Universal and Illumination’s Sing 2 opened with a solid holiday debut. The jukebox musical earned $23.76 million over the Fri-Sun portion of a $41 million Wed-Sun debut (including $1.6 million in Thanksgiving weekend sneak previews). That is close enough to Sing’s $35 million/$56 million opening over Christmas weekend 2016 that I would argue this was a business-as-usual debut. Sing was well liked and leggy ($271 million or 4.8x its Wed-Sun debut) but it’s not like the world was gagging for the next Buster Moon adventure.
That said, it earned an A+ from Cinemascore and grossed more on Sunday ($10 million) than it did on Christmas ($8 million), so that points to another leggy run. Legs just like Sing gets the Matthew McConaughey/Scarlett Johansson/Reese Witherspoon/Bono dramedy to $198 million. That may be overly optimistic, even though mere Little Fockers legs ($148 million/$45 million in 2010) gets it to $134 million domestic. We are still looking at a current $65 million global cume for an $85 million animated sequel with much gas left in the tank.
Warner Bros.’ The Matrix Resurrections became the latest victim of “online fandom does not equal general audience interest.” The Keanu Reeves/Carrie-Anne Moss sequel earned $12 million over the Fri-Sun portion of a $22.5 million Wed-Sun frame. I like the movie. Hell, I like all four Matrix films. Alas, this is a miserable launch. Blame Covid or blame HBO Max, but even The Conjuring 3 earned $24 million in June over three days while Reeves’ infamous Christmas turkey 47 Ronin (which I like more than you) earned $20 million over its Wed-Sun 2013 holiday launch. Wonder Woman 1984 earned $16.7 million last Christmas amid mostly closed theatricals and sans any vaccines.
Throw in a B- Cinemascore grade (although men 18-24 gave it an A-) and we’re probably looking at a $40-$45 million domestic finish, or about what The Matrix earned ($37 million) over its Wed-Sun debut in early 1999. The Lana Wachowski-directed sequel has earned $69 million worldwide, including $9 million from last weekend’s first overseas territories. The notion of a two-decades-later sequel to The Matrix was always, at best, a commercial coin toss. There is an enormous difference between something that’s popular right now (like Sing 2) and something that was popular 23 years ago.
Moreover, it’s another case (not unlike Scream or The Terminator) where audiences only embraced the first one or two entries. The marketing campaign that while impressive (I love the first teaser) was mostly predicated on being another trip to the Matrix. The whole “it’s another thing you liked” only works if general audiences like that thing enough to want another one. See also: Blade Runner 2049, Doctor Sleep and West Side Story. Did a bunch of people watch it on HBO Max over the weekend? I certainly hope so.
20th Century Studios finally unleashed The King’s Man after two years of delays. As frankly predicted way back when, the prequel origin story landed with an indifferent thud. Yes, the film is better than Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And, yes, Matthew Vaughn just wanted to make a World War I-set action/espionage drama and used the IP as an alibi. But the $6.35 million Fri-Sun/$10 million Wed-Sun debut is what happens when Hollywood mistakes interest in a specific film with interest in an abstract IP.
Just because audiences thrilled to Colin Firth and Taron Egerton in a present-tense, politically angry, ultraviolent, star-packed R-rated ode to Roger Moore 007 movies does not mean they cared about the Kingsman IP enough to want to see a Ralph Fiennes-starring prequel. Not every hit movie is a franchise. Not every franchise is a flexibly monetizable IP. At least Lionsgate’s John Wick prequel movies (The Continental) are going to be a television miniseries. The King’s Man has earned $16.9 million worldwide.
Meanwhile, in a classic example of “what everyone blogs about isn’t the same as what general audiences actually consume,” Lionsgate released American Underdog into 2,813 theaters on Christmas Day to halfway decent results. The Kingdom Story Company flick, directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin, stars Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin and Dennis Quaid in the true story of LA Rams Kurt Warner who “went from stocking supermarket shelves to becoming a two-time NFL MVP a Super Bowl Champion and a Hall of Fame quarterback.”
It earned $6.2 million over its first two days, which is essentially tied with the Fri-Sun portion of The King’s Man’s Wed-Sun launch. With an A+ from Cinemascore (the third straight week with such a thing, following Spider-Man: No Way Home and Sing 2) and a dedicated following, this is the kind of family-friendly old-school studio programmer that legs out over the holiday season. I had to triage over the last two weeks so now I have homework tomorrow.
MGM expanded Licorice Pizza to 786 theaters on Christmas Day for a $1.221 million Friday and a $2.3 million two-day weekend gross. That is a halfway decent $2,926 per-theater average over the first two days, and about on par with the semi-wide debut of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water ($3 million over three days in 726 theaters) over Christmas weekend 2017. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread earned $3.2 million over its Fri-Sun expansion into 896 theaters in January 2018.
Now there is a world of difference The Shape of Water (which won Best Picture and grossed $63 million domestic and $193 million worldwide) and Phantom Thread (which was merely nominated for Best Picture and grossed $21 million/$47 million). But, especially on a Covid curve and with no butts-in-seats stars (all due respect to Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim), I would argue anywhere near Phantom Thread’s finish would be a triumph.
Last but not least, Denzel Washington’s Journal For Jordan opened on Christmas Day with a $2.2 million domestic cume. That’s not that far off from the $3.7 million Fri-Sun semi-wide expansion of Washington’s first directorial effort, Antwone Fisher, in January 2002. This despite a much less generous theatrical environment and the fact that Journal (unlike Washington’s Antwone Fisher, The Great Debaters and Fences) does not star the iconic actor.
Still, you’d hope that the folks who constantly fan-cast Michael B. Jordan in every franchise property under the sun would show up when he makes an old school star vehicle. The film starring Jordan and Chanté Adams, is the kind of adult-skewing, star-driven romantic drama of which everyone claims Hollywood makes too little. $2.2 million in two days may explain the paucity, but yes I heartily recommend the picture.