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Universal/Illumination’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has now earned the largest global animated opening weekend in box office history with a worldwide five-day launch of $377 million, passing the $358 million record set by Disney’s “Frozen II” on Thanksgiving weekend in 2019.
Domestically, “Mario” was projected when it opened in theaters on Wednesday to earn a five-day opening of at least $125 million from 4,343 theaters, and it has shattered that figure with $204.6 million grossed. Both that and its three-day total of $143 million are a studio record for Illumination, with the three-day total being the third highest seen on Easter weekend and second only to the $182 million earned by Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” among all animated films. It is also the new animation record holder for Imax with $21.6 million grossed worldwide.
And of course, the film has blasted past every box office opening record for video game adaptations, nearly doubling the three-day domestic record of $72.1 million set by “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” last year and shattering the $210 million global record set by “Warcraft” in 2016.
“This weekend’s record-breaking debut proves audiences of all ages and demographics will pour into theaters for a hysterically funny and authentic universe expansion of an already iconic franchise,” said Universal’s domestic distribution president Jim Orr. “Nintendo and Illumination’s creative synergy along with Shigeru Miyamoto and Chris Meledandri’s extraordinary leadership created an entertaining juggernaut that will be sure to power up the box office for weeks to come.”
For theaters, this holiday weekend is another reason to pump their fists and hold onto optimism that the box office is on a long but steady course to returning to pre-pandemic strength. Thanks in large part to “Super Mario Bros.,” overall weekend estimates have risen to $194 million, 76% above the same weekend in 2019.
“’The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s’ strong performance with the family audience this weekend is just another example of the consistent consumer enthusiasm for seeing great films on the big screen,” said Wanda Gierhart Fearing, Cinemark’s chief marketing and content officer on Saturday. “Moviegoers have demonstrated time and time again that they crave the immersive, cinematic experience only theaters can provide.”
Regardless of whether “Mario” legs out with moviegoers who don’t have nostalgic memories of playing Nintendo games, all signs point to this animated film getting plenty of repeat viewings from families and gamers throughout April as there won’t be another major blockbuster until “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” in early May.
Depending on the strength of those holds, “Mario” will have a chance to pass the $939 million earned by fellow Illumination film “Minions: The Rise of Gru” to become the top grossing animated film since the pandemic began.
Also opening this weekend is Amazon Studios’ “Air,” the new true story sports dramedy from Ben Affleck that has opened just above pre-weekend projections with a $20.2 million five-day opening from 3,507 theaters. It’s a respectable result for a film serving as counter-programming for older audiences not interested in “Mario,” and has earned strong reviews with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 92% critics and 98% audience to go with an A on CinemaScore.
That said, “Air” will likely fail to turn a theatrical profit at the box office given its reported $90 million production budget and $40 million marketing spend, the latter of which included a SXSW premiere. “Air” was a pivot by Amazon Studios from a streaming exclusive to a theatrical release at the urging of its late distribution chief Erik Lomis, who joined Amazon from MGM as part of the acquisition of the latter legacy studio.
Even if it fails to make its money back theatrically, “Air” is said by Amazon insiders to be part of a larger plan to put greater investment into releasing films theatrically using the distribution infrastructure it gained with MGM and United Artists Releasing, the latter of which was absorbed into MGM following the acquisition.
Similar trends have been seen at other studios with Apple Original Films reportedly planning to significantly expand its theatrical footprint while Warner Bros. has pivoted films like “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” and the upcoming “Evil Dead Rise” from HBO Max exclusives to theatrical releases.
Among holdovers, Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 4” and Paramount’s “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” are in a virtual tie on the charts, with a slight edge going to “Wick” with $14.6 million in its third weekend. The Keanu Reeves shoot-em-up has grossed $147 million domestic and $300 million globally, and by next weekend should become the highest grossing film in the “John Wick” series.
“Dungeons & Dragons,” meanwhile, dropped 61% from its opening weekend for a $14.5 million second frame total and a $62 million running domestic total. With strong reviews, there’s still a chance that the film could have stronger legs as an alternative for 18-34 audiences to “Mario” in the coming weeks, but if the holds next weekend aren’t strong enough, it’s likely that Paramount will have to turn to post-theatrical revenue streams to turn a profit on this $150 million blockbuster.
One Paramount film that doesn’t have to worry about theatrical profitability is “Scream VI,” which completes the top 5 with $3.3 million in its fifth weekend. With $103 million grossed in North America against a $33 million production budget, this sixth installment in the Wes Craven meta-slasher franchise is the first one to pass the $100 million mark since “Scream 2” way back in 1997.