The box office just had its first billion-dollar month since July of last year. Not even the combined strength of Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion was enough to get last June to that total. But now the sixth month has achieved the goal for the first time since 2019, before the pandemic took hold. June 2023 has produced what is likely to be the biggest film of the summer (unless Mission: Impossible does gangbusters) and two of the biggest studio bombs of the year (each giving roughly half of their $100+ million grosses to the theaters.) A film that will unfortunately join that latter club (with a big tent this summer) is the final Indiana Jones adventure, which will outgross many of the films this summer but not enough to cover the expensive price tag it took to make it.
When Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981, it had the third-biggest opening of the year ($8.3 million) behind Superman II ($14.1 million) and The Cannonball Run ($11.7 million). It ultimately nearly doubled the gross of the Man of Steel and nearly tripled Reynolds and Co. When Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom opened in 1984, its PG rating may have horrified parents, but it had the biggest opening of all-time ($25.3 million), besting the previous year’s Return of the Jedi ($23 million). It was the third highest-grossing film of the year behind Beverly Hills Cop and Ghostbusters, and its opening record held for three years until Beverly Hills Cop II hit $26.3 million in May of 1987. Two years later, that record would fall to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which started with $29.3 million, and that was with it opening on a Wednesday. That record would fall to Ghostbusters II ($29.4 million) three weeks later and then further with Tim Burton’s Batman ($40.4 million) a week later.
By 2008, there had been only nine films to tally $100 million openings, but Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull still managed to join the club and become the tenth film to pull it off. (The Dark Knight would leave them all in the dust later that summer with a $158.4 million start.) Despite Crystal Skull‘s divisive reputation, it was one of only three films to gross over $300 million that year (Iron Man outgrossed it by about $1.3 million), and at 77% on the Tomatometer, was the seventh best-reviewed film of that summer. Despite early pans out of Cannes this year, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny came into this weekend at 67% with critics, $60 million with audiences in North America, another $70 million internationally, and a $295 million bill for the studio.
As late June releases go, Dial of Destiny mustered up the fifth-best live-action opening ever. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds opened to $64.8 million in this slot back in 2005, though projections have Dial of Destiny around $80-85 million through the July 4 holiday, which would already put it $15-20 million off the pace of Worlds. That still gives it some hope for a $200+ million finish. The problem is that the film finds itself in similar Fast X territory with that enormous budget, and it appeared doomed from the get-go unless it managed to pull off some kind of Top Gun: Maverick feat. It’s been 15 years since the last film, which has lived on in infamy, and the Cannes reviews helped put a black mark on it. Reviews since then have been mostly kinder, and audiences do seem to be enjoying it more. It received a B+ on Cinemascore (up from Crystal Skull’s B), even though that is still not the A of The Last Crusade.
The numbers will look better for theaters as it quickly becomes the fourth highest-grossing film of the summer, even if it will get knocked back just as quickly by Mission: Impossible and Barbie. However, it’s important to consider for a moment just how many films with an 80-year-old leading man or woman would have grossed as much as Dial of Destiny. Clint Eastwood was 78 when Gran Torino made $148 million and 88 when The Mule made $103 million. Dial of Destiny will outgross both of them. Movie stars, ladies and gentlemen.
Dreamworks just had their worst animated debut ever with Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken, which opened to $5.2 million. During the studio’s heyday from 1997-2005, it never had a film (animated or live-action) open in over 2,000 theaters to less than that. The talking parrot film, Paulie, opened to $5.36 million in 1,559 theaters in 1998. This is the worst summer animated opening since Weinstein Co.’s release of Leap at the end of August 2017 ($4.7 million).
If you want to find one as low in the months of June or July, you have to go all the way back to 2002 with the releases of Hey Arnold!: The Movie ($5.7 million) and The Powerpuff Girls Movie, which opened on a Wednesday and had a weekend total of $3.5 million and $6.1 million in its first five days. The combined budget of those two movies was $14 million, while Ruby Gillman cost $70 million. That isn’t the only film with a female sea creature sinking its studio budget this summer though. The Little Mermaid is over $523 million worldwide but still isn’t anywhere close to breaking even, and that’s with over $281 million earned here in North America too. It could become the 14th film (out of 114) to gross over $275 million domestic and not be outgrossed by its international figure, which currently stands at $242.8 million.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is back down to No. 2 this week, but it’s quickly approaching the bar set by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. After a $11.5 million haul this weekend, its domestic total is nearly at $340 million and only about $14 million behind Guardians as the highest-grossing film of the summer. Spider-Verse ends its first month of release in-between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Spider-Man 2, but it had a better fifth weekend than either of them. As it is still around $26 million off the pace of Toy Story 3, we are still putting its final estimate somewhere between $390-400 million. Globally the film has surpassed $600 million.
In third place is Disney/Pixar’s Elemental, grossing $11.3 million and bringing its lackluster total — by Pixar standards, that is — to $88.7 million. Though the film is still $16.5 million behind the pace of last year’s Lightyear dud, it is holding up much better than the $6.4 million third weekend that film had last June. At only $186+ million worldwide, the film has only made about a quarter of what it needs to recoup its costs. Right now the film is pacing closely to Fox’s Robots from back in 2005, which would result in a domestic haul somewhere around $125 million, besting at least The Good Dinosaur (also from the director of Elemental), but this is still going to join Lightyear to become the two worst back-to-back losses in Pixar’s history.
The Jennifer Lawrence comedy No Hard Feelings maintained its place at No. 4 this week with $7.5 million. That brings its total to $29.3 million after 10 days, a pace on par with Horrible Bosses 2, which had $30.2 million after 10 days and an $8.4 million second weekend. That film finished with $54 million, so there is hope No Hard Feelings will at least get over $50 million. It is only over $49 million worldwide so far and needs another $90 million to get into profit.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts added another $7 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic total over $136 million, higher than both The Last Knight and Bumblebee domestically. But to what end? Just over $350 million worldwide total is barely more than Bumblebee made just on the international side. And — spoiler alert — Paramount wants to combine that with another Hasbro franchise that has never hit $400 million? That sort of thing hasn’t worked out so well for The Flash, now, has it? In just its third week, it is already down to ninth place with a weekend of $5 million. After 17 days of release, it has still not cracked $100 million and has only grossed $245 million worldwide. It is now officially behind the pace of Green Lantern and is going to struggle to hit $110 million. If DC and Warner Bros.’ plan was to make the Black Adam numbers look as good as possible, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods and The Flash are certainly doing the trick, as those films domestically combined will not match the entry that came before them.
On the other hand, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City is doing just fine. Adding some theaters this week, the film made $3.8 million and is now up to $18.1 million. For some reason, Focus already announced a VOD release date for the film in less than two weeks, just as the company was having their best theatrical success in over a year. Thanks to a more aggressive release strategy, Asteroid City has made more money after 17 days than any Wes Anderson film to date, and it should be passing Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic to enter the top half of his all-time grossers. Meanwhile, A24 has employed a more passive strategy to Celine Song’s Past Lives until this weekend, expanding it into an additional 610 theaters. That resulted in $1.5 million and a total of nearly $6 million.
Next week, another fifth chapter tries to dethrone this week’s fifth chapter when Insidious: The Red Door opens. Star Patrick Wilson makes his directorial debut on the film, but Sony appears to have little faith in it, as they have chosen not to screen it for critics. On the other hand, Lionsgate is all in on Joy Ride, Adele Lim’s vacation comedy that premiered at SXSW in March. The film currently boasts a perfect 100% on the Tomatometer and hopes to become one of the sleeper hits of the summer.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures