What is this? A competition for the top spot at the box office? Between two movies that wildly exceeded expectations? During a pandemic?!
There are still plenty of concerns about the future of theaters, especially with places like the Arclight shutting down and chains shedding theaters around the country, but the box office is clearly beginning to thaw. Three weeks ago, Godzilla vs. Kong proved that moviegoers would come back to theaters with a $48.5 million five-day opening, becoming the biggest domestic hit of the pandemic by the next week. Godzilla has now earned $84 million in three weeks now and is poised to become the first film in over a year to cross the $100 million mark in America.
This week, however, moviegoers illustrated that they were not only ready to come back for big, expensive blockbusters with solid reviews but for a bad sequel to a bad video-game adaptation, too, largely out of a sense of nostalgia and to have a good time in theaters. Warner Brothers’ Mortal Kombat earned a robust $22.5 million this weekend, wildly exceeding expectations the studio had for the film of around $12 million. It becomes the biggest debut for an R-rate film during the pandemic, and actually came very close to the $23.5 million the original Mortal Kombat, which often feed off the crowded movie theater experience, are basically critic-proof. Audiences liked it, anyway, giving it a solid B+ Cinemascore and an audience score of 88 percent on RT.
We should note, again, that WB earned $22.5 million on Mortal Kombat despite the fact that it was also available for free to HBO Max subscribers. Undoubtedly, a lot of subscribers watched Mortal Kombat at home, and yet the film also looks like it can turn a profit in theaters, as well. Warner’s strategy to release movies at home and in theaters at the same time seems to be working, not only netting positive box office results but adding 2.7 million subscribers to HBO Max during the first quarter, the most new subscribers among new streaming services for the second quarter in a row.
Mortal Kombat, meanwhile, is running neck and neck with Funimation/Aniplex’s Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train. The anime film opened in far fewer theaters, but it clearly has a passionate fan base, who turned up this weekend in big numbers. Demon Slayer even outmatched Mortal Kombat on Friday ($9.5 million to $9 million), but the movie was a bit frontloaded. Expectations for Demon Slayer were around $10 million, but it ended up earning a surprising $19 million this weekend. The movie sits at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (with a 99 percent audience score), although there have only been 15 reviews for this film, compared to the 177 reviews for Mortal Kombat.
It’s a weekend where the overall box office is poised to approach $50 million for the weekend, and while that is a far cry from the $400 million the box office earned during the same weekend two years ago when Avengers: Endgame opened, it’s nevertheless clear that the box office is slowly coming back.
Beyond the top two and Godzilla vs. Kong in third place, Bob Odenkirk’s Nobody, which is already available digitally, was in fourth place this weekend with $1.6 million and $21 million overall (besting with $15 million budget, even before PVOD receipts). Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, meanwhile, held on to fifth place with $1.55 million and $39 million overall. It’s also earned a ton of money on Disney+.
Demon Slayer and Mortal Kombat will probably duke it out for the top spot next weekend, as well, with only one new wide release on the calendar at the moment, the horror film Separation with Rupert Friend, Brian Cox, Madeline Brewer, Mamie Gummer. The following weekend, however, will see two wide releases (with limited potential): Wrath of Man with Jason Statham and Here Today, a comedy starring Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish.