Sony’s “Gran Turismo” and Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” are leading the box office on this late August weekend, which is getting a bump thanks to the $4 tickets being sold at theaters nationwide on Sunday for National Cinema Day.
Created by the National Association of Theater Owners and the Cinema Foundation, National Cinema Day’s heavily discounted tickets are expected to boost overall grosses on Sunday by 13% over Saturday, according to industry estimates.
Combined with a significantly stronger list of films on offer, overall weekend grosses are expected to rise 53% compared with the last weekend of August 2022.
Still, the weekend’s top film, “Gran Turismo,” has a long way to go to turn a profit in theaters, with an estimated $17.3 million opening weekend from 3,856 theaters. The true-story racing film carries a reported $60 million budget before marketing. This opening weekend figure rolls in two weekends worth of preview screenings — a customary practice for films, though most only have preview screenings on Thursday night — so there’s still a lot of work cut out for the racing feature.
The good news for “Gran Turismo”? Gamers and racing fans have given the film strong marks with an A on CinemaScore and 5/5 on PostTrak, even as critics were more mixed with a 59% Rotten Tomatoes score. Sony is banking on that strong word-of-mouth to draw out more moviegoers, even as it releases “The Equalizer 3” next weekend.
Were it not for the extra preview grosses for “Gran Turismo,” Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” would have an undisputed grip on the No. 1 spot in its sixth weekend. The year’s biggest hit film added $17.1 million and now sits with a domestic total of $594.8 million. This week, it will become the 14th film to gross $600 million in North America before inflation adjustment.
In third is Warner Bros./DC’s “Blue Beetle,” which is expected to get a boost in viewers from National Cinema Day with an estimated $12.7 million.
In a sign of how the discount day is affecting industry estimates, the Latino-focused superhero film was estimated to have a 61% drop from its $25 million opening on Saturday, but strong online sales for the cheaper Sunday tickets have reduced that drop to 49%.
Still, with a $46 million 10-day total, “Blue Beetle” is showing roughly the same pace domestically as the spring flop “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” though it carries a lower reported marketing spend at $104 million.
Universal’s “Oppenheimer” is in fourth with $9 million in its sixth weekend, pushing it to $300 million in domestic grosses. By hitting that mark, the R-rated nuclear biopic has passed the remake of “The Little Mermaid” to join the top 5 highest-grossing films of the year.
Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” completes the top 5 with $6.1 million in its fourth weekend, putting it on the verge of crossing $100 million domestic with $98.1 million.
Outside the top 5, Lionsgate/Roadside Attraction’s “Retribution” opened in 1,750 theaters and opened to $3.3 million, in line with pre-release projections. Lionsgate acquired the distribution rights to this StudioCanal production last year and is looking to turn a profit through its multiplatform strategy with video on-demand and other revenue streams, though word-of-mouth is poor with a 30% Rotten Tomatoes critics score and a C on CinemaScore.
Finally, MGM’s R-rated comedy “Bottoms” is showing a strong performance in its limited release in 10 theaters. Directed by Emma Seligman and produced by Elizabeth Banks, the teen comedy opened in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin and has earned an estimated $516,254.
With a per theater average of $51,625, “Bottoms” is performing slightly better than the $50,131 average of last year’s indie phenomenon “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” MGM is hoping that the film continues to build word-of-mouth, particularly among younger moviegoers, as it expands to around 700 theaters next weekend.