Box Office: ‘Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Barrels to Record $204 Million Debut, ‘Air’ Scores $20 Million

Wahoo! “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” racked up a blockbuster $146 million in its opening weekend and powered to $204.6 million in its first five days of release, squashing expectations and steamrolling the competition at the domestic box office.

The animated movie, a collaboration between Illumination, Nintendo and Universal, has landed a number of records, thanks to positive word-of-mouth, nostalgia for the popular video game, and a huge turnout from family audiences. It currently stands as the biggest opening weekend of the year (overtaking “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” with $106 million), as well as the second-best debut ever for an animated title (surpassing 2016’s “Finding Dory” with $135.1 million). It’s also the highest-grossing debut for Illumination, beating 2015’s “Minions” with $115.7 million.

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“Super Mario Bros. Movie” scored another $173 million at the international box office, pushing its global tally to a mighty $377 million. It carries a $100 million production budget.

“Cinemas around the world were filled with kids and families drawn by the communal fun that the film promised and delivered in this perfectly executed video game adaptation,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior Comscore analyst. “This is great news for theaters.”

And cinemas, which have been especially starved for family films, were certainly game to celebrate the big turnout, with chains like Cinemark issuing rare statements on the performance of an individual film.

“’The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s’ strong performance with the family audience this weekend is just another example of the consistent consumer enthusiasm for seeing great films on the big screen,” said Wanda Gierhart Fearing, Cinemark’s chief marketing and content officer. “Moviegoers have demonstrated time and time again that they crave the immersive, cinematic experience only theaters can provide.”

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” features the voices of Chris Pratt as Mario, Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach and Jack Black as Bowser. Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the story follows the mustachioed plumber and friends as they prepare to stop the all-powerful Bowser from world domination. Critics have been mixed on the film, but audiences sentiments were through the roof, earning an “A” CinemaScore.

David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, attributes the success to the film’s “broad demographic appeal.” He says, “This is a five-quadrant audience: families, plus younger and older males and females. It’s a marketer’s dream.”

The week’s other major new release, “Air,” a sports drama directed by Ben Affleck about Nike’s historic deal to court Michael Jordan to wear their shoes, benefitted from counter-programming against “Mario.” The film landed a better-than-expected $14.46 million over the traditional weekend and $20.2 million in its first five days of release. It’s a solid result for an R-rated drama targeting adult audiences. Moreover, it’s the first release from Amazon in quite some time to get an exclusive wide release in multiplexes rather than going straight-to-streaming.

It’s not clear what kind of ticket sales it’ll need for Amazon to count the experiment as a win. “Air” cost $90 million to make and $40 million to market, so it’ll need to keep playing in theaters to justify its budget. Even if it struggles to turn a profit in theaters, Gross believes the film’s release strategy is “going to generate superior value at every stage.”

“‘Air’ is an example of theatrical distribution’s unique strength, and not just at the box office,” he says. “This movie is going to have greater impact and sell more subscriptions when it arrives on streaming than it would have done playing exclusively on its own streaming platform.”

In addition to directing, Affleck stars in “Air” with Matt Damon, Chris Tucker and Viola Davis. Opening weekend crowds were also high on “Air,” awarding it an “A” CinemaScore. Males accounted for 55% of ticket buyers and 37% were between the ages of 18-34.

Elsewhere, holdover titles rounded out box office charts. It’ll be a tight race for second, third and fourth place as Sunday’s estimates have “Air,” “John Wick: Chapter 4” and “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” all within a few thousands of dollars of each other.

“John Wick 4″ added $14.6 million from 3,607 venues over the weekend. After three weeks on the big screen, the action sequel has generated $147 million in North America and $300 million globally. It will soon overtake 2019’s “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” as the highest-earner of the franchise with $328 million.

Meanwhile, “Dungeons and Dragons” collected $14.5 million from 3,856 theaters in its sophomore outing, a 61% decline from its opening weekend. So far, the fantasy adaptation has grossed $62 million at the domestic box office so it’ll need to keep rolling the dice to earn back its massive $150 million price tag.

In fifth place, “Scream VI” added $3.3 million from 2,286 locations, bringing its domestic total to $103.8 million. It’s already improved upon its predecessor, 2022’s “Scream,” which ended its North American box office run with $81 million, and recently became the first installment in the long-running slasher series to hit the coveted $100 million mark in 26 years, since 1997’s “Scream 2” ended its theatrical run with $101 million.

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