Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Mar 8-Mar 10): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Sunday Actuals
- Captain Marvel / $153,433,423 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Disney
- How to Train Your Dragon 3 / $14,685,005 / -51.1% / Weekend 3 / Universal
- Tyler Perry’s A Medea Family Funeral / $12,465,383 / -53.9% / Weekend 2 / Lionsgate
- The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part / $3,868,248 / -41.4% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros.
- Alita: Battle Angel / $3,215,344 / -55.5% / Weekend 4 / Fox
- Green Book / $2,511,325 / -45.1% / Weekend 17 / Universal
- Isn’t it Romantic / $2,261,026 / -49.9% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros. (New Line)
- Greta / $2,184,010 / -51.2% / Weekend 2 / Focus Features
- Fighthing With My Family / $2,188,430 / -53.2% / Weekend 4 / MGM
- Apollo 11 / $1,250,931 / -22% / Weekend 2 / Neon
16. Badla / $596,446 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Reliance Big Pictures
19. The Kid / $514,286 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Lionsgate
26. Gloria Bell / $145,218 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / A24 (Per-Theater-Average: $29,044 in 5 theaters)
Higher, further, and faster indeed! Yes, Captain Marvel ended up posting a massive opening this weekend, Rotten Tomatoes’ audience scores be damned! Yes, despite some palpable backlash against the film as well as so admittedly tepid reviews (at least more tepid than expected), this 21st MCU movies is further proof that the Disney/Marvel machine is practically unstoppable. Not only did the film open huge, but it also managed to suck the air out of the room much more than expected, with every other movie in the top ten seeing a much more significant drop than expected. Outside of Captain Marvel, there was little activity (understandably so when you see the Marvel film’s numbers), though Gloria Bell did post a nice opening in limited release. Still, despite the seeming simplicity of the story this weekend, there is some more nuance than expected to Captain Marvel‘s opening gross some interesting notes that do make me wonder how it will perform down the line.
So, just how big did Captain Marvel open? Well, to be clear, the film didn’t necessarily overperform. Going into the weekend, projections varied wildly, however, there was a general consensus that the film would open around $145 million-$155 million Sure enough the film opened within that range and, even better, on the higher end of that range. Captain Marvel made its debut in first place this weekend with a gross of $153 million which, despite being within predicted range, is pretty staggering all on its own. This opening weekend gross is the seventh highest for any MCU title (and remember, there are now 21 of them), much higher than any origin film and placing behind only mega-hits like that of Iron Man 3, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther, The Avengers, and Infinity War. In fact, Captain Marvel opening just behind all those pictures (and ahead of all the others) bodes extremely well for its future as those films ahead of it all went on to become $1 billion grossers. The opening also is momentous as it beat out The Hunger Games to become third highest opening weekend for a film opening in March, just behind Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice at $166 million and Beauty & the Beast at $174 million. BVS went on to gross $873 million worldwide while Beauty & the Beast became a $1 billion grosser (at one point the tenth highest grossing film of all time), so Captain Marvel is once again in good company.
The subject of a potential $1 billion worldwide gross is one that comes up a lot when discussing Captain Marvel‘s opening, especially once you factor in the film’s international grosses this weekend. Unlike most Marvel features, which tend to open at least a week early overseas in order to build buzz and box office momentum for their stateside debuts, Captain Marvel opened at practically the same time everywhere in the world (technically, the film did open on Wednesday internationally, but that opening was within the same week as its opening weekend here so the grosses are rolled into one another). It is here that the film truly overperformed with an astonishing $302 million debut internationally; up over $100 million from predictions going into the weekend of an international debut of $200 million with the biggest standouts being China (where it opened tot $89.3 million, the third biggest opening for an MCU film in China), Korea, the UK, Mexico, and Brazil (where Brie Larson appeared at Comic-Con to market the film). This international gross makes for the fifth highest international opening weekend of all time and combines with the domestic for a worldwide opening of $455 million, the sixth biggest worldwide opening weekend gross of all time, sandwiched right between Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($450 million) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($483 million). That means that Captain Marvel, in just its first weekend in theaters, is already about halfway toward a $1 billion gross (not to mention, the film has already broken even on its budget of about $152 million).
So how did this happen? Prior to the film’s release, news of internet trolls actively and aggressively attacking the film from every possible angle dominated much of the coverage. More broadly, not all criticism and attacks were being lobbied at the film itself, though some were indeed in revulsion of a perceived hyper-feminist, femal-led superhero movie. That said, a fair amount of criticism was actually lobbied at star Brie Larson for several comments she made in the lead up to the release. In particular, there was much derision directed at Larson for her comment that she would actively try to ensure that her Captain Marvel press tour would be more inclusive and that she would be interviewed by more female journalists and journalists of color due to the fact that, in the past, her experience with press coverage and movie reviewers is that they appeared to be “overwhelmingly” white and male. In context, what she said actually wasn’t rude or exclusionary, she simply made an observation; however, her comment certainly played as very rude and exclusionary because it whipped up a backlash.
