‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Could Be the Top Domestic Release of 2023

There's Marvel, DC, and many more to come, but it's not too early to suggest that the Nintendo-based animated smash could top the year.
Super Mario Bros.
"The Super Mario Bros. Movie"

None of the college basketball teams seeded in the top three made the NCAA final four — but if you think that’s an upset, Nintendo can do you one better.

Already the top film released so far this year, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal) is en route to a seven-day total (Wednesday-Tuesday) of $245 million-$250 million. There’s nine months to go, and many more films to come from Marvel (“Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3”) and DC (“The Flash”), as well as franchise titles from “Fast and Furious,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Indiana Jones,” a live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” and many more.

Even so: Two cartoon plumbers with vaguely Italian accents may be enough top them all. It could be the #1 domestic release for 2023.

Based on its doubling first week, $500 million is a sensible estimate. To be the year’s best, it would need at least $600 million — a total that doesn’t demand much optimism. Historically, the biggest pre-summer animated releases boast an ultimate gross that amounts to an astounding 3.5 multiple from their first seven days. These include “Zootopia,” “The LEGO Movie,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “The Lorax” — all four, like “SMB,” were not sequels.

For “SMB,” that would suggest a $900 million final take. Now, that is unlikely — the new film benefited from a Wednesday opening, as well as being the top week for school vacations. Also, the higher initial the first week’s gross, the lower the subsequent multiple. None of the earlier titles grossed as much as $100 million (albeit at lower ticket prices) in their first weeks.

Its Nintendo roots elevated interest among kids and adults, as did the vacuum of family films since Christmas. However, films that fall more squarely into the family quadrants tend to sustain smaller drops than those like “SMB,” which saw four-quadrant appeal.

At this point, even a swift drop would still lead $500 million under normal conditions. (Figure 50 percent weekend drops in weeks two and three, and 30 percent week 4: That would yield $500 million in 28 days). A strong hold is more likely given its Wednesday opening, which would depress the “SMB” weekend total .

Another factor, and one that the prior animated comps didn’t have to address, is PVOD. Based on Universal policy, “SMB” could be available for home viewing as early as its fifth weekend.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Puss in Boots: The Last WishCourtesy of DreamWorks Animation

Still, PVOD doesn’t necessarily impact theatrical performance for an animated feature. Universal’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” had home availability after 17 days and it went on to gross 75 percent of its total.

Finally, in the last two years we’ve seen only three films exceed $600 million. Is there another film that might be the “Top Gun: Maverick” of 2023?

That’s why, if “SMB” reaches a gross that high or above, it could take the crown.

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