It’s another weekend of box office domination for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which collected a towering $40 million in its fourth frame. Those ticket sales, down just 33% from the weekend prior, were easily enough to rule over the weekend’s newcomers, including literary adaptation “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” Finnish war drama “Sisu” and biopic “Big George Foreman.”
After four weeks on the big screen, “Mario” has grossed $490 million in North America and $532 million internationally to loom even larger as the highest-grossing film of 2023. It’s also the first movie of the year to cross $1 billion globally. Only five pandemic-era blockbusters have hit that milestone.
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“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” fared the best among the new releases, opening in third place with $6.8 million from 3,343 North American theaters. Those are rocky ticket sales for the $30 million-budgeted coming-of-age story, which is based on Judy Blume’s seminal novel, since it’s expected to have limited overseas appeal.
Lionsgate’s adaptation, which marks the first time that Blume has allowed Hollywood to turn her books into films, has been well received. It earned an “A” CinemaScore from audiences, as well as a 99% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The opening weekend audience for the film, according to PostTrak, was 81% female and 81% over the age of 25.
“Coming-of-age stories draw bigger audiences when they start to deal with direct romance in the teens years,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, referring to hits like “Juno” and “Lady Bird.” He adds, “Thus far, the audience’s largest segment is women over 45, who know the book. This is a film about a girl’s pre-teen experience, but so far girls are not attending in large numbers.”
So, the studio is hoping that positive word-of-mouth carries “Margaret” through Mother’s Day in mid-May. Abby Ryder Fortson (“Ant-Man and the Wasp”) plays the 11-year-old protagonist, who grapples with puberty and religion as her family (Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie play her parents) moves from New York City to the suburbs.
Elsewhere, “Sisu” and “Big George Foreman” failed to connect with audiences, barely (or not even) cracking the top 10 at the domestic box office despite playing in thousands of theaters.
“Sisu,” a high-octane war thriller that Lionsgate acquired at the Toronto Film Festival, debuted to No. 10 with $3.2 million from 1,006 venues. That’s far less screens than the average nationwide release. The well-reviewed film, written and directed by Jalmari Helande, takes place during the desperate days of WWII as a solitary prospector crosses paths with Nazis on a scorched-earth retreat in northern Finland.
Sony’s “Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Champion of the World fared even worse, opening in 11th place with a dismal $3 million from 3,054 theaters. Khris Davis plays the world heavyweight boxing champion in the biopic, which resonated among audiences (evidenced by its “A-” CinemaScore) but not reviewers (it holds a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes). The PG-13 film carries a $32 million price tag, so it’ll struggle to turn a profit theatrically unless momentum picks up in the coming weeks.
“George Foreman was a champion athlete who led a very interesting life, but the theatrical standard for sports biographies is, ‘Did they change the world?’ — the way Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson did,” says Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross. “Critics are not enthusiastic.”
Elsewhere at the domestic box office, holdovers — from this decade and others — rounded out the top five.
“Evil Dead Rise,” a supernatural horror sequel from Warner Bros. and New Line, took second place with $12.2 million from 3,417 theaters. That’s a 50% dip from its debut. So far, “Evil Dead Rise” has generated $44.4 million in North America and $42 million internationally. Those are promising returns since the $15 million-budgeted film was originally intended to release on HBO Max before getting a traditional theatrical release.
In fourth place, “John Wick: Chapter 4” added $5 million from 2,481 venues in its sixth weekend of release. To date, the film has grossed a stellar $176 million domestically and $375 million globally. It’s the highest-grossing entry in the Keanu Reeves-led action franchise, overtaking 2019’s “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” ($328 million).
“Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” — yes, the one from 1983 — took the No. 5 spot with roughly $4.7 million from a mere 475 theaters. Disney brought the film back to theaters to commemorate its 40th anniversary and proved the fandom remains strong. After several re-releases, “Return of the Jedi” has grossed $311 million in North America and $475 million worldwide.
In limited release, Sundance award winner “Polite Society” crumbled with $800,000 from 927 theaters, translating to a dismal $858 per location. Nida Manzoor directed the film, a zany genre mashup about two sisters. The younger one, who dreams of becoming a martial artist, believes she must save her older sibling from her impending marriage. Focus Features is distributing “Polite Society,” which holds a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes but landed a “B+ “CinemaScore.
In Variety’s review, chief film critic Peter Debruge likened the movie to cult favorites like “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” writing, “if ‘Polite Society’ manages to find its audience, it has the makings of a generational touchstone.”