‘Elvis’ debuts at $31 million as ‘Black Phone’ earns $23 million
Elvis opened strong this weekend with a $30.5 million Friday-Sunday debut right next door Top Gun: Maverick’s shockingly huge (also $30.5 million) fifth weekend gross. Whichever movie tops the domestic box office when the final numbers drop tomorrow, they’re both winners. I’ll talk about the Tom Cruise-directed sequel later, but Tom Hanks’ co-starring musical biopic benefited from the premiere. One of the best marketing pieces a movie can have is a good trailer that airs before a smash hit aimed at similar demographics. Think about the deep impact teaser attached to Titanic or the zootopia DMV spot aired before the force awakens. With all the pre-summer concerns that older, erratic audiences (Elvis Presley isn’t exactly huge with kids yet) wouldn’t show up, Warner Bros. was shot in the arm at the last minute when Top Gun: Maverick topped domestic $520 million thanks in part to older, erratic moviegoers. Guess Which Trailer Played Before Most Theatrical Screenings Of Top Gun 2.
WBD still sold the Baz Luhrmann-directed movie hell. Elvis got center stage treatment at the studio’s CinemaCon presentation, and its IMAX-compatible trailer has been streaming ahead of big movies since President’s Day weekend, including The Batman, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and yes, Top Gun: Maverick. Additionally, the film’s performance suggests a pre-Covid normality whereby live-action musicals (including biopics and music-centric melodramas) were among the safest theatrical subgenres since it was about “event films”, even in the era of VOD/streaming. Before Covid we had the likes of (casual and not full) Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Pitch Perfect 2, La La Land, The Greatest Showman, Straight Outta Compton, A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. Over the past year, we have had, alas, West Side Story, In the Heights and Dear Evan Hanson. Even the Disney ones Encanto (comparatively) stumbled with $250 million worldwide while Universal although Illumination’s Sing 2 soared to $400 million.
Elvis Presley, like Freddie Mercury, Elton John and Ice Cube before him, qualifies as a “brand figure” alongside Deadpool, Michael Myers or Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Tom Hanks *as* Colonel Tom Parker qualified as a star + character concept cast. That the role was skewed to Hanks’ on-screen/off-screen persona was a calculated gamble (Hanks is usually the strongest commercially when playing real-life American heroes) that paid off. Add generally positive reviews, in which even some of the pans made the film a can’t-miss hallucinogenic acid trip, while Austin Butler (a Disney Channel/Nickelodeon vet who will star alongside Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in Dune part 2) received the “star is born” media treatment in the weeks leading up to its release. None of this is rocket science, but it’s refreshing to see that it still works in our current theatrical environment. Elvis just landed the biggest opening for a (non-action) drama in over two years.
Let it happen a decade later magic mike opened with $39 million is a happy coincidence. Warner Bros., when it’s on its game, is better than anyone else in Hollywood at turning relatively unconventional biggies into throaty theatrical hits. Supposing Elvis doesn’t drop dead after this opening, and decent reviews, an A- from Cinemascore, and a lack of adult biggies for the rest of the summer suggest it won’t, its strong debut stands alongside Gravity, American Sniper, San Andreas, It, Crazy Rich Asians, Joker and (on a Covid curve) Dunes. If it’s like legs Mama Mia: here we go again (121 million dollars on debut at 35 million dollars), Elvis cracks 100 million dollars in the domestic market. If it’s (less likely but we’ll see) legs like Rocketman ($96 million/$26 million) or Bohemian Rhapsody ($217m/$52m), it will end with $112-125m. Conversely, the legs like Straight outta Compton ($161 million/$60 million) gets the movie from $85 million to $80 million domestic.
universal, including Ted opened with $54 million right next door magic mike ten years ago had the other big start to the weekend. Acclaimed Blumhouse The black phone opened with $23.3 million in its Friday-Sunday domestic debut. Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill’s ’70s chiller, about a kidnapped boy who receives help from the killer’s previous victims, was slated to open in early 2022. However, heavy festival buzz and reviews led Universal to keep the film, adapted from a Joe Hill short story, until this weekend. Credit reviews and word-of-mouth (a solid for B+ Cinemascore horror), plus the Blumhouse brand name and “marquee value” of Scott Derrickson (who helmed Strange, Sinister Doctor and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and Ethan Hawke (who has been a go-to for all sorts of genre films for decades). Its sinister fantasy horror and gruesome child murders are seen as the kind of fantasy escape we need to distract us from the horrors of the real world.
Legs equal to those of David Sandberg Curfew ($67 million from a debut of $21 million in July 2016) get the movie from $18 million to $70 million domestic, while legs are on par with Fede Álvarez don’t breathe ($89m/$26m) brings it closer to $80m. Guess it could be preloaded like Blumhouse’s terrific (and appreciated) happy day of the dead (which outperformed the opening weekend thanks in part to the Friday the 13th opening and ended with $56 million after a $26 million launch), but I won’t cry The black phone “only” grossing $50 million. It has already grossed $35 million worldwide. It might have been the first weekend since July 2016 where the top five movies all grossed $20 million, but since Pixar Light year crashed and only made $18 million, it’ll have to settle for being the first weekend with four $20 million earners since Thanksgiving weekend in 2018. That’s a problem from Disney, not from Hollywood.
A24 launched Marcel the shod shell in six rooms. The charming and poignant feature adaptation of Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate’s YouTube short film series, for which Nick Paley and Elisabeth Holm also receive feature writing credit, grossed $169,606 over the week. -end of opening. That’s an average of $28,267 per theater for the live-action/animated coming-of-age family film. It’s going wide on July 15, and that’s great (my 11-year-old dug it too). I’m curious if it gets a Cinemascore rating when it widens, if only for the comedic value of that real crowd pleaser that sounds like an A and ‘clash’ with the usual mark of A24 (often quite good) “Haven’t you seen an A24 Logo before this feature? ” horror films. My local Regal was packed Friday night with a variety of moviegoers waltzing through various auditoriums. Crazy theory: But if studios release movies in theaters, audiences will go to those theaters and watch those movies.
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