I can admittedly understand where those who took issue with her comments are coming from. Back in March of last year (interestingly enough) when Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time debuted to thoroughly mixed, and in some cases very negative, reviews, Larson took to Twitter to echo the sentiments of DuVernay and several other prominent women of color in film that A Wrinkle in Time was made for a very specific audience: young black girls. They also noted the fact that a majority of professional film critics are white males and attributed the bad reviews for the film to that group being unable to understand the movie because it “wasn’t made for them”. My own personal feelings on A Wrinkle in Time aside, this didn’t help the film at the box office (it flopped). However, this idea of a film being made for a specific audience has carried over into the conversation surrounding Captain Marvel. While Larson hasn’t made these kinds of comments regarding her film, her sentiments are known and have colored much of the press coverage, especially in relation to her “overwhelmingly white and male” comment and has resulted in some aggressive moves against the film, most notably the bombardment of its Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score with negative ratings (Prior to opening weekend, it sat at overwhelmingly low 37%, it now it sits at a, still rotten, 57%).
Yet, despite a notable amount of negative press (which actually influenced me to low-ball my predictions for this weekend), the film opened well, more than well. And that’s not to mention that it did so with some of the more middling reviews for the MCU (they’re not bad at all, but they just barely inched to 80% over the weekend, which is a bit off from the MCU’s norm which typically in the mid-80%s, if not higher). How? Frankly, I think the film was too big to fail. Without commenting on the merits of the film, which certainly added to its appeal and pulled in an audience, and focusing solely on its construction and positioning on the release schedule, the film was perfectly primed to do great. First and foremost, Captain Marvel is the final film before Avengers: Endgame, arguably the most anticipated film of the year (and possibly of all time). The MCU has built itself on the promise of interlocking stories that, despite being seemingly disparate, will eventually collide with each other in grand and amazing ways. Captain Marvel, the character, was promised in the end credits scene of Infinity War when Nick Fury just managed to reach her with his transmitter before disintegrating into dust. The promise of that single image after witnessing the climactic ending of Infinity War signaled that Captain Marvel would be a major part of the upcoming season finale (because come on, these films play like one big TV show) of the MCU. Thus, the promise of being able to meet and get to know Captain Marvel in her own film was worth the price of admission alone (not to mention the potential of seeing a sneak peek of her in Endgame as a post-credits scene, which came to fruition). Then there’s the fact that with Captain Marvel, Disney leaned hard into feminism when building and marketing this picture. As I mentioned in my last post, this was Marvel’s first ever solely female-led superhero film (Ant-Man & the Wasp featured a female co-lead). Disney and Marvel doubled down on this by not only casting an actress in the lead role whose persona as a feminist activist is front-and-center but also by hiring a female co-director for the film. Even the marketing skewed feminist, with the stylized use of the words “her” and “hero” (“What makes her a hero?”) and featuring loads of images of Carol Danvers falling and getting back up (not to mention an image where she rises from her seat in uniform amongst a large group of all male Air Force colleagues). Disney was full aware of this film’s place in the feminist conversation and actively played it up to generate media coverage and grab audiences attention. Finally, there’s the fact that Captain Marvel opened with absolutely no competition. No major studio dared to challenge the film with a blockbuster of their own and, as you’ll see soon, not a single film in the top ten could escape the gravitational pull of Captain Marvel, seeing significant box office drops from having their audiences actively steer away toward this latest installment of the MCU. The fact is that amongst moviegoers, Marvel films are true “events” and not be missed in theaters. It’s a communal experience that has defined a decade for a whole generation of people, and with Endgame and imminent Phase four announcements on the horizon, that isn’t liable to change anytime soon.
As for Captain Marvel‘s future, there is pretty much nowhere to go but up. That said, I am curious to see if there are any lingering effects of some of the negative press surrounding the film. I mention the fact that there was no competition this weekend for Captain Marvel, not just to show how it dominated, but also show what could affect it down the line. Studios did indeed program their release schedules to get out of the blast radius of Captain Marvel, with even potential heavyweight players like that of Jordan Peele’s Get Out follow-up, Us (which just got fantastic reviews out of SXSW by the by!), having been pushed back a weekend so they can get out of its way. That said, though next weekend poses little threat, the rest of March and April are still primed to be a pretty busy season with Us, as mentioned prior, opening in two weekends, followed by friendly fire from Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo, another potentially potent superhero flick in Shazam!, maybe Pet Sematary, and even the Hellboy reboot in the weeks to follow. Going back to the lingering effects of negative press, I do find it a bit ironic that despite her efforts to make sure the media coverage and reviews were less “overwhelmingly” male, Brie Larson’s biggest supporters ended up being men with males making up 55% of the opeing weekend audience while females made up 45% (better than the split was on Saturday, at that point averaging 61% male). Moreover, the largest age demographic was Men over 25, followed by Men under 25, then Women over 25 and Women under 25 (for comparison, fellow female superhero flick, Wonder Woman, had 55% women its opening weekend, with women over 25 being the leading age demo). My fear would be that with the negative coverage, people might potentially feel alienated and not turn up next weekend, leading to a large drop. However, given the film’s “A” Cinemascore, and very broad appeal in general, not just in age and gender but also in race 47% Caucasian, a surprisingly strong 21% Hispanic, 16% African-American, and 12% Asian, the future is still looking quite bright for Captain Marvel.
