Audiences said let’s go to the movie theater for The Super Mario Bros. Movie this weekend. The animated offering from Universal and Illumination powered up with $204.6 million in its first five days in 4,343 North American theaters, including $146.4 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
With an estimated $173 million in international earnings and a global total of $377 million, Mario broke records for video game adaptations (passing Warcraft’s $210 million) and animated films (Frozen 2’s $358 million).
Its global total makes it the biggest opening of 2023 and the second biggest three-day domestic animated opening (behind Finding Dory). It’s also a record for Illumination, the animation shop behind successful franchises like Minions, which has made over $5 billion from its 13 films.
“This partnership between Nintendo and Illumination is just incredible and led to this extraordinary performance,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution.
The PG-rated Mario is an origin story of Brooklyn plumbers Mario, voiced by Chris Pratt, and Luigi (Charlie Day), who fall into a pipe and come out in another world full of Nintendo’s most famous characters, from Bowser (Jack Black) to Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). Critics were largely mixed. Mario currently has a 56 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But audiences were more favorable, giving it an A CinemaScore.
Orr said that theater owners were surprised by just how broad the audiences were and reported seeing some ticket buyers decked out in character costumes for the movie. According to exit polls, 59 percent of the audience was male and 45 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34.
“$377 million worldwide is just astounding and a testament to how important outside of the home activities are for families,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “Kids and their parents collectively were able to go out, have an outside-the-home event for the whole family at a relatively bargain price compared to a trip or a sporting event.”
Also, Dergarabedian noted, there is a long runway before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens on May 5.
“This was a perfect release date,” Dergarabedian said.
Mario wasn’t the only movie based on a brand that opened in theaters this week. Ben Affleck’s Air, about the origins of Nike’s Air Jordan and how the corporation signed Michael Jordan, also debuted in 3,507 theaters Wednesday. The film, which marks Amazon Studios first global theatrical release, has grossed an estimated $20.2 million since opening Wednesday in North America, with $14.5 million coming from the weekend to give it a fourth place start.
With an R-rating, Air, starring Matt Damon, Viola Davis and Affleck, was a bit of adult-targeted counter programming to the Mario juggernaut. Reviews were glowing for the film (95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) which debuted as a surprise screening at the South by Southwest Film Festival last month, helping to bolster buzz. Audiences were 55 percent male and 39 percent over the age of 45.
“Air found its audience. It’s a solid gross,” Dergarabedian said. “This one is in it for the long haul.”
Air is the first film from Affleck and Damon’s new company Artists Equity which was formed last year in partnership with RedBird Capital.
Second place went to John Wick Chapter 4 which made $14.6 million in its third weekend, bringing its total gross to $147.1 million. Close behind was Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves which placed third with $14.5 million in its second weekend, while Scream VI rounded out the top 5 with $3.3 million.
In limited release, Kelly Reichardt’s art-centric Showing Up, with Michelle Williams and Hong Chau, also bowed on four screens, grossing $66,932.
“This is such an important weekend for theaters, a home stretch heading into the summer movie season, and this is a perfect scenario,” Dergarabedian said. “It’s game on for movie theaters when a lot of people thought it was game over.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore.
1. The Super Mario Bros. Movie, $146.4 million.
2. John Wick: Chapter 4, $14.6 million.
3. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,
4. Air, $14.5 million.
5. Scream VI, $3.3 million.
6. His Only Son, $3.3 million.
7. Creed III, $2.8 million.
8. Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” $1.6 million.
9. Paint, $750,000.
10. A Thousand and One, $600,000.