By JAKE COYLE, AP Writer
NEW YORK (AP) â On an unusually packed weekend in theaters that featured an expensive Viking epic and Nicolas Cage playing himself, DreamWorks Animation’s “The Bad Guys” pounded the field, signaling a resurgence continuation of family cinema after a slowdown during the pandemic.
“The Bad Guys,” released by Universal Pictures, debuted with $24 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada, according to studio estimates on Sunday. This came despite strong competition for families from Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic The Hedgehog 2,” which remained in second place with $15.2 million in its third week of release. It has grossed $145.8 million domestically so far.
The apparent health of family cinema is especially good news for Hollywood as it heads into its lucrative summer season when films like Universal’s “Minions: Rise of Gru” and Walt Disney Co.’s “Lightyear” – the first film Pixar â which hits theaters in two years â hopes to approach pre-pandemic levels.
“There’s reason to be more than cautiously optimistic,” said Jim Orr, head of distribution at Universal. âI think audiences this summer are going to flock to theaters.â
While studios have been reluctant to schedule many films against each other during the pandemic, the weekend saw a rarity: three new wide releases, all well-received, none sequels or remakes.
“The Bad Guys,” based on Aaron Blabey’s children’s graphic novel series about a gang of twisted animals with a Quentin Tarantino-for-kids tone, did well with critics (85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and the public (an “A” CinemaScore). With little family competition until “Lightyear” is released in mid-June, “The Bad Guys” should play well for weeks. Having debuted overseas, the animated film has already grossed $63.1 million internationally.
The weekend’s other new releases – Robert Eggers’ “The Northman” and Cage’s “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” – didn’t fare as well but still performed well in their first weekend.
“Every weekend is a building block of the recovery, but I don’t even want to call it a recovery. I think cinemas are recovered. We’re pretty much there,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for ComScore. “Three newcomers were all well received, and all found an audience.”
The risks were greatest for Focus Features’ “The Northman,” which saw its budget swell past $70 million, a major increase in scale for Eggers, director of previous indie historical horror “The Witch.” and “The Lighthouse”. The film’s path to profitability was unlikely even before its theatrical launch, but it opened on the higher side of expectations with $12 million in ticket sales. It added $6.3 million internationally in 26 territories.
“The Northman” stars Alexander Skarsgard, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicole Kidman in a brutal and bloody revenge saga.
“Above all, we wanted to work with Robert Eggers,” said Focus distribution manager Lisa Bunnell, who handled international distribution for Eggers’ first two films. “The key here is that we have to make a movie that we wanted to make with a filmmaker who we think is part of the future of American cinema. He has a very particular voice. He’s making a movie with an original IP, not only: “Let’s make a sequel!””
Meanwhile, a new installment from a once all-powerful brand, the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets, has fallen off a cliff in its second weekend in theaters. Warner Bros.’ release of the third “Fantastic Beasts” movie fell 67% in its second week to $14 million. It’s a bad sign for the future of the franchise, should it be continued by Warner Bros. (The studio has so far withheld the go-ahead for a fourth film.) Still, “Dumbledore’s Secrets,” last week’s top film, is doing better overseas. International sales of $213.2 million represent the lion’s share of the film’s $280.3 million worldwide haul.
Lionsgate’s “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” a gonzo meta-comedy starring Cage as an exaggerated version of himself, opened with around $7.2 million. The film, which initially launched to warm up reviews from South by Southwest, will depend on good word of mouth to approach its $30 million budget.
This is the kind of success that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had. The release of A24, a crazy metaverse fantasy starring Michelle Yeoh, was one of the brightest signs for the specialty film industry, another industry sector that has struggled theatrically during the pandemic. In its fifth week, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” grossed $5.4 million, a drop of just 12% from the previous week.
But the biggest breakthrough in theaters in April was for family movies. It’s a good time for the film industry, which will gather in Las Vegas this week for CinemaCon, the theater exhibition’s annual convention and trade show. Expect plenty of proclamations that movie theaters are back.
Estimated Friday-Sunday ticket sales at US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final national figures will be released on Monday.
1. “The bad guys,” $24 million.
2. âSonic the Hedgehog 2,â $15.2 million.
3. ‘Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets’, $14 million.
4. “The Northman,” $12 million.
5. âThe Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,â $7.2 million.
6. âEverything everywhere at the same timeâ, 5.4 million dollars.
7. “The Lost City,” $4.4 million.
8. “Father Stu,” $3.4 million.
9. “Morbius,” $2.3 million.
10. “Ambulance”, 1.8 million dollars.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
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