Mescal and the acclaimed French drama “Other People’s Children” (Music Box) both had platform openings in three theaters each, with per-theater averages under $5,000. Further expansions of Kelly Reichardt’s “Showing Up” (A24) and “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” (Neon) suggest both titles will at best reach $1 million or just higher. The second weekends of “Joyland” (Oscilloscope) and “Wild Life” (Picturehouse) showed some niche interest.

The Top 10

 1. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$58,230,000 (-%) in 4,350 (-21) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,386; Cumulative: $434,330,000

2. Evil Dead Rise (Warner Bros. Discovery) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 68; Est. budget: $17 million

$23,500,000 in 3,402 theaters; PTA: $6,908; Cumulative: $23,500,000

3. The Covenant (MGM) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 63; Est. budget: $55 million

$6,282,000 in 2,611 theaters; PTA: $2,406; Cumulative: $6,280,000

4. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) Week 5; Last weekend #3
$5,750,000 (-29%); PTA: $1,896; Cumulative: $168,880,000

5. Air (MGM) Week 3; Last weekend #5

$5,550,000(-29%) in 2,823 (-684) theaters; PTA: $1,966; Cumulative: $41,260,000

6. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Paramount) Week 4; Last weekend #6

$5,400,000 (-28%) in 2,960 (-364) theaters; PTA: $1,824; Cumulative: $82,187,000

7. The Pope’s Exorcist (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$3,315,000 (-63%) in 3,178 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,043; Cumulative: $14,939,000

8. Renfield (Universal) – Week 2; Last weekend #4

$3,110,000 (-61%) in 3,378 (+3) theaters; PTA: $921; Cumulative: $13,623,000

9. Beau Is Afraid (A24) Week 2; Last weekend #14

$2,711,000 (+746%) in 962 (+958) theaters; PTA: $2,809; Cumulative: $3,147,000

10. Suzume (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #7

$1,625,000 (-68%) in 2,170 (no change) theaters; PTA: $2,304; Cumulative: $5,000,000

Ray Romano and Laurie Metcalf in Romano's directorial debut Somewhere in Queens
“Somewhere in Queens”

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.

Chevalier (Searchlight) NEW – Metacritic: 61; Festivals include: Toronto 2022

$1,500,000 in 1,275 theaters; PTA: $1,176

Somewhere in Queens (Roadside Attractions) NEW – Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Tribeca 2022

$681,770 in 602 theaters; PTA: $1,132

Other People’s Children (Music Box) NEW – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2022, Sundance 2023

$14,811 in theaters; PTA: $4,937

Carmen (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 57; Festivals include: Toronto 2022

$12,838  in theaters; PTA: $4,279

Mafia Mamma (Bleecker Street) Week 2

$477,666 in 1,613 (-389) theaters; PTA: $296; Cumulative: $3,304,000

Nefarious (Soli Deo Gloria) NEW

$620,000 in 757 (-146) theaters; PTA: $819; Cumulative: $2,398,000

Wild Life (Picturehouse) Week 2

$44,614 in 14 (+12) theaters; PTA: $3,186; Cumulative: $112,227

Showing Up (A24) Week 3

$123,284 in 85 (+57)  theaters; PTA: $1,450; Cumulative: $416,103

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Neon) Week 3

$151,000 in 530 (+388) theaters; PTA: $285; Cumulative: $595,183

Joyland (Oscilloscope) Week 3

$39,306 in 8 (+7) theater; PTA: $4,913; Cumulative: $85,090

A Thousand and One (Focus) Week 4; also on PVOD

$24,000 in 33 (-97) theaters; Cumulative: $3,376,000

Champions (Focus) Week 6; also on PVOD

$100,000 in 109 (-74) theaters; Cumulative: $16,210,000

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