Box Office: ‘Creed III’ to Knock Down ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ With $36 Million-Plus Debut

It’s the battle of the threequels at the weekend box office. Michael B. Jordan’s sports drama “Creed III” is taking on two-time champ “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” at the movies, though the heavyweight boxer is expected to emerge victorious over Marvel’s tiniest Avenger.

“Creed III,” which Jordan directed in his feature filmmaking debut, is projected to earn a trilogy-best $36 million to $40 million from 4,007 North American theaters in its opening weekend. Those ticket sales will easily be enough to defeat Disney’s superhero tentpole “Ant-Man 3,” which looks to add $16 million to $19 million in its third weekend of release. So far, the comic book adventure has grossed $170 million domestically and $366 million globally.

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Come Sunday, though, the third “Creed” installment needs to leave the ring within those tracking expectations to notch the best start in the spinoff franchise. The original “Creed,” which re-launched the decades-old “Rocky” film series in 2015, debuted to $29.6 million, while its 2018 sequel “Creed II” opened to $35.5 million. With a $75 million price tag, MGM’s newest entry is the most expensive film in the trilogy. (Its predecessors cost $35 million and $50 million, respectively.) But as long as “Creed III” performs similarly to the first two films — the original earned $173 million globally and the follow-up generated $214 million — the third movie is well positioned in its theatrical run.

Critics and audiences have embraced all of the “Creed” films, in which Jordan plays Adonis Creed, son of boxing legend Apollo Creed. The latest installment, which has again scored stellar reviews, picks up as Adonis tends to his career and family life. But when his childhood pal and former boxing prodigy (played by Jonathan Majors) resurfaces after serving a long prison sentence, the former friends put their futures on the line to face off in the ring. Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin wrote the screenplay.

Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman says the movie “keeps the bar high,” while the Associated Press critic Lindsey Bahr praised Jordan’s direction, calling it “a promising debut for the 36-year-old, who shows here that he’ll never let his own star ego get in the way of a film.”

Also new to theaters, Guy Ritchie’s action-comedy “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” is expected to bring in $5 million from 2,150 domestic theaters. Jason Statham stars in the film as super-spy Orson Fortune, who must track down and stop the sale of a deadly new weapons technology that’s being wielded by a billionaire arms broker (Hugh Grant). Reluctantly teamed with some of the world’s best operatives (Aubrey Plaza, Cary Elwes and rapper Bugzy Malone round out the ensemble), Fortune and his crew recruit Hollywood’s biggest movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to help them on their globe-trotting undercover mission to save the world.

It’s generated mixed reviews, with a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, though critics have praised the cast. The Daily Beast’s Nick Schager hailed Plaza’s scene-stealing performance, saying the espionage is “enlivened by Aubrey Plaza, who runs away with the show.”

Lionsgate picked up the $50 million-budgeted film for domestic distribution from Miramax, which co-produced the film with STX Entertainment. “Operation Fortune” has already been released in many overseas markets, where it has earned over $41 million.

Not to be outdone on lengthy titles, there’s Crunchyroll’s “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba: To the Swordsmith Village,” which is positioned to collect $7.5 million to $10 million in its debut. Already, the anime film has generated $23 million in Japan.

Crunchyroll, which is owned by Sony and specializes in manga film and television, has been dominating the space in North America. The distributor’s 2021 release “Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train” generated a stellar $21.2 million to start, which is even more impressive since cinemas were still operating at reduced capacity at the time. More recently, its 2022 film “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” topped the box office in its debut with $21 million domestically.

Elsewhere, holdover titles including “Cocaine Bear” and “Jesus Revolution” are expected to round out domestic box office charts.

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