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Neil Blomkamp’s “Gran Turismo” began its domestic box office race with $1.4 million in Thursday previews. That number does not include several word-of-mouth sneak previews that Sony conducted throughout August. Those figures will be rolled into the Friday gross — par for the course for these sorts of roll-outs.
With mixed-positive reviews (a 61% fresh and 5.8/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) and thus far decent word of mouth for the old school, non-fantastical crowdpleaser, the studio is hoping that the film starring Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom and Djimon Hounsou can get a boost from Sunday’s $4-a-ticket Cinema Day.
The picture is based on a true story about a teenage Gran Turismo video game player who used his console skills to become a professional race car driver. As such, it’s a unique approach to the video game-based movie. It is a real-world story that centers on the PlayStation video game. It is also, by default, the only wide-release, multiplex-friendly drama this summer outside of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”
Initially slated for Aug. 11, Sony moved the Neil Blompkomp-directed racing drama to Aug. 25 partially due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. When announcing the date change and the paid sneak previews, Sony stated that (paraphrasing) stars can’t promote the film, but the audience can. This date change also played into Sunday’s Cinema Day. Like last year’s Cinema Day, every ticket and participating theaters will be $4.
Whether Sony can use those sneak preview earnings to pull a photo-finish first place against the second weekend of “Blue Beetle” — say, an opening weekend closer to $15 million than $10 million — that will be mostly trivia over the long haul. If word-of-mouth is solid and the $60 million film legs out, that’s good. If not, and it gets black-flagged after the first lap, that’s bad.
The only other major wide release this weekend is Liam Neeson’s “Retribution.” Lionsgate has yet to report Thursday preview earnings. The film stars Neeson as an overworked father trapped in his own car with a bomb set to detonate should he or his children exit the vehicle. Few are expecting anything approaching the over/under $11 million debuts the 71-year-old acting legend and late-stage action star used to pull in pre-COVID times. His last several action vehicles, “Honest Thief,” “The Marksman,” “Black Light” and “Memory,” all opened below $4 million courtesy of Briarcliff Entertainment during and after peak COVID circumstances.