Will ‘Shazam!’ Still Fly High With ‘Hellboy’ at Its Heels at This Weekend’s Box Office?

Universal’s “Little” and Laika’s “Missing Link” also hit theaters

While four films are set to release wide this weekend, the big showdown will be between comic book films, as “Shazam!” goes up against Lionsgate’s gory, R-rated reboot of “Hellboy.”

The “Shazam!” showdown against “Hellboy” comes after the DC superhero film’s $56.8 million domestic launch.  However, while the Warner Bros./New Line film had strong critical and audience reception coming off of the weekend, Monday’s box office numbers were lower than expected for such a well-received film, with just $3 million grossed. While those numbers may have been weighed down by the broadcast of the NCAA basketball championship, Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock says it makes him wonder whether the good word-of-mouth for the DC blockbuster is really spreading to other audiences.

“Perhaps family audiences will show up to ‘Shazam!’ and keep it No. 1,” Bock said. “But if hardcore comic-book fans who saw ‘Shazam!’ migrate to ‘Hellboy’ this weekend, ‘Shazam!’ might have a large enough drop for ‘Hellboy’ to take the top spot.”

“Hellboy,” with David Harbour replacing Ron Perlman as the heroic demon, is looking at an opening of $17-20 million from 3,200 screens. While the R rating prevents a direct comparison, this would be lower than the $23 million opening for Guillermo del Toro’s PG-13 “Hellboy” in 2004 and the $34.5 million opening for his 2008 sequel, “The Golden Army.”

When it comes to R-rated comic-book movies, the obvious standard of success is the “Deadpool”  franchise, whose two films combined to gross more than $1.5 billion worldwide. But Boxoffice editor Daniel Loria notes that unlike the first “Deadpool” film, “Hellboy” is coming out at a time when movie theaters will already be full of superheroes.

“With ‘Deadpool,’ there wasn’t anything like it scheduled for release near it,” Loria said. “We’re in a situation right now where people are talking about how much they enjoyed watching ‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Shazam!’ and many moviegoers are already looking forward to ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ There just isn’t a lot of room for ‘Hellboy’ to find an audience in this space.”

Lionsgate is comparing the film to supernatural R-rated films like the “Resident Evil” and “Underworld” series. 2017’s “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” opened to $13.6 million in its January release, though the previous installment in that series, “Retribution,” opened to $21 million in September 2012. Both films relied on overseas audiences to turn a profit, with “Final Chapter” earning 91% of its $312 million global gross outside North America.

Loria is somewhat more optimistic about the prospects for two other new releases, Universal’s “Little” and United Artists/Laika’s “Missing Link.” Both of these films have a lower projected opening than “Hellboy,” but might be able to weather the upcoming “Avengers” storm by appealing to a different audience. “Little” is projected for an opening in the mid-teens against a $20 million budget while “Missing Link” is projected for a $10 million opening.

“Usually studios steer clear of releasing movies ahead of a major blockbuster, but sometimes they can serve as good counter-programming,” Loria said. “I’m going to be getting up early on April 26 not just to see how ‘Avengers’ does but to also see what the second and third weekend holds look like against it.”

“Little” stars both Regina Hall and “Black-ish” star Marsai Martin as a ruthless tech mogul transformed into a 13-year-old as punishment for her callous behavior. Unable to lead her company, she must rely on her beleaguered assistant (Issa Rae), who doubles as both her replacement at the company and new legal guardian. Tina Gordon Chism directed from a script she co-wrote with Tracy Oliver, with Will Packer and Kenya Barris producing.

“Missing Link” stars Hugh Jackman and Zoe Saldana as two adventurers who travel to the Pacific Northwest and discover the existence of a creature who goes by the names of Mr. Link and Susan (Zach Galifianakis). Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, and Timothy Olyphant also star in the film, which is written and directed by Chris Butler.

“Hellboy” sees the Dark Horse Comics hero take on the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), an undead sorceress bent on destroying the world. Neil Marshall directed the film from a script by Andrew Cosby, and it also stars Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim and Thomas Haden Church.