‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Hits $1 Billion, but Kids Ignore ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’

Illumination's animated film stands at $1 billion worldwide, while "The Eight Mountains" provided a rare specialized bright spot.
Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon, Amari Price as Janie Loomis, Elle Graham as Nancy Wheeler, and Katherine Kupferer as Gretchen Potter in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley
"Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret"
Dana Hawley/Lionsgate

The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal) is projected to gross another $40 million in its fourth weekend, an achievement held only “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Black Panther” in 2018.

That puts Illumination’s animated film at $1.022 billion worldwide and $490 million domestic. If it hits $650 million domestic — now possible — it will surpass any cartoon feature this century. (“Shrek 2” and “Incredibles 2” reached $600 million adjusted).

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney) opening next weekend will end Mario’s #1 streak, but “SMB” should stay strong for weeks to come. It could surpass “Maverick” ($719 million) — an even more impressive feat when it lacks a concentration premium tickets and sells many more lower-priced children’s priced tickets.

Lily Sullivan in "Evil Dead Rise"
“Evil Dead Rise”

Though at a lower gross and hold, “Evil Dead Rise” (Warner Bros. Discovery) at #2 with $12.5 million, adds to the positive news. Its 50 percent second-week drop was low end for a genre film. Even better, its $44.6 million take (it will easily pass $60 million) comes from a budget reported under $20 million.

The weekend box office totaled around $99 million, but the two major entrants disappointed. “Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret” (Lionsgate) managed only $6.8 million despite stellar reviews, residual interest in Judy Blume’s classic novels, and an A Cinemascore.

Why this weak? 81 percent of the audience was female, 81 percent was over 25, and 77 percent was white. Those kinds of numbers make it hard to reach anything close to $10 million. This economical $30 million production is the kind of title that needs to work for a healthy theater industry.

“Big George Foreman” failed to make the top 10 with only $3 million. It looked like a winner: Produced by Affirm Films, a faith-based production unit with a strong record of major returns for lower investment, it had the benefit of the Foreman name. It was sports-related  like recent successes “Creed III” and “Air,” and Sony usually sees positive results from original titles. This appears to be Affirm’s costliest title (over $30 million reported), and for once its formula of fusing religious themes into mainstream releases failed.

Three films with more limited releases opened in the top 1o. A premium-screen reissue of “Return of the Jedi” (Disney) placed fifth with $4.7 million in only 475 theaters. That places the third title in the initial “Star Wars” trilogy at an adjusted total of around $865 million.


“Ponniyin Selvan: Part Two” (FDN), an expensive Indian sequel, placed #8 with over $3.6 million in 600 theaters. “Sisu,” a Finnish World War II film picked up by Lionsgate after its Toronto festival showing, did a decent $3.25 million in 1,006 theaters.

Despite two strong titles at the top, three other holdovers maintained drops under 30 percent, led by #4 “John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate), down 14 percent. “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” (Paramount), off 25 percent and “Air” (MGM), down 27 percent, also continue to show strength.

Overall business continues its strong comparisons to last year and 2019. Grosses were up 46 percent from last year, with year to date maintaining a 37 percent improvement. That’s terrific four months into 2023, but don’t expected that pace to keep up. (Last year took off in May). Despite a horrific 24 percent comparison to the same 2019 weekend (“Avengers: Endgame” debuted), the four-week rolling average still is at 102 percent.

“The Eight Mountains” (Sideshow/Janus) was a bright spot in a mostly bleak specialized environment. The Italian Cannes Jury Prize co-winner did a strong $36,000 in two New York theaters for the distributor’s best per-theater opening so far (ahead of “Drive My Car” and “EO”).

Equally acclaimed “R.M.N.” (IFC), another Cannes competition title last year, had a different result. It only grossed $5,800 in two New York locations. Better results were seen from two new Abramorama releases. “32 Sounds,” a Sundance-premiered documentary on aural power, had an above average debut of $9,224 at New York’s Film Forum. Oliver Stone’s documentary “Nuclear Now” (Abramorama) in two New York/Los Angeles theaters did better (just under $10,000 in two theaters) ahead of a 300-theater nationwide one-day showing Monday.

