We are about to find out if Michael B. Jordan’s boxing hero has won over enough moviegoers to build a hit movie on his own
Friday marks the start of a new chapter for MGM, Michael B. Jordan and his pugilist protagonist Adonis Creed as “Creed III” seeks to match the box office performance of its 2015 and 2018 predecessors without the moneymaking presence of Creed’s legendary mentor, Rocky Balboa.
The absence of Sylvester Stallone in his most famous role isn’t the only big change in this franchise’s third installment. Jordan, in addition to playing Adonis, is making his feature directorial debut with this movie as Creed comes face-to-face with his vengeful childhood friend Dame (Jonathan Majors), whose boxing dreams were derailed with an arrest and who has now returned to take the championship and fame that Adonis has earned.
The past two “Creed” films have been solid mid-budget successes theatrically, with “Creed” earning $109 million domestic and $173.5 million worldwide in 2015 against a $35 million budget, paving the road for both Jordan and director Ryan Coogler to find global success with “Black Panther.”
Three years later, “Creed II” saw Jordan and Stallone return with Dolph Lundgren as “Rocky IV” foe Ivan Drago, with Steven Caple Jr. taking over as director and MGM taking over as distributor. Released during Thanksgiving weekend with a $50 million budget, “Creed II” did slightly better than its predecessor with $115 million domestic and $214 million worldwide.
Another $100 million-plus domestic run with “Creed III” would be a big win for Jordan and MGM, showing that the boxing series has built enough of a fan base to sustain itself without Stallone around to bring in older moviegoers. Tracking suggests that the film could get off to a good start towards that goal this weekend, with projections currently set at $40 million. MGM is projecting a $35 million-$38 million opening, which would be in the range of the $35.5 million Fri.-Sun. opening of “Creed II.”
Reviews are helping with early word of mouth as the critics’ consensus seems to be that “Creed III” is another excellent addition to the series even if it doesn’t meet the heights of the first installment. Currently, the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 90%.
The challenge for “Creed III” will be to maintain its punching power in the later rounds. (There’s a rule that you have to include at least one tedious boxing analogy in every story about the franchise.) MGM’s film is the first in a series of sequels coming throughout March, with Paramount’s “Scream VI” next up the following weekend and sequels to “Shazam!” and “John Wick” afterwards.
This is great news for theaters that desperately need this sort of rapid-fire release schedule to bring a wide array of moviegoers back to theaters, but it also creates a very competitive market that could likely leave one of these big blockbusters squeezed out unless their unique premises allow each of them to find their own lane.
“Creed III,” with its emotional, character-driven plot and thrilling boxing sequences, doesn’t have that much in common with the light-hearted superheroics of “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” or the intense thrills of “Scream VI” and “John Wick: Chapter 4.” If word of mouth among audiences generates wider interest for Jordan and Majors’ performances in the ring, that might give “Creed III” the legs it needs to go the distance against some very stacked competition.
“The best scenario would be if people who see ‘Creed III’ see trailers for ‘John Wick 4’ and want to see that, and people who see ‘Shazam’ see trailers for ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and get excited to see that,” said Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “If numbers this spring are going to be stronger than expected, then we need to see these films boost each other rather than compete against each other and get people excited to frequently come back to theaters.”
If “Creed III” is a major contributor to a March bonanza, that will be a big boost to MGM as it begins a new chapter under Amazon’s ownership. On Tuesday, the studio announced that it had hired former Warner Bros. executive Courtney Valenti as the head of its film division, reporting to Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke.
While Amazon acquired an extensive library and co-distribution of future James Bond films with Warner Bros. by purchasing MGM, there have been questions as to how much of a box office footprint MGM can still have outside of that legendary spy series. As Valenti forges a new future for MGM’s theatrical and streaming portfolio, having a strong start with “Creed III” would be a perfect way to start her tenure.
Box Office Reporter • firstname.lastname@example.org • Twitter: @jeremyfuster