While Sonic 2 looks to blow the doors off expectations, Morbius and Ambulance are falling like rocks. Meanwhile, the ladies of Lost City and Everything, Everywhere are doing solid work.
Let’s keep this light and snappy. Sonic 2 is doing VERY well! In the first weekend of what is looking to be the true start of the moviegoing year in 2022, where practically every weekend from now to Christmas has a major motion picture opening, Paramount is looking to deliver its fourth consecutive number one opening weekend and a flat-out great opening weekend gross. On top of that, we have an official answer about Morbius‘ reception (not good), a solid recovery for The Lost City, and some much needed variety in our likely box office top ten.
There was admittedly some question as to how well Sonic the Hedgehog 2 would do as the circumstances surrounding this new “franchise’s” appearance on the silver screen were quite unusual and intriguing. From the moment the film was greenlit, much derision was thrown at the lightning-fast blue hedgehog becoming a film entity, as is typically the case with adaptations of childhood-favorite cartoon franchises. That derision hit its apex upon the release of the first trailer for the film which showcased a CGI-rendered Sonic that frankly looked horrific. The original plan was to make Sonic look more humanoid on screen, complete with a runner’s build and human teeth, but combined with blue fur giving him an awful, wet-dog-like texture, the image of Sonic was honestly scary to behold and the creatives behind the film were widely mocked on Twitter for “destroying” many childhoods.
However, in a surprising turn of events, instead of charging through and owning the terrible Sonic design, Paramount and director Jeff Fowler went against the typical grain of Hollywood by moving the film’s original November 2019 release date to February 2020 and promising fans that they’d heard and heeded their criticisms and would take the extra time to redesign Sonic in the film. Six months later, a new trailer was released with a new Sonic design that was much more accurate to the design of Sonic in his original game and cartoons. By leaning more heavily into the unrealistic nature of his body proportions and his cartoon-ish face, the design was infinitely more well-received by fans and the public and this, I feel, was a true game-changer for the film. That a major studio would actually take the time to listen to fan criticism (which was notably more constructive regarding the Sonic movie than most other films of its ilk, to be fair) and actively work to make the movie better and more appealing to the franchise’s core fan-base engendered a lot of goodwill for the film and encouraged many on the fence to take the risk and see it in theaters. To the surprise of many viewers, what they found was a delightfully fun and unashamedly kid-friendly adventure movie that moved at a brisk pace and was unafraid to be silly. The film received notably more positive reviews than most videogame adaptations, opened well with $58 million, and ran its way up to $304 million worldwide before its run was cut short by the onset of the pandemic.
Flash forward to today where we’re seeing the release of the genuinely anticipated sequel, and looks like that fan goodwill is still alive and well for this franchise. With the promise two years ago (in mid-credits sequence) of an appearance by fan-favorite Tails (voiced by Tails’ primary voice actor, Colleen O’Shaughnessy) and a more videogame accurate Dr. Eggman, plus the announcement of an appearance from an Idris Elba-voiced Knuckles, intrigue for core fans of the Sonic videogame franchise (adults and child alike) was already quite piqued. Plus, with just how well the original turned out and the establishment of genuine trust between the studio and audience for franchise fans, Sonic 2 was primed for success. The only question was just how high would it soar?
Personally, given the unique set of circumstances, and the reviews that had dribbled out about the film throughout the past two weeks, I’d kept my expectations a bit small, picturing the film relatively matching the original’s take of $58 with around a $55+ million opening. Projections for the film ranged from $45-60 million, so a $55 million estimate with a potential for greater growth seemed just right. Clearly, however, with Thursday night previews rolling in, I undershot. Preview grosses came in at $6.25 million, over twice that of the original’s $3 million (itself something of an overperformance in 2020) so the stage was set for a big, splashy debut. Sure enough, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is coming in ahead of its predecessor with a $26.5 million Friday gross (versus the original’s $20.9 million) for a potential $65+ million opening. The trades are even more enthusiastic, projecting the film to open between $67-69 million, which would be stellar. Either way, that’s a huge deal and a fantastic opening for Sonic 2, firmly establishing the franchise’s ongoing popularity, granting credence to Paramount’s greenlighting of a third film last month (as well as a Paramount+ live-action spin-off series about Knuckles), and giving Paramount its fourth great debut of the year after the successful launches of Scream (5), Jackass Forever, and The Lost City. We’ll see where Sonic 2 lands tomorrow, but this is all genuinely excellent news for the embattled studio.
