‘Mortal Kombat’ & ‘Demon Slayer’ Overperform On Sunday After Intense Box Office Brawl; Anime Pic Busts Past $21M

Monday AM Final: It just keeps getting better. Not only was Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat up in its opening weekend to $23.3M, but Funimation/Aniplex’s Demon Slayer also surged as well, cracking beyond the teens threshold to $21.1M. Both had better-than-expected Sundays, with Mortal Kombat grossing $5.5M (off 36% from Saturday); Warners was expecting $4.8M. Demon Slayer grossed $5.2M (off 19% from Saturday), but significantly better than the anticipated $3.56M.

Here’s where the industry needs to wake up. Now that we know people will go back to the movies after Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat and Demon Slayer, we need more films. Like big films. Technically, we’re not going to see another big box office weekend again until the Memorial Day frame, May 28-31, with Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II and Disney’s Cruella, which is essentially a month from now. Open Road has its horror movie Separation on April 30 and United Artists Releasing has the Guy Ritchie-Jason Statham feature Wrath of Man on May 7. Exhibition needs more.

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SUNDAY AM FINAL: In the fight between Funimation/Aniplex’s Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train and New Line/Warner Bros./HBO Max’s Mortal Kombat, it is the latter who is the victor with $22.5M, while the anime title drew $19.5M. Interestingly enough, that amount isn’t that far from what Midway Game’s feature adaptation made back in 1995: $23.2M.

All in, both films, according to Comscore, drove the biggest overall weekend since mid-March last year, when Covid started stateside with $52.9M, +180% over last weekend. Mortal Kombat reps the biggest R-rated opening to date during the pandemic.

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All of this is a great sign that the world is opening up again, as the pandemic eases and vaccinations go up. While we have tapped Warner Bros. on the chin for their audacious theatrical and HBO Max day-and-date strategy (which will catch up with itself eventually), we would not know that these B.O. results were possible if it wasn’t for Warner Bros. Really, theaters wouldn’t be open if it wasn’t for Warner Bros. (and Universal), and sincerely that goes all the way back to late August’s Tenet.

This is the fourth movie from Warners this year to open in the No. 1 spot. The studio has owned nine weeks out of 17 this year in the top spot at the box office, with a 48% market share overall.

“New Line once again far exceeded expectations and brought a movie that wowed fans general audiences,” beamed Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution Boss Jeff Goldstein this morning.

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This was to be expected, that Warners would edge out, for a couple of reasons: They had the bigger marketing spend (Mortal Kombat is a $55M net production, and given the B.O. result here, Warners likely shelled out less than Godzilla vs. Kong‘s estimated $70M). Understand, the most which was ever expected for Mortal Kombat was $15M going into this weekend. Most of these Warner Bros. movies this year keep beating their tracking, and I’m told, again and again by non-Warner Bros. sources, that the reason why is because of the studio’s new Worldwide Marketing President Josh Goldstine. He knows the secret sauce involved in opening a movie, and when he was at Universal and Sony, those two studios experienced moments where their event pics would beat projections.

A clever marketing move which the Warner marketing team pulled on Tuesday is that they dropped the first seven minutes of Mortal Kombat. You know what happened? I’m told pre-sales tripled on Tuesday (this despite Demon Slayer selling Mortal Kombat out at AMC 4 to 1 in presales heading into the weekend). Credit is also due here to New Line President and CCO Richard Brener and EVP Dave Neustadter, the MacGyver of movie budgets, in delivering an adequately priced feature which delivered with wide appealing results.

While iSpot saw over $6M in TV spend by Warners for Mortal Kombat heading into the weekend, I’m told that number was really in the $12M range. The studio ran spots on Telemundo, UniMas, Univision, Adult Swim, BET, MTV, Turner Sports, and the NBA, along with sponsorships on ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes. Mortal Kombat spots, according to iSpot, aired on such shows on College and NBA basketball, Family Guy, Ridiculousness, and Rick and Morty.