Both films are post-Oscars; neither was submitted by their countries in the antiquated Oscar International category. The awards attention boosted to some subtitled modest successes like “EO” and “Close” (A24).

A teen girl in bright green Pakistani formalwear raises her fists against a middle-aged woman in bright pink Pakistani formalwear; still from "Polite Society"
“Polite Society”Parisa Taghizadeh

Focus, with the fallback of early PVOD and later Peacock showings enhancing revenue potential, opened another Sundance 2023 title to a sub-$1,000 PTA. British comedy “Polite Society” managed $800,000 in 927 theaters.

Ari Aster’s “Beau Is Afraid” more than doubled its theaters to drop nearly 50 percent and fell short of the top 10 with about $1.4 million. It stands at $5.6 million.

Of note among specialized titles: No film with more than four weeks of play reported a gross. Even in the current challenged environment, that is exceptional.


The Top 10

 1. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$40,0000,000 (-33%) in 4,204 (-146) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $9,515; Cumulative: $490,016,000

2. Evil Dead Rise (Warner Bros. Discovery) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$12,200,000 (-50%) in 3,417 (+15) theaters; PTA: $3,570; Cumulative: $44,416,000

3. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 86; Est. budget: $

$6,800,000 in 3,343 theaters; PTA: $2,034; Cumulative: $6,800,000

4. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) Week 6; Last weekend #4
$5,000,000 (-14%) in 2,481 (-204) theaters; PTA: $2,015; Cumulative: $176,155,000

5. Return of the Jedi (Disney) REISSUE

$ 4,694,000 in 475 theaters; PTA: $988; Cumulative: (adjusted) $865,000,000

6. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #6

$4,100,000 (-25%) in 2,709 (-251) theaters; PTA: $1,513; Cumulative: $88,160,000

7. Air (MGM) Week 4; Last weekend #5

$4,001,000 (-27%) in 2,402 (-421) theaters; PTA: $1,666; Cumulative: $47,627,000

8. Ponniyin Selvan: Part Two (FDN) NEW – Est. budget: $32 million

$3,645,000 in 600 theaters; PTA: $6,076; Cumulative: $3,645,000

9. The Covenant (MGM) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$3,615,000 (-43%) in 2,631 (+20) theaters; PTA: $1,374; Cumulative: $12,294,000

10. Sisu (Lionsgate) NEW – Metacritic: 68; Est. budget: $7 million

$3,250,000 in 1,006 theaters; PTA: $3,230; Cumulative: $3,250,000


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.

The Eight Mountains (Sideshow/Janus) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Cannes 2022, Sundance 2023

$36,000 in 2 theaters; PTA: $18,000

Polite Society (Focus) NEW – Metacritic: 75; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2023

$800,000 in 927 theaters; PTA: $858

32 Sounds (Abramorama) NEW – Metacritic: 85; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2022

$9,224 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,224

R.M.N. (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2022

$5,800 in 2 theaters; PTA: $2,900

Nuclear Now (Abramorama) NEW – Metacritic: ; Festivals include: Venice 2022

$9,814 in 2 theaters; PTA: $4,907

Chevalier (Searchlight) Week 2

$625,000 in 1,281 (+6) theaters; PTA: $488; Cumulative: $2,778,000

Somewhere in Queens (Roadside Attractions) Week 2

$321,215 in 499 (-103) theaters; PTA: $644; Cumulative: $1,304,000

Other People’s Children (Music Box) Week 2

$14,895 in 7 (+4) theaters; PTA: $2,128; Cumulative: $35,007

Carmen (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2

$10,122 in 11 (+9)  in theaters; PTA: $920; Cumulative: $27,044

Beau Is Afraid (A24) Week 3

$1,433,000  in 2,125  (+1,153 theaters; PTA: $674; Cumulative: $5,641,000

Suzume (Sony) Week 3

$535,000 in 440  (-1,730) theaters; Cumulative: $9,754,000

Wild Life (Picturehouse) Week 3

$56,318 in 13 (-1) theaters;  Cumulative: $208,648

Showing Up (A24) Week 4

$78,590 in 115 (+30)  theaters;  Cumulative: $552,271

Joyland (Oscilloscope) Week 4

$33,510 in 30 (+22) theaters;  Cumulative: $134,298

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