There’s frankly little good news this weekend that doesn’t explicitly revolve around Spider-Man: No Way Home ($33 million domestic and $97 million worldwide for a new $669 million domestic/$1.53 billion worldwide cume). The only wide release of the weekend was Simon Kinberg’s The 355. The ensemble action movie, starring Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing, earned just $4.8 million in its domestic debut. To be fair, this was a long-delayed (from last January) flick with zero buzz and bad reviews. Moreover, in just the last two years, partially due to the pandemic, we’ve seen a slew of female-centric action movies debuting on VOD or streaming.
Why would moviegoers drive to theaters for The 355 when they can watch Karen Gillan’s Gunpowder Milkshake (which was supposed to be in theaters), Chastain’s Ava (which had a limited release before breaking out on VOD), Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Kate and Kate Beckinsale’s Jolt (along with Maggie Q.’s theatrical but now on VOD The Protégé) at home? The spy flick will presumably be available on PVOD in about 2.5 weeks. I imagine the casually curious are just waiting. No, this isn’t really about Covid. In January 2020, in the before-times, Blake Lively’s (far superior) The Rhythm Section had the worst pre-Covid opening ever for a wide release, with just $2.7 million.
The perpetually online are quite vocal about wanting a lady James Bond but neither they nor hardly anyone else tend to show up when Hollywood offers up a new female-led spy/action movie. Even Charlize Theron’s dynamite Atomic Blonde scraped by with $100 million worldwide on a $30 million budget months before Kingsman: The Golden Circle topped $400 million global. Nonetheless, $4.8 million is better than The Protégé’s $2.9 million opening and above Liam Neeson’s The Marksman ($3.1 million), Honest Thief ($4 million) and Russell Crowe’s Unhinged ($4 million, or $4.6 million if you count its week-earlier Canadian debut). Yes, I guess you can call The 355 a “successful disappointment.”
Meanwhile, Illumination’s Sing 2 earned another $11.9 million (-41%) on the very weekend it debuted on PVOD. Universal’s big deal with AMC (and the other chains) allowed them to put theatrical releases on PVOD ($20 for a 48-hour rental) in as little as 17 days after opening day, with 31 days afforded for films that opened above $50 million. Now for an “opened on a Friday” release, day 17 is a Sunday so the films in question usually arrive that following Thursday or Friday (21 days, or about 3 weeks, after opening). But since Sing 2 opened on a Wednesday, day 17 was yesterday so out it went.
Nonetheless, with $109 million in 19 days of domestic release, Universal and Illumination’s jukebox musical has become the first animated film to pass $100 million domestic since Frozen II ($477 million from a $130 million debut) in November 2019. Considering Disney just shunted Turning Red to Disney+ in leu of a theatrical release (in participating territories), the Matthew McConaughey/Scarlett Johansson/Bono-led sequel will be the last until (best-case-scenario) Universal and DreamWorks’ The Bad Guys in late April or (more likely, although I’d love to be wrong) Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear (in mid-June, unless it too becomes a Disney+ sacrificial lamb). The $85 million release has now earned $190 million worldwide.
20th Century Studios’ The King’s Man earned $3.272 million (-28%) in weekend three for a $25.1 million 19-day domestic cume. Alas, Matthew Vaughn’s “nobody asked for this” Kingsman origin story/prequel has earned just $74 million worldwide. Lionsgate’s American Underdog grossed another $2.41 million (-38%) in weekend three for a $18.74 million 16-day cume (it opened on Christmas Day, which was a Saturday). That’s more than every major Oscar season release save for Warner Bros.’ Dune ($107 million), 20th Century Studios’ West Side Story ($32 million) and MGM’s House of Gucci ($50 million). It’s also almost tied with the over/under $17 million opening weekends of The Shack and I Can Only Imagine.
Warner Bros.’ The Matrix Resurrections earned $1.86 million (-51%) in its third weekend for a sadly catastrophic $34.3 million 19-day cume. Covid and HBO Max aside, it’s going to earn less than 47 Ronin ($38 million in 2013) and less than The Matrix’s $37.5 million Wed-Sun debut and less than The Matrix Reloaded’s $42.5 million (counting $5 million in previews) opening day. The ambitious and sure-to-be-a-cult favorite sci-fi sequel has earned just $124.5 million worldwide. I like all four Matrix movies, but this was clearly a case of a franchise revival that existed because the studio, not the audience (or even the filmmakers), craved it.
20th Century Studios and Disney’s West Side Story is no less tragic, with a $32.2 million domestic and $53 million worldwide cume. Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s musical adaptation is one of the bigger-grossing Oscar season releases and has at least outgrossed In the Heights ($29 million) and Cats ($27 million). Sony’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife now has $125 million domestic and $191 million worldwide (on a $75 million budget). It may crawl past the $128 million domestic cume of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. We’ll see if Illumination’s Sing 2 catches up with it to seize the ninth spot for last year’s biggest domestic grossers.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza is holding its own, at least by pandemic-era standards. The well-reviewed Cooper Hoffman/Alana Haim dramedy earned $1.028 million (-21%) in its seventh weekend in 772 theaters. That gives it an $8.2 million 24-day domestic cume. $40 million budget aside, studios don’t bankroll Paul Thomas Anderson movies for windfalls, and it should stick around presuming it ends up with major Oscar nominations come February 8. Encanto earned just $3.2 million in China (for a $215 million global cume). The Disney toon has strong buzz and jumped from a $563,000 Friday to a $1.4 million Saturday and $1.3 million Sunday. Soul started small but took off in weekend two, so we shall see.