By Lindsey Bahr | Associated Press
The audience said, let’s go to the cinema this weekend for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”. Universal and Illumination’s animated offerings rose $204.6 million in its first five days in 4,343 North American theaters, including $146.4 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
With an estimated $173 million in international earnings and a worldwide total of $377 million, “Mario” broke records for video game adaptations (surpassing “Warcraft’s” $210 million) and animated feature films (“Frozen 2’s” $358 million).
The worldwide total makes it the largest opening of 2023 and the second largest three-day domestic animated opening (behind “Finding Dory”). It’s also a record for Illumination, the animation store behind hit franchises like “Minions,” which has made more than $5 billion from its 13 films.
“This partnership between Nintendo and Illumination is simply incredible and has resulted in this extraordinary achievement,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution.
The PG-rated “Mario” is an origin story of Brooklyn plumbers, Mario, voiced by Chris Pratt, and Luigi (Charlie Day), who fall down a pipe and end up in another world filled with Nintendo’s most famous characters, from Bowser (Jack Black) to Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). Critics were largely mixed. “Mario” currently holds a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. But audiences were more favorable, earning it an A CinemaScore.
Orr said theater owners were surprised by how broad the audience was and reported seeing some ticket buyers decked out in character costumes for the film. According to exit polls, 59% of the audience was male and 45% were between the ages of 18 and 34.
“$377 million worldwide is simply astonishing and a testament to how important outdoor activities are for families,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “Children and their parents could go out together, have an event outside the home for the whole family at a relatively bargain price compared to a trip or a sporting event.”
Also, Dergarabedian noted, there’s a long runway before “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3″ opens May 5.
“This was a perfect release date,” said Dergarabedian.
“Mario” wasn’t the only movie based on a brand to hit theaters this week. Ben Affleck’s “Air,” about the origins of Nike’s Air Jordan and how the company signed Michael Jordan, also debuted in 3,507 theaters on Wednesday. Marking Amazon Studios’ first worldwide theatrical release, the film has grossed an estimated $20.2 million in North America since opening Wednesday, with $14.5 million from the weekend to start fourth.
R-rated, “Air,” starring Matt Damon, Viola Davis, and Affleck, was a bit of adult-oriented counter-programming to the “Mario” juggernaut. Reviews were glowing (95% on Rotten Tomatoes) for the film which debuted last month as a surprise screening at the South by Southwest Film Festival, helping to bolster the buzz. The audience was 55% male and 39% over 45 years old.
“’Air’ found its audience. He’s a tough guy,’ Dergarabedian said. “This one is in it for the long haul.”
“Air” is the first film from Affleck and Damon’s new Artists Equity company, which was formed last year in partnership with RedBird Capital.
Second place went to “John Wick Chapter 4”, which made $14.6 million in its third weekend, bringing its total gross to $147.1 million. Close behind was “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” which placed third with $14.5 million in its second weekend, while “Scream VI” rounded out the top 5 with $3.3 million.
Kelly Reichardt’s art-focused “Showing Up,” starring Michelle Williams and Hong Chau, also appeared on four screens in a limited run and grossed $66,932.
“This is such an important weekend for theaters, a home trip heading into the summer movie season, and this is a perfect screenplay,” Dergarabedian said. “It’s game-on for movie theaters when a lot of people thought it was game-over.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at theaters in the US and Canada, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.
- ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’, $146.4 million.
- “John Wick: Chapter 4,” $14.6 million.
- “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”, $14.5 million.
- “Air”, $14.5 million.
- “Scream VI”, $3.3 million.
- “His only son”, $3.3 million.
- “Creed III,” $2.8 million.
- “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” $1.6 million.
- “Paint,” $750,000.
- “One Thousand and One”, $600,000.
Follow AP film writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr.