Welcome to Sequel Month! March 2023 is trying to one-up the summer season all by itself by rolling out one sequel after another. There are at least nine (direct) sequels scheduled between May and August, but March has got a two and a three and a four and a SIX! Are you ready? Apparently the answer is yes, based on the numbers from this weekend, which saw Jonathan Majors a part of the top two films at the box office and an opening for Michael B. Jordan that could see him getting a fourth entry in his franchise very soon.
Michael B. Jordan’s Creed III was first out of the March sequel gate and it set some new highs for the series. 2015’s Creed opened to $29.6 million. Creed II went up to $35.5 million in 2018. Finally, Jordan’s directorial debut has kickstarted this month with a $58.6 million start. (Rocky IV in 1985 with inflation would have amounted to about a $55.5 million opening.) That number just gets Creed III 17th for openings all-time in the month of March, which may have quelled the concern that its final numbers would be enough to turn a profit. That might seem almost unfathomable, but the truth is that the budgets for these films have increased over time. From $35 million to $50 million to now $75 million for Creed III. That was not the easiest hurdle to climb for this film to get out of the red so let’s break it down.
What is the path to the roughly $225 million it will need to achieve that? Neither of the first two Creed films cleared $100 million from the international box office, with $63.8 million & $98.5 million, respectfully, but that was enough with their smaller budgets. Creed III has already made $41.8 million on the international scene, bringing its total haul up to $100 million. The previous films opened in November, which brought some holiday dollars into the mix, and they had respectable multiples of 3.70 and 3.25. The bigger opening for Creed III means a likely smaller multiple, and here’s an interesting fact: The only (direct) sequel in March to have a multiple over 3 was G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and it barely reached it with a 3.02. A three for Creed III would get it to $175 million domestically and make this all a moot point. A mere 2.55 would get it to $150 million. Scream VI will certainly take a bite next week, with Shazam! the week after and John Wick to follow, so this opening weekend is both congratulatory and a huge sigh of relief.
Guy Ritchie’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre was supposed to open in early 2022. Some said it was held from release due to the war in Ukraine because of the nationality of the film’s bad guys. Whether you believe all that or not, it was also part of the failing STX Entertainment who were selling off the remains of its titles left and right. Lionsgate picked this one up, so it can now be associated with one of the biggest losers of the year. A $3.1 million opening is not going to make a dent in the $50 million spent to make it. In its favor, it has made over $30 million overseas, but the math is not hard to figure on a film that looks to be the third biggest loser on Ritchie’s resume after King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
The second of the Jonathan Majors sequels in the top two this weekend is Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which is having its own issues in stretching towards a profit. On the domestic side, the film fell another 61% this weekend down to $12.4 million. Eternals fell 58% in its third weekend, and is this just the sixth Marvel film to fall more than 57% at this point. Others like Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame had steeper second weekends to fall from. But this total brings Quantumania to $186.7 million, still $21 million better than Ant-Man and the Wasp and almost $10 million better than Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (though the latter had a $21.6 million third weekend). Quantumania’s fall seriously downgrades its final estimate from $240-250 last week down to $220-230 million now. Even if it reaches the high end of those projections, it appears unlikely that it will reach the international heights of $370 million to bring it in for a soft profit. (It currently stands at $232.7 million.) Marvel still has plenty of money in its coffers, but this could give them as many losers post-2020 as they have had winners.
Cocaine Bear could use a little help as well after falling 52.6% from last week’s $23+ million finish. Adding $11 million in its second frame, Elizabeth Banks’ horror comedy for Universal is at $41.2 million. That tracks pretty closely with Alicia Vikander’s Tomb Raider reboot, which had a $10.2 million second weekend and $41.4 million after 10 days. That film cost roughly three times as much as Cocaine Bear but finished with over $58 million and nearly turned a profit, thanks in large part to a decent international haul of over $216 million. Cocaine Bear has made $10.7 million outside North America and its budget upwards of $35 million could still pose a problem if audiences overseas don’t warm up to the film.
Crunchyroll had Demon Slayer: To the Swordsmith Village finish in fourth place this week with $10.1 million, which is basically half of what Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train opened to ($21.2 million) in April 2021. That was still ahead of last week’s Jesus Revolution, which fell 45% this week down to $8.6 million. With a current total of over $30 million, Jesus still wants to find around another $14 million to put a roof on that church. Magic Mike’s Last Dance cleared $25 million and $52 million globally, which currently makes it the biggest non-Marvel loser of 2023 to date. 80 for Brady is short of the goal line of $40 million and about half the loser that Magic Mike is. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is headed towards $180 million domestic and over $453 million worldwide; it’s one of 2022’s biggest winners. Finally, last year’s big winner profit-wise, Avatar: The Way of Water, passed $670 million domestically, shy of Titanic (thanks re-release!) and $8 million behind Avengers: Infinity War, both of which it should eventually pass.
Chapter two of Sequel Month begins with the arrival of Scream VI. The last film in the franchise released just last year in January, opening to over $30 million and grossing $80 million. One of the Farrelly Bros. (Bobby) is back with Woody Harrelson for Champions, a comedy about a coach court-ordered to manage a basketball team with intellectual disabilities. Then you may have also heard of this Adam Driver-battles-aliens movie coming out. It is called 65 and it is not screening for critics, so imagine what Sony must think of it.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by Eli Ade/©MGM