Families waited for almost four months — 105 days, to be exact — after the opening of Puss In Boots: The Last Wish for the next big animated film to hit the marketplace. Apologies to The Amazing Maurice and anyone who took their kids to Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, but the drought was clearly felt, and it was amplified by anticipation. Much more than the live-action version of the video game that dubiously celebrates its 30th anniversary next month, kids wanted to see “SMB” this weekend, and those initials are being entered into box office high scores all over the place.
$204.6 million. That is how much The Super Mario Bros. Movie has made since Wednesday. That is the fourth-highest five-day total since the pandemic, behind only Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It is the 17th best five-day start in box office history and the second best for an animated film behind only Incredibles 2, which had $233.3 million and the second best April start ever behind Avengers: Infinity War.
Just last summer, Universal and Illumination finally released Minions: The Rise of Gru after a two-year delay, and after 13 weeks in the top 10, it took another three before it could finally dethrone The Secret Life of Pets as the animation company’s top domestic grosser. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is going to achieve that in less than a month. It will also be the highest-grossing film of 2023 after just a week of release.
(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)
There is something amusing in how Universal was the first studio to act in the wake of the pandemic by making Trolls World Tour available for home streaming — an act they were widely criticized for by theater owners, particularly AMC CEO Adam Aron, who went so far as to ban Universal films from his theaters. That did not last long, and Universal has been absolutely dominating the family theatrical market ever since. The Croods: A New Age managed to gross $58.5 million from Thanksgiving 2020 on through a pre-vaccine pandemic. Skip over Spirit Untamed to The Boss Baby 2, which grossed $57.3 million the following summer while also streaming day-and-date on Peacock. Then $162+ million for Sing 2 over Christmas 2021 and nearly $100 million for The Bad Guys in April 2022. The Rise of Gru would follow with $900+ million worldwide, and then nearly another half billion globally for Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, which spent 13 weeks in the top 10 in the U.S.
Now it is Super Mario Bros. turn, and it is already over $377 million worldwide. It took only four days for Universal’s latest release to domestically outgross both Disney’s Lightyear and Strange World combined. It took only five to outgross both their own Puss In Boots and Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($190.8 million). The race for the top family film of the year may already be over. Looking forward, there is Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Elemental, and Wish, along with Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Paramount’s Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie, Warner Bros.’ Wonka, and ultimately Universal’s Trolls Band Together and their Christmas Illumination collaboration, Migration. Maybe this similar drought will help boost sales for many of them, but none of them will likely be able to boast of holding the No. 1 spot at the box office for its first four weeks, which is entirely possible for SMB (unless it falls enough for Evil Dead Rise to overtake it in two weeks.) But expect it to hold in the top 10 at least until the weekend of June 9. In the meantime, it is only looking at two other films (Batman v Superman and the final Harry Potter) that grossed $180 million in their first five days and failed to gross over $400 million.
Ben Affleck thought he saw the writing on the wall as streaming began to gain momentum during the pandemic. His film The Way Back had just opened on Mar. 6, 2020 to $8.1 million, only to see theaters begin to close a week later. It still ended up grossing more than Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel in October 2021 ($10.8 million), in which he starred alongside Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. Affleck has now returned to the director’s chair with Air, notching his fourth Certified Fresh 90%+ score on the Tomatometer to join Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and his Best Picture-winning Argo. He also did it with a studio — Amazon — that has only launched one wide release in its history, has not had a theatrical release since 2020, and nearly relegated this one to streaming as well. And the numbers are solid. For theaters at least.
Air is already the highest-grossing film Amazon has released in its history since 2017, passing their Sundance pickup, Late Night, which made $15.4 million, over the weekend. More impressive is how Air has posted the best numbers for an R-rated adult drama opening in April since 2002’s Changing Lanes, also featuring Affleck, grossed $19.5 million in its first five days. This is not an action extravaganza, a comedy, or a horror film; it’s a drama (with its share of laughs) aimed at adults wedged between Spring Break and the Summer season, and it grossed $20.2 million since Wednesday. The average total for an April release grossing between $18-21 million in its first five days is $56.9 million. (Changing Lanes grossed $66.8 million.) That won’t be enough to cover the reported budget that could be as high as $90 million, but Amazon can afford it, right?
It may only be in its second week, but we’re sorry to say to its many fans that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is headed for the deep red. Word of mouth did nothing for the film, which fell 61% from the previous one to earn $14.5 million and land in third place. That brings its total to $62.2 million. Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 B.C. had grossed $61.5 million in its first 10 days but also had a second weekend of $16.7 million and ultimately finished with $94 million. Dungeons now finds itself likely coming up short of $90 million domestic, and with only $36.9 million to date overseas, it is on the path to be the biggest bomb of the year thus far.
How do those John Wick: Chapter 4 numbers look? Second place in its third week with $14.6 million brings its total to $147 million. We’ve been using Kong: Skull Island to measure where Creed III has been headed, and it is now becoming a measuring stick for the Wick. Keanu’s film is over $13 million ahead of the pace of Kong, but is now shoring up a pace with the film, which also had a $14.6 million third weekend. A $200 million finish now looks well off the table for the fourth installment, as its target now appears to be more in the realm of $180 million. Globally the film is over $304 million, and everything going forward is profit. As for Creed III, it grossed $2.8 million, bringing its total to over $153 million (or roughly $8 million behind Skull Island’s pace.). However, it did best its sixth weekend and is still on track to just crack $160 million.
Scream VI took in another $3.3 million to officially become the highest domestic grossing film in the horror franchise. With $103.8 million domestic and $158 million globally, it trails the 1996 original’s worldwide gross by about $15 million. This week, Shazam! Fury of the Gods joined Catwoman, Green Lantern, and Man of Steel as DC entities that lost over 1,000 theaters in their fourth week of release. Down another 62% to $1.7 million, Fury of the Gods has grossed just $56.7 million and appears to be headed for a loss north of $110 million.
Rounding out the top 10, last week’s Biblical tale of Abraham, His Only Son, grossed another $3.2 million and is up over $11 million. Focus’ Sundance winner A Thousand and One fell 70% to $540,000 and has made just under $3 million. IFC got into the top 10 again with Paint, starring Owen Wilson as not-Bob Ross; it grossed $750,000 in 819 theaters. Earlier this year, IFC’s Skinamarink opened to $818,943 in 692 theaters, and last summer, Watcher opened to $826,775 in 764 theaters.
Next week, Nicolas Cage fans will have another opportunity to show how worthy they are when he plays an actual vampire this time (and toxic boss) to Nicholas Hoult’s Renfield. The film should give Universal a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the box office with Mario. Sony also goes with a bit of horror post-Easter with Russell Crowe in The Pope’s Exorcist, which is being kept from most critics until opening. Then Bleecker Street releases the latest from Catherine Hardwicke, Mafia Mamma, starring Toni Collette as an American who inherits her family’s mob empire.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Universal Pictures