It seemed that next weekend, when “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Disney) debuts and several strong holdovers are still in play, might be the moment when theaters could truly claim to be back. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (Universal) decided to push that up by a week.
With an estimated opening of $108.5 million ($127.9 million through Monday), “Gru” led a strong (though not record-breaking) weekend of $175 million for all films. Though it provided over 60 percent of the total, it was abetted by decent or better holds for #2 “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount), #3 “Elvis” (Warner Bros.), #4 “Jurassic World: Dominion” (Universal), and #5 “The Black Phone” (Universal).
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Look at that line-up. Don’t expect to see it regularly. But it provides the formula for box office recovery. Five distinct films, even with some overlap in audiences, still having broad audience appeal. Five different genres. Two franchise films plus a sequel of a 1980s hit, and two stand-alone original films.
And even more importantly, without signs that the quantity of top films hurt each other much competitively. That portends an expanding audience that has been building steadily for months, but particularly accelerated when “Maverick” opened over Memorial Day weekend.
The net effect is that with Tom Cruise’s smash having terrific staying power along with a supply of mostly strong new titles since, three of the last four weekends have seen grosses above the same dates in 2019, the last normal summer. This one was 20 percent ahead of then (though that date didn’t overlap the holiday).
Our ongoing four-week rolling average compared to three years ago now stands at 108 percent, the highest since the pandemic began. It’s too early to declare victory, but clearly momentum has strongly shifted. With the latest Marvel title just ahead, July 2022 increasing looks like it will easily be the strongest since 2019, and could come the closest to the equivalent pre-Covid month since reopening.
The macro view is central, but let’s give “Gru” its due. The fifth film in Illumination Entertainment’s “Despicable Me” franchise has easily overcome doubts about animated titles that the softer than expected performance of Pixar’s “Lightyear” (Disney) suggested. Over its first three days, the Minions gang will take in more than what “Lightyear” has grossed through its third weekend.
That makes the issues with the high-concept “Toy Story” spinoff more limited to Disney and the film. Not that $51 million was an awful opening, even if low for Pixar. But its collapse since — two successive weekends of horrific drops of 64 percent — emphasize how much Universal has quietly become the biggest force in animation.
Universal has even more bragging rights. They have three of the top five titles, and nearly 78 percent of the total gross. Disney, which of course will come roaring back next weekend, has its best title at #6. And Universal’s formula for success — more releases than any other company, PVOD availability for all of its titles opening under $50 million (that excludes “Jurassic” and “Gru”) after the third weekend, a diversity of releases similar to its current successes — shows no signs of abating. Jordan Peele’s “Nope” opens in three weeks, and could easily be another major hit.
“Maverick” in the meantime continues to astound. On its star’s 60th birthday (as old or older than Clark Gable and Gary Cooper when they died), it dropped only 14 percent to repeat as #2 in its sixth weekend. At $571 million (domestic), it is the biggest hit since “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($804 million), and will stake out a position as best of the year. Marvel and James Cameron will likely have a say in this before final results are known. But coming ahead of them, its draw has been critical to the strong pull of theaters in recent weeks.
“Elvis” only dropped 39 percent, a decent second week hold for Baz Luhrmann’s exuberant biopic coming off a better than expected opening. That’s the same amount that “Bohemian Rhapsody” fell its second — terrific company to be in, and more impressive as “Elvis” is up against far more competition. Blumhouse’s “The Black Phone” was down 48 percent, but that is above average for horror films. The $18 million budget film is already at $47 million.
Also debuting in the Top 10 is “Mr. Malcolm’s List” (Bleecker Street), the adaptation of the England-set 19th century romance novel. It’s another example of the new era of early wider release, with once again mediocre results. It grossed only $852,000 in 1,384 theaters. “The Forgiven” (Roadside Attractions), with recent Oscar winner Jessica Chastain managed only $132,000 in 124. “Official Competition” (IFC) expanded more slowly. The Penelope Cruz-Antonio Banderas comedy managed only $145,000 in 173 theaters. Though none of these films have published VOD dates yet, the wisdom of this approach will be better seen when they reach home viewing with higher awareness.
More limited, the second weekend of “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” (A24) did an outstanding $258,000 in only 22 theaters. Two new films had decent or better initial showings. “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song” (Sony Pictures Classics) did over $27,000 in only three theaters. Louis C.K. in “Fourth of July” (Circus King) is $12,100 in two traditional theaters, but after amassing $207,000 in additional event showings in three locations starting Thursday night in New York, Boston, and Chicago (all non-traditional cinemas).
The Top 10
1. Minions: The Rise of Gru (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 56; Est. budget: $85 million
$108,510,000 in 4,391 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $24,712; Cumulative: $108,510,000
2. Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #2
$25,545,000 (-14%) in 3,843 (-105) theaters; PTA: $6,647; Cumulative: $570,975,000
3. Elvis (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$19,000,000 (-39%) in 3,932 (+26) theaters; PTA: $4,832; Cumulative: $67,230,000
4. Jurassic World: Dominion (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #3
$15,650,000 (-41%) in 3,801 (-432) theaters; PTA: $4,117; Cumulative: $331,815,000
5. The Black Phone (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$12,300,000 (-48%) in 3,156 (+6) theaters; PTA: $3,897; Cumulative: $47,464,000
6. Lightyear (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #5
$6,574,000 (-64%) in 3,800 theaters (-455); PTA: $1,730; Cumulative: $105,363,000
7. Mr. Malcolm’s List (Bleecker Street) NEW – Metacritic: 67
$851,853 in 1,384 theaters; PTA: $616; Cumulative: $851,853
8. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 15; Last weekend #8; also on PVOD
$551,974 (+5%) in 607 (+83) theaters; PTA: $909; Cumulative: $67,015,000
9. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Disney) Week 9; Last weekend #6; also on Disney + and PVOD
$390,000 (-78%) in 590 (-1,265) theaters; PTA: $661; Cumulative: $410,541,000
10. Jug Jugg Jeeyo (Moviegoer) Week 2; Last weekend #7
$(est.) 300,000 (-51%) in 150 (-168) theaters; PTA: $2,190; Cumulative: $(est.) 1,150,000
Additional specialized/limited/independent releases
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Telluride, Venice 2021; Tribeca 2022
$27,348 in 3 theaters; PTA: $9,116
The Forgiven (Roadside Attractions) NEW – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Toronto 2021, Tribeca 2022
$132,565 in 124 theaters; PTA: $1,069
Fourth of July (Circus King) NEW – Metacritic: 34
$12,100 in 2 theaters; PTA: $6,050; Cumulative: $219,000 (in 5 locations, 4 days)
Clara Sola (Oscilloscope) – NEW – Metacritic: 79; Festivals include: Cannes 2021
$6,120 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,120
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (A24) Week 2
$258,438 in 22 (+16) theaters; PTA: $11,747; Cumulative: $481,450
CatVideoFest (Oscilloscope) Week 2
$16,375 in 14 (+8) theaters; PTA: $1,170; Cumulative: $37,713
Official Competition (IFC) Week 3
$145,000 in 173 (+147) theaters; Cumulative: $268,684
Lost Illusions (Music Box) Week 4
$12,184 in 13 (+1) theaters; Cumulative: $78,461
Mad God (IFC) Week 4; also streaming on Shudder
$20,000 in 40 (+13) theaters; Cumulative: $153,069
The Phantom of the Open (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$66,575 in 145 (-356) theaters; Cumulative: $580,407
Facing Nolan (Utopia) Week 12
$10,430 in 25 (-45) theaters; Cumulative: $386,294
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