As for the rest of the top ten, my original prediction proved very wrong. I had originally thought that because no film in the top ten had been in theaters for less than two weeks, aside from A Medea Family Funeral and Greta which each play to a very different audience than Captain Marvel, would see a major drop given that they had each already established an audience. In so, imagine my surprise when the entirety of the top ten ended up seeing much bigger drops than would have been expected. Coming in second place is that of How to Train Your Dragon 3, which, with a 51% drop to a $14.6 million gross, I am now officially worried about. It has become abundantly clear in the past two weeks that How to Train Your Dragon 3, despite boasting the biggest opening weekend gross for the franchise, was clearly a highly frontloaded film. While its second weekend gross was not a cause for concern, the film has fallen behind How to Train Your Dragon 2 at this same point int the release cycle. How to Train Your Dragon 2 notably underperformed in its domestic gross compared to the first film (a $40 million difference) and despite strong reviews and eager anticipation, How to Train Your Dragon 3 looks to suffer the same fate. To be clear, the film is not a flop in any sense. Worldwide, this third installment of the critical darling and audience favorite franchise has grossed $436 million so it’s definitely going to turn a profit. However, I do feel that this isn’t a great note for the franchise to end on. While it certainly squashes any chance for a fourth film (which is for the best given that fans seem to have been satisfied with this conclusion), the depreciation of the franchise’s box office over the years kind of adds legitimacy to the idea that How to Train Your Dragon was always a more niche franchise than true fans would’ve liked it to be. Sure, How to Train Your Dragon 2 made more than the first film worldwide, but Hidden World looks to be struggling to even match the first film in that department. Much ado was made over How to Train Your Dragon 2 losing the Best Animated Feature Oscar to Big Hero 6 four years ago, but seeing now how this final installment has performed, the support for the franchise has clearly always been a bit lacking.
That said, there is no film I feel sorrier for than A Medea Family Funeral, which dropped 53.9% for a gross of $12.4 million in third place. The major opening for the film last weekend, as well as its seeming lack of audience crossover with Captain Marvel, made it seem as though the Medea franchise would be going out on a high note. However, in retrospect, Medea appeals heavily to women, which is the exact demographic that Captain Marvel was going after in the first place. Plus, the fact of the matter is that above all else, Captain Marvel is a four-quadrant film; it appeals to every demographic, no matter the age or gender. Because of its amazing broad appeal, no film in the top ten could have possibly stood a chance. We can see this in how The Lego Movie 2, which, despite being a financial failure had some pretty strong holds, ended up losing a major chunk of its family audience this weekend with a 41.4% drop to $3.8 million in fourth place, and how Green Book, which has been performing phenomenally (even in China were it now how grossed reportedly $28 million; huge for that kind of picture) across the world, dropped 45% to $2.5 million in sixth place. Other films, like Alita: Battle Angel (doomed from its second weekend on), Isn’t it Romantic (now thoroughly out of season), Greta (dead on arrival), and Fighting With My Family (simply too niche) never stood a chance, all dropping between 50-55% this weekend to fifth, seventh, eighth, and ninth place, respectively.
The only film that managed to make any impression this weekend outside of the MCU juggernaut was that of Apollo 11, the documentary about the titular mission to the moon which is making the rounds in now 405 theaters (up 285 from its original 120 last weekend). Funny enough, on paper, the film would seem to have the most too lose by being in proximity to Captain Marvel given that they both deal with space trave-haha, I kid, I kid. Still, it is impressive to see this film hold its own against such a strong debut for the Disney blockbuster; its also kind of neat that the best performing films of the weekend both deal with space. Apollo 11 has been getting extremely strong reviews, boasting a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and an exceptional 91 on Metacritic, with many singling out the quality of the restored archival footage of the mission and the behind the scenes aspects of Apollo 11 for praise. Reportedly, the film is also supposed to be breathtaking in IMAX, something which is definitely boosting its box office performance. Still, the film held impressively with a mere 22% drop to $1.2 million in tenth place (technically a rise given that the film debuted in 15th place last weekend) and further showcases Neon, the film’s distributor, a formidable force in the documentary film arena in the wake of Three Identical Strangers‘ success last summer.
On that note, this is the perfect segue into a conclusion this week as we take a look at the specialty market where Gloria Bell had a solid limited release. Sebastián Lelio’s American remake of his own Chilean film, Gloria, starring Julianne Moore has won loads of acclaim for the performance of its lead actress and now it has some box office to back it up. While I would have like to see an official $30k per-theater-average, something it would have gotten if it had opened in four theaters (goddammit A24!), $29,044 per theater is certainly nothing to sneeze at in the world of limited release. Expect an Oscar push for Moore come October. The Vincent D’Onofrio-directed Billy the Kid film, aptly named The Kid, also debuted in a 268 theater limited rollout, but with absolutely no advertising (did you know Chris Pratt is in this movie!), a meager $514,286 gross is to be expected.
(Box Office Data from Box Office Mojo, Deadline, Box Office Pro, and Forbes)