The first Equalizer had been Antoine Fuqua’s greatest domestic success to date, and his only to (barely) make over $100 million. Mamma Mia, on the other hand, was a $144 million domestic hit – with nine years of theatrical sing-alongs leading up to its sequel – with a worldwide tally that bests Fuqua’s King Arthur, Equalizer, The Magnificent Seven, The Replacement Killers, and Bait combined. In this weekend’s battle of the sequels, the headline was set to read “ABBA Beats Denzel.” But then the tides turned.
Sony was on the low-end of expectations this weekend for Equalizer 2, preparing for a decent if unremarkable number around $27 million. The Equalizer started with $34.1 million, but the sequel safely beat it with $35.8m. Antoine Fuqua may not have set the box office on fire in the past but Denzel Washington certainly has, with Equalizer 2 is now the third highest opening of his career, behind American Gangster and Safe House. It is also the third collaboration (out of four) between actor and filmmaker to open between $34-$36 million.
Only two of Denzel’s seven films to open over $25 million have managed to do a 3x multiple upon their first weekend (Safe House and Inside Man). And only one of them (The Book of Eli) had a lower critical score (47% on the Tomatometer) than The Equalizer 2 (51%).
Seven films since 2014 have opened to less than $36 million during the summer and managed to hit $100 million: Baby Driver, Central Intelligence, and Edge of Tomorrow were three, and you may notice something in common with the other four (Girls Trip, Bad Moms, Trainwreck, and Spy). With Mission: Impossible – Fallout set to take over next weekend, Fuqua and Denzel may still not have the numbers to equal their previous success and are not expecting a big international tally either. But stay tuned.
Mamma Mia opened on July 18, 2008 to $27.7 million. Though hardly a critical favorite, with just a 54% Tomatometer rating, it had a 10-week stay in the Top 10. Critics have given in to the sequel a bit more, with a 79% on the Tomatometer. Despite falling back from initial estimates of a $40+ million weekend, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’s $34.3 million is nothing to sneeze at given how musicals have been doing recently.
Both Les Miserables and Mamma Mia had incredible final multiples – over 5x – finishing with $148 and $144 million, respectively. La La Land grossed over $151 million. This past December, The Greatest Showman opened to just $8.8 million in 3,006 venues and ended up with the second highest-multiple ever (19.79x) for a film to open on over 2,500 theaters in that month. (Highest ever is Titanic‘s 20.97x). So, with basically only The Spy Who Dumped Me and Crazy Rich Asians geared towards women next month, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again should be enjoying healthy returns until at least mid-August, if not past Labor Day. It has grossed an additional $42.4 million outside the U.S. already.
Universal got Blumhouse’s Unfriended: Dark Web into just 1,546 theaters this weekend, considerably fewer than the 2,739 the first film opened with in 2015, where it grossed $15.8 million on its opening weekend. That three-day start is likely going to be more than what Dark Web finishes with in total after just a $3.49 million weekend. It’s 57% Tomatometer is not much lower than the first film’s 63%, but this is a low-end departure for the production company whose recent releases include Insidious: The Last Key ($29.5 million opening), Happy Death Day ($26 million), The First Purge ($19.9 million from Wednesday-Friday), and Truth or Dare ($18.6 million), all of which opened in over 3,000 screens. Perhaps it was a smart move for Sony to move its Sundance pickup (and computer-windows narrative), Searching, from August 3 to August 24. The John Cho-starring thriller currently stands with a 95% Tomatometer.
Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade moved from 4 into 33 theaters this weekend and grossed another $794,370 at $24,072 per theater, boasting the second-highest per-theater-average of the weekend behind documentary McQueen (which had a $24,232 average from four theaters). Lionsgate’s Blindspotting pulled in a $23,750 average in 14 theaters, and a total of $332,500 in its first weekend. As for documentaries, Neon’s Three Identical Strangers added 166 theaters and has now grossed $4.5 million; Focus’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is now at $18.4 million and is now the 14th highest-grossing doc ever.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk took the top spot with a $50 million opening, Girls Trip struck gold with over $31 million as well. Dunkirk would become the 5th highest-grossing film of the summer while Girls Trip would finish a surprising 10th. Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opened to just $17 million on its way to becoming the second-biggest loser of the summer, behind King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Last year’s Top 10 haul of $172.9 million for this weekend, with an average critical score of 77.3% on the Tomatometer, is well ahead of 2018’s $154.2 million and 67.4%, but this is still the strongest summer for Hollywood since 2015. And that’s without the first week haul of Avengers: Infinity War being factored in.
Next week is the action film everyone is waiting for. Skyscraper was a local bust and Equalizer 2 did fine, though neither were embraced roundly by critics. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is likely to get the money along with the good reviews. Also opening is Teen Titans Go to the Movies, which has only generated 10 reviews so far (compared to M:I’s 67) but they add up to a perfect 100% so far. Will families show up or will it follow suit with most late summer animated titles?
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]