With that big news out of the way, we can check in on the rest of the box office, which provides some interesting insight into other movies, most notably Morbius. I’d mentioned in last weekend’s post that it was a bit hard to get a read on the film as, while it didn’t blow away expectations with its opening weekend, it didn’t exactly underperform either, coming within range of expectations with a $39 million opening and an $84+ million debut worldwide. However, clearly the public sentiment is lacking at best as with a gross of about $2.9 million on Friday, Morbius is tracking for an estimated $10 million second weekend, a staggering -74% drop from last weekend. I’d personally figured that at worst it would fall around -60% for a $15 million gross; not great but better than -74%. This shows, pretty unequivocally, that Jared Leto’s Morbius is not connecting with fans and slightly stains Sony’s success with the Spider-Man film franchise. It’s not all bad, as Sony has proven to be able to launch and maintain Spider-Man spin-off franchises with the likes of Venom, however, it puts a lot more pressure on Sony to get their next spin-off attempt right. Currently, a Kraven the Hunter film (with a pretty notable ensemble including the likes of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and newly minted Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose) is about to go into production, and pre-production is already underway on a Madame Web film starring Dakota Johnson and Sydney Sweeny. It would very much behoove Sony to take their time in getting these projects just right so they don’t meet the same fate as Morbius.
In other “not-so-great” news, this weekend’s other new entry, Michael Bay’s Ambulance, is also sinking like a rock. I will admit to being a bit disappointed here as I had some relatively high hopes for the film. A remake of a Danish actioner and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Ambulance tells the story two brothers who rob a bank and escape by stealing an ambulance containing a paramedic (Eiza Gonzalez) and a dying patient in her care, forcing them into a giant road chase across Los Angeles, trying to evade the authorities while caring for heavily compromised hostages. The high octant premise was reminiscent of Speed, and although the trailer didn’t look great, early reviews were surprisingly positive at 74% on Rotten Tomattoes (with an average score of 5.8/10) and marketing materials touted the film as “Michael Bay’s most acclaimed film” which I will admit further piqued my curiosity. However, clearly no one else with impressed as a $3.2 million Friday gross only looks to be building toward an $8.1 million total opening weekend. We’ll break it down a bit more tomorrow, but clearly Michael has very heavily eroded his relationship with moviegoers.
Back to good news, The Lost City seems to be recovering some ground after its steeper than expected drop of -52% drop last weekend. Pulling in $2.56 million, the Sandra Bullock vehicle is tracking for a much stronger -37% drop and a gross of $9.3 million gross overall this weekend. That’s higher than I was expecting (a -45% drop for a gross of $8 million) but it makes a lot of sense as The Lost City works to counterprogram this particularly male-centric weekend by being the primary film targetted directly at a female audience. If it does indeed pull in $9.3 million, which should see its domestic haul rise to roughly $69 million total.
As for the last big movie this weekend, Everything, Everywhere, All At Once has officially gone wide in 1,200 theaters. Personally, I’d been predicting it to pull in between $6-7 million, on par with Midsommar, given its status as an A24 film (which gives it much more media attention than it otherwise would’ve had) and how the distributor had handled its limited release expansion so well. That doesn’t look like it will be the case as the Michelle Yeoh multiverse actioner which took in $2.1 million on Friday and is tracking for a total of $5.9 million wide release debut, but I still think there is quite a lot to be impressed within that result. Plus, who knows, it might overperform with a strong Saturday gross today; only time will tell.
As for other notables, the trades report that The Batman is tracking for a gross of $6-$6.3 million from a -43% drop (on par with my expectations: a -45% drop for a gross of $6.05 million), but other films in the top ten have yet to have their data reported today. I’m expecting Uncharted to drop about -30% for a gross of $2.56 million, No Way Home to drop -30% as well and land at about $1 million, and Dog to drop around -45% and take in about $715K. Elsewhere, I’ve no data to say whether or not theaters are still carrying Jujutsu Kaisen 0 or RRR so we’ll just have to see if they make an appearance tomorrow. Until then, happy moviegoing everyone!