Warners also had multiple screening events with Gold House (4/22), HBCU Colleges (4/22), CAPE, Asian American Journalist Association, CAAM, East West Players, APA Women, AAPI Women Lead, C100, and more for Mortal Kombat. As we previously told you, fans went nuts over the red-band trailer, which was the second most-watched one ever (after James Gunn’s upcoming The Suicide Squad) in its first week, with over 116M views worldwide.

In hobbled Canada, where only 20% of the B.O. is available, PVOD for Mortal Kombat did $2M there.

The top 10 locations for Mortal Kombat were: 1. AMC Burbank Los Angeles, 2. Santikos Palladium San Antonio, 3. Cinemark Tinseltown El Paso, 4. Santikos Casa Blanca San Antonio, 5. AMC Orange Los Angeles, 6. Cinemark Pharr Town Center (Texas), 7. AMC Empire New York, 8. Cinemark Century 16 Corpus Christi, 9. AMC Gulf Pointe Houston, and 10. AMC Southlake Pavilion Atlanta.

And the top 10 DMA markets for the New Line pic were: 1. Los Angeles, 2. New York, 3. Dallas, 4. Houston, 5. Chicago, 6. Phoenix, 7. San Francisco, 8. Atlanta, 9. Orlando, and 10. Philadelphia.

In further clarification, Funimation spent in the single digits, I’m told, to push Demon Slayer to sub and dub audiences. There were outdoor ads, including an L.A. train wrap, billboards in key markets, and digital campaigns that launched in week. Funimation partnered with key exhibitors to drive incremental ticket sales, with social and CRM activations including dedicated emails, push notifications, organic and sponsored posts. There were influencer activations on Demon Slayer with chefs (Jonathan Kung), beauty (Bella Poarch), and sports influencers (Juju Smith-Schuster) that launched with ticket pre-sell and extended through the first several weeks of release.

Another reason why Mortal Kombat had the upper hand here is because anime is traditionally front-loaded. While it looks like Demon Slayer fell harder in its Saturday to Friday than Mortal Kombat (-32% vs the New Line pic’s -5%), keep in mind that the Funimation/Aniplex movie rolled $3.8M Thursday previews into its $9.5M Friday. Backing Thursday out of Friday (making it $5.7M), Demon Slayer‘s Saturday of $6.44M is technically up +13%. Mortal Kombat dipped from $9.08M on Friday to $8.7M on Saturday with Sunday expected to bring in $4.8M.

Imax drove business for both Mortal Kombat and Demon Slayer. The New Line movie had the large format screens from Friday-Sunday, earning 2.7M at 375 auditoriums (global was $4.3m). Demon Slayer had those venues on Thursday earning $710K. To date, the anime pic has grossed $28.6M WW in Imax, $25M of that coming from Japan. Demon Slayer is the biggest non-Chinese local title and fourth- highest grossing local language movie in Imax.

Bleecker Street’s Together Together benefited from AMC bookings, which had the pic playing for more than one showtime. The Sundance title, starring Ed Helms and Patti Harrison, turned out good results, given the pandemic with top markets being LA, NYC, Phoenix, Chicago and San Francisco with notable results in Nashville and Seattle.

Total running B.O. for 2021 according to Comscore is $433.96M, off 76% from 2020’s $1.8 billion for the period of Jan. 1-April 25.

The weekend B.O. for April 23-25, 2021 – Oscar weekend, daily B.O. as provided by distributor

1.) Mortal Kombat (New Line/WB), 3,073 theaters /Fri $9.08M/Sat $8.7M/Sun $4.765M/3-day $22.5M/Wk 1

2.) Demon Slayer (Fun/Ani) 1,605 theaters/Fri $9.5M/Sat $6.44M/Sun $3.56M/3-day $19.5M Wk 1

3.) Godzilla vs. Kong (WB/Leg) 2,856 theaters (-145),Fri $1.1M/Sat $1.9M/Sun $1.2M/ 3-day: $4.2M (-46%)/Total: $86.57M/Wk 4

