Channing Tatum’s trilogy capper is the latest film greenlit for HBO Max that will be getting a release in just 1,500 theaters
Between the Super Bowl this Sunday and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” coming next Friday, the new release list for movie theaters is scarce this weekend. But what is coming is “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” a Warner Bros. film that was greenlit as an HBO Max exclusive but is now getting a theatrical release strategy that has perplexed analysts and rival studios.
Starring Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek in what’s being billed as the ending of a trilogy that began with “Magic Mike” in 2012 and continued with “Magic Mike XXL” in 2015, the dramedy about male stripper “Magic” Mike Lane is getting a release on just 1,500 theaters as opposed to the 3,355 that “Magic Mike XXL” got eight years ago.
When David Zaslav took over Warner Bros. after its merger with Discovery last year, he promised a recommitment to releasing films theatrically after the studio, under the direction of previous CEO Jason Kilar, released all its 2021 films day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max, while several films were greenlit exclusively for the streaming service.
Those HBO Max exclusives, which include “Magic Mike 3” and the upcoming “Evil Dead Rise,” will now go to theaters first. But the strategy around these films seems to be to release them theatrically as cheaply as possible, with minimal marketing budgets and distribution in just 1,500 theaters instead of a full nationwide launch. Analysts who have spoken with TheWrap say they’ve been confused by this strategy, and one rival studio executive dismissed it as “a token gesture to theaters.”
“Warner Bros. should have probably just kept their releases as day-and-date on HBO Max since their rollout for films previously slated for streaming is making those titles feel like cinematic afterthoughts,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “1,500 theaters is an extremely soft wide release for a major studio, one that signals lack of confidence in the product. It’s like Magic Mike is slumming in the red light district instead of on a Vegas stage.”
Insiders at Warner say that the screen count for “Magic Mike” is a “strategic, deliberate” move to give the cult fanbase of the series a chance to see the film in a packed theater, with every major and secondary market covered albeit with fewer theaters in each city playing the film. They also noted the film’s “responsible” production and marketing spend and that the theaters that screen it will receive a much larger share of ticket sales, similar to the terms that Warner made with theaters during the 2021 day-and-date experiment.
For Warner and “Magic Mike 3” the best-case scenario is that despite the minimal marketing, Tatum’s strong drawing power with women helps the film gain a foothold at the box office through Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day on Tuesday possibly as a romantic alternative to “Quantumania” next weekend.
For evidence that this can work, just look to Tatum’s films last year. In mid-February 2022, Tatum’s MGM dramedy “Dog” opened to $14.8 million and made $61.7 million domestic. A month later, his Paramount comedy “The Lost City” did even better with a $30.4 million opening and a domestic total of $105.3 million. For both films, their box office success was primarily driven by female moviegoers.
Of course, this isn’t an exact comparison as “Dog” and “Lost City” were released in thousands more theaters than “Magic Mike 3,” but current tracking has the film earning an opening weekend of around $10 million with the chance of making up the Sunday box office revenue lost to the Super Bowl during Valentine’s Day. By comparison, “Magic Mike XXL” opened to $14.8 million.
Regardless of the football, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” will be a better test of Warner’s plans to release Kilar-era titles on the cheap than “House Party,” a remake of the 1990 Reginald Hudlin cult classic that only made $8.7 million at the box office last month. But given the lack of marketing and the film’s mixed reviews with a 56% Rotten Tomatoes score, this film will have an uphill road to get anywhere near the $66 million total of “Magic Mike XXL,” so theaters will have to settle for this being a small contribution in terms of revenue before “Quantumania” opens the floodgates, even with Warner Bros. offering theaters a larger share of the gate.
Also hitting 2,400 theaters this weekend is a 25th anniversary re-release of James Cameron’s “Titanic,” which is returning to theaters at the same time that the director’s latest release, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” is closing in on it in both the domestic and global box office charts.
Currently, “Titanic” has a lifetime box office gross of $659 million domestic (eighth all-time) and $2.19 billion worldwide (third all-time). “The Way of Water,” after two months in theaters, has grossed $636 million domestic and $2.17 billion globally. In this battle of Cameron vs. Cameron, “Titanic” may be able to edge out “The Way of Water” this weekend as it’s projected to earn $7-$12 million.
Box Office Reporter • firstname.lastname@example.org • Twitter: @jeremyfuster