Mamma mia! If you went to the cinema this weekend, chances are they were packed beyond belief. I haven’t seen my local cinema this *jam-packed* for *one* movie since Avengers: Endgame was released in 2019. On Friday, April 7th, I went to see Ben Affleck‘s Air, and the whole room was packed with families for one movie: The Super Mario Bros. Movie. There wasn’t a single world in which a film called The Super Mario Bros. Movie with Nintendo’s direct blessing would flop, but the extent to which it’s a success is insane.
Forget the pandemic records, this film broke many records for an animated film which were held in place by Frozen II. The film has made $146 million at the domestic box office, making it the third biggest three-day opening for an animated film, but had the biggest GLOBAL debut ever for an animated film, making a historic $377 million worldwide during the Easter weekend. If Universal plays their cards right (essentially not releasing it on VOD in a month or two), the movie will surely make its way to $1 billion, despite mixed reviews from critics. Why? Simple: the film is predominantly aimed at children, and the long weekend is PERFECT for families to head out to the theater and see the movie as a family.
Add the fact that it’s under 100 minutes, and the film can be played in multiple formats for about 5-6 showtimes a day, and you’ve got a recipe for success. If the audience response to the movie is stronger than critics, particularly for kids and fans of the source material, then it’ll skyrocket its way to the billion-dollar mark and potentially outgross Frozen II as the highest-grossing animated movie of all time.
As far as Ben Affleck’s Air is concerned, the movie was also a hit for Amazon, ending up in fourth place with a $14 million opening for the weekend and a $20.2 million worldwide tally. Some will say that it isn’t a lot compared to Super Mario Bros, but its budget was significantly smaller, and was initially slated to release on Prime Video. Time will tell how much money it will make in its total run, but the word of mouth for Air has been much stronger than Mario, which may lead audiences who are looking for a more crowd-pleasing film (with a non-sold-out crowd) to want to see a simple and satisfying film like Air.
It also bodes well for Amazon, who plans to release more “Amazon Originals” with an exclusive theatrical run before it makes their way to Prime Video. The streamer is planning to spend $1 billion a year on theatrical-exclusive films (not counting those produced by MGM), and Air was the first film to signal their new plan. What would happen if the movie had been a critical and commercial flop? No idea, but Apple TV+ is now doing the exact same thing, with Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon already slated for a theatrical-exclusive release in October and November, respectively, before they land on the streaming service. There is no way Netflix will stay with its current models, especially if Amazon and Apple TV prove that their new approach to film distribution is profitable.
Not every streaming-produced film deserves a theatrical release, but select ones (especially significant awards contenders) greatly benefit from a WIDE theatrical release, at least for 45 days. Netflix’s All Quiet on the Western Front snagged many Oscar nominations (and wins), but it only played in select theatres for one to two weeks before releasing on Netflix on October 28th. That was enough for the film to qualify for awards contention. The word of mouth on that film, compared to Air, was completely non-existent. It looks like the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences is fighting back against Netflix’s approach by implementing new theatrical-exclusive guidelines, which could force the streamer to finally embrace theatres as a great way to get more eyes into watching your movies. Now, the challenge will be to lengthen the windows for theatrical exclusivity.
Studios shouldn’t also release a film on demand two to three weeks after the movie has been released unless it’s a major box office flop and it is guaranteed not to make a profit. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is rumored to release on VOD on May 9 (though this seems to be a placeholder date), which wouldn’t make sense, especially if Universal is trying to aim for $1 billion. Of course, it was justifiable during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic for movies to be accessible a couple of weeks after their theatrical release. However, most of society has resumed their daily lives, even if the pandemic itself isn’t over. It doesn’t make much sense to release a movie on VOD a month after its initial release, especially if audiences are still flocking en masse for your movie. Let them have legs!
Here’s the full list of the top ten films of the week:
- The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal): $146.3M – 4,343 theatres
- John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate): $14.6M (-48.5%) – 3,607 theatres
- Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Paramount): $14.5M (-61%) – 3,856 theatres
- Air (Amazon Studios): $14.4M – 3,507 theatres
- Scream VI (Paramount): $3.3M (-37.9%) – 2,286 theatres
- His Only Son (Angel Studios): $3.2M (-40.9%) – 1,930 theatres
- Creed III (MGM): $2.8M (-43.8%) – 2,002 theatres
- Shazam! Fury of the Gods (Warner Bros/DC): $1.6M (-65.3%) – 2,203 theatres
- Paint (IFC Films): $750.000 – 819 theatres
- A Thousand and One (Universal): $600.000 (-66.6%) – 926 theatres
Source: Box Office Mojo