4.) Nobody (Uni) 2,252 theaters (-153) Fri $500K/Sat $850K/Sun $510K/3-day: $1.86M (-26%)/Total $21.67M/Wk 5

5.) Raya and the Last Dragon (Dis) 1,819 theaters (-126), Fri $400K/Sat $800K/Sun $480k/ 3-day: $1.68M (-12%), Total: $39.8M/Wk 8

6.) The Unholy (Sony) 1,835 theaters (-222) //Fri $425K/Sat $610M/Sun $365K/$1.4M (-32%)/Total: $11.5M/Wk 4

7.) Tom & Jerry (WB) 1,930 theaters (-98), 3-day: $650K (-32%)/Total: $43.4M/Wk 9

8.) Together Together (BST) 665 theaters, Fri $181K, Sat $211K, Sun $130K, 3-day: $522K/Wk 1

9.) The Girl Who Believes in Miracles (Atlas) 941 theaters (-71) Fri $90K/Sat $155K/Sun $92K/ 3-day $337K (-40%)/Total: $2.4M/Wk 4

10.) The Courier (RSA) 713 theaters (-210),/Fri $84K/Sat $120K/Sun $60K/3-day: $264K (-43%)/Total: $5.9M/Wk 6

SATURDAY AM UPDATE: Wow, it’s a great weekend at the box office, even by pre-pandemic standards.

Two movies, both R-rated and aimed at fanboys, aren’t squashing one another, but equally set to gross over $19M apiece this weekend. We’re talking about New Line/HBO Max’s Mortal Kombat and Funimation/Aniplex’s Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train. Seriously, amazing box office results here in the wake of Warner’s $48M-plus Easter 5-day win with Godzilla vs. Kong. That’s considering 58% of U.S. and Canada’s 5,8K theaters are open, NYC is operating at 33% capacity, and Canada is only 20% open.

Both movies are blowing away expectations, which were around $10M for Demon Slayer and $10M-$12M for Mortal Kombat. I heard best-case scenario for the latter was $15M. But the reboot of the classic Midway game, which finally delivers a lot of blood, is literally killing it. It’s only right that on a weekend when the industry is celebrating the movies at the Oscars, that they deliver fantastic results at the box office.

Currently, given the front-loaded nature of anime pics such as Demon Slayer, the notion is that Mortal Kombat will wind up having the edge for the weekend. However, it won’t be shocking if both titles cross $20M.

Rival major studio brass, including those drunk on streaming, need to keep their eyes and ears open now: We’re at a place where if a studio invests in theatrical P&A, audiences will clearly come. But there’s an even bigger takeaway here, specifically in regards to Demon Slayer: Here we have a TV property, making its feature debut, and there’s clearly an appetite for the big screen version of this Koyoharu Gotoge-created manga. I suppose that Funimation could have taken this piece of IP straight into homes if they wanted. But they bet on theatrical and are easily winning, even if they rank in second place. Talk about respect for the window: the pic doesn’t hit EST until June 22.

Demon Slayer is far and away the biggest opening ever for the Sony-co-owned Funimation, besting the 2019 MLK release of Dragon Ball Super: Broly‘s 3-day of $9.8M and 4-day of $11.95M. That resulted in a 6-day debut of $22.4M, and final domestic of $30.7M. Already, from its overseas release last year in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and more, Demon Slayer counts over $435M at the foreign B.O.

Each posted a very competitive Friday grosses on their own, which indicate that moviegoing is returning to normalcy, with Mortal Kombat taking $9.03M at 3,073 theaters and Demon Slayer grabbing $9.5M at 1,605 theaters. But the latter comes with an asterisk.

Note, Mortal Kombat did not have any Thursday night previews. Demon Slayer had Thursday night previews of $3.8M, boosted by Imax and PLF, which fueled over 18% of the gross, which are being rolled into Friday. As we mentioned in the previews, all we’ve heard for the last week and a half is how this anime movie has been racking up pre-sales.

Heading into the weekend, sources say Demon Slayer had $10M in pre-sales, with AMC seeing the Haruo Sotozaki-directed movie outselling Mortal Kombat, 4 to 1. Demon Slayer played best on the coasts, particularly the West. Close to 300 theaters in the pic’s count generated over $10K last night, meaning there are certain markets where anime overindexes.

The amazing thing here with this box office fight: We hear that Funimation spent less than Warner Bros in marketing to get to this gross level. iSpot shows that Warners was clearly spending more in TV spots, $6M+ to Funimation’s ~$100K. However, sources believe that for Demon Slayer to do this well at the B.O., Funimation had to have shelled out at least $8M-$10M, even if it was in digital.

As far as audience reactions go, those seeing Demon Slayer enjoyed it a bit better than those watching Mortal Kombat, with the former earning a 92% positive score from Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, with a great 78% recommend versus the Midway Games feature adaptation, which notched a B+ on CinemaScore. That said, 43% of those buying tickets to Mortal Kombat gave it an A-. Demon Slayer‘s audience skewed 59% male, 73% between 18-34 years old, with a diversity mix of 35% Hispanic, 27% Caucasian, 21% Asian/other and 17% Black.

Mortal Kombat drew in a broad audience of 30% Caucasian, 29% African American, 25% Hispanic, 9% Asian and 7% Native American, with males showing up at 67% and the 18-34 demo at 43%. The pic played best in Texas, the Midwest and the East Coast. The best gross came from San Antonio. What’s interesting to note here is that the markets that have had theaters opened longer during the pandemic, such as Texas, are punching above their weight. Los Angeles is solid.

Demon Slayer has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, but that’s only from 13 reviews, while Mortal Kombat is 56% Rotten from 168. It doesn’t matter. The folks spending to see these movies don’t care about reviews; they just want a great time getting out of the house after a year-plus of largely lockdown.

According to RelishMix, Demon Slayer videos on YouTube have clocked 62M views off of Funimation’s earned and owned materials, along with many reviews and reaction spots in Japanese and English, some of which are dubbed, and some with English voiceover on the anime trailer. Funimation’s Facebook boasts 2.3 million fans, with the Aniplex Facebook page contributing 3.2M views for the trailer. Funimation spent for TV spots on Adult Swim, earning 5.3M ad impressions running during such shows as Rick and Morty, Family Guy, Boondocks, Birdgirl and Family Guy.

Mortal Kombat‘s social media universe across YouTube Views, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter grew from 134M last week to close to 150M this week per RelishMix.

Warner Bros.’ Godzilla vs. Kong is taking third place for the weekend with a $1.1M Friday, -47% from a week ago, and a projected fourth weekend of $4M, -49% for a running total by EOD Sunday of $86.4M.

In fourth place is Universal’s Bob Odenkirk R-rated action movie Nobody, which is also on PVOD and still holding well in theaters, with a 3-day that’s off 34% in weekend 5, with $1.66M and a running total on Sunday of $21.4M. The pic made $490K yesterday, -34% from a week ago.

Fifth place belongs to the 8th weekend of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which made $400K at 1,819 theaters on its way to $1.5M, -20% and a running total of $39.7M.

Bleecker Street’s Sundance acquisition Together Together, which has a 93% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, will crack into the top 10. Friday was $180K at 665 locations for $270 a site. The weekend looks to be around $494K. Most notable amount of business for the Nikole Beckwith-directed, written and executive produced movie came from Los Angeles. Pic follows young loner Anna (Patti Harrison), who is hired as the surrogate for Matt (Ed Helms), a single man in his 40s. The two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries, and the particulars of love. Tig Notaro, Julio Torres, Anna Konkle, Sufe Bradshaw, Rosalind Chao, Nora Dunn and Fred Melamed also star in the movie.

Beckwith recorded a short introduction to the film teasing audiences to stay for an exclusively in-theater Q&A with Helms and Harrison, moderated by Dave Karger, following every showing of the movie which is booked at AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Landmark and others.

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