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With ‘Equalizer 3,’ Summer Passes $4 Billion in Box Office

All hail Denzel Washington. “The Equalizer 3” (Sony) opening to $34.5 million is the biggest debut since “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer” — and with a reported budget of $70 million, the opening came at a reasonable price.

Washington is a deeply respected actor, but this success wasn’t a sure thing for reasons beyond strike-hampered promotion. Since the second “Equalizer” in 2018, Washington made only one wide-release film. Warner Bros. released John Lee Hancock’s “The Little Things” in COVID-era January 2021 and it grossed just $31 million domestic.

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The other winner this week is Taylor Swift for the disruptive interjection of her “The Eras Tour” concert film, released by AMC Distribution. It opens October 13, but her announcement August 30 led to first-day ticket sales of $26 million with a ticket price of $19.89. It’s positioned to provide the best box office for theaters until “The Marvels” (Disney) opens in November.

The studios, which received no advance notice of the opening, are nonplussed — Universal in particular. It was forced to move its sequel “The Exorcist: Believer” off October 13 to the less-ideal October 6, and at no small expense. AMC might take some pleasure in making an independent move not unlike the studios when they decide to push films in response to COVID or the strikes. Still, movies will not be replaced by concert events. Even Swift is far less important to the future of theaters than stars like Washington.

BOTTOMS, from left: Rachel Sennott, Ruby Cruz, Ayo Edebiri, 2023. © United Artists / courtesy Everett Collection
“Bottoms” ©United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection

Also new in this week’s top 10 is Emma Seligman’s “Bottoms” (MGM), which expanded to 715 theaters from its original 10. (It grossed $465,000 its opening weekend, with $4 Sunday significantly reducing its take). It’s projected at #7 with $3 million, with major-city, specialized-tilting screens faring best. Although its reported opening per-theater average was similar to Searchlight’s “Theater Camp,” “Bottoms” has already equaled its gross. MGM will add about 500 more theaters next week.

The total for “Equalizer” (estimated at $42 million through Labor Day) will put summer box office safely over $4 billion by Monday. That goal seemed impossible before “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” which now stand at to a combined $920 million domestic, but total attendance still lags behind any summer on record. Year-to-date totals remains 25 percent better than last year.

The three-day weekend estimate of about $91 million is slightly ahead of last weekend’s National Cinema Day attendance-boosting event. “Equalizer” may show studios that the absence of promotional junkets shouldn’t necessarily equate to rescheduling releases.

GRAN TURISMO, Archie Madekwe, 2023. ph: Gordon Timpen /© Columbia Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
“Gran Turismo”©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Sony’s “Gran Turismo” took #1 last weekend thanks to earlier sneaks added to its opening total (consistent with all studios’ elastic reporting), but “Barbie” and “Blue Beetle” both scored higher this weekend. “Barbie,” now the year’s biggest-grossing film worldwide and heading toward $2 billion, is #2 again with $10.6 million, off 30 percent. DC Comics’ “Blue Beetle” is #3, off 40 percent its third weekend, with a disappointing $56.6 million so far.

“Turismo,” despite an A Cinemascore that would suggest decent holds, fell 62 percent its second week. It will struggle to reach $35 million, a disappointing result. That was the biggest drop in the top 10. A24’s horror hit “Talk to Me” (#10) held best, down only 23 percent. “Oppenheimer,” now over $300 million domestic, dropped 33 percent in fifth place. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” fell 34 percent concurrent to its PVOD debut, for #6.

Labor Day remains a date to avoid for new specialized titles, with no new entries reporting this week. Initial reports from Venice and Telluride promise much-improved prospects, but for most titles it will be months or weeks before they can make an impact in theaters.

The Top 10

1. The Equalizer 3 (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 57; Est. budget: $70 million

$34,500,000 in 3,965 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $8,701; Cumulative: $34,500,000

2. Barbie (Warner Bros.) Week 7; Last weekend #2

$10,625,000 (-30%) in 3,586 (-150) theaters; PTA: $2,963; Cumulative: $609,509,000

3. Blue Beetle (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last week #3

$7,270,000 (-40%) in 3,316 (-555) theaters; PTA: $2,192; Cumulative: $56,574,000

4. Gran Turismo (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$6,550,000 (-62%) in 3,856 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,699; Cumulative: $23,661,000

5. Oppenheimer (Universal) Week 7; Last weekend #4

$5,520,000 (-33%) in 2,543 (-329) theaters; PTA: $1,699; Cumulative: $308,551,000

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #5; also on PVOD

$4,775,000 (-34%) in 2,955 (-190) theaters; PTA: $1,616; Cumulative: $103,224,000

7. Bottoms (MGM) Week 2; Last weekend #19

$3,000,000 (+552%) in 715 (+705) theaters; PTA: $4,206; Cumulative: $3,731,000

8. Meg 2: The Trench (WB) Week 4; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD

$2,940,000 (-39%) in 2,371 (-561) theaters; PTA: $1,240; Cumulative: $78,422,000

9. The Strays (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #7

$2,520,000 (-49%) in 2,486 (-746) theaters; PTA: $1,014; Cumulative: $20,731,000

10. Talk to Me (A24) Week 6; Last weekend #10

$1,764,000 (-23%) in 1,075 (-246) theaters; PTA: $1,641; Cumulative: $44,103,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first three weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.

Golda (Bleecker Street) Week 2

$769,723 in 791 (-94) theaters; PTA: $973; Cumulative: $3,179,000

Fremont (Music Box) Week 2

$29,287 in 9 (+5) theaters; PTA: $3,265; Cumulative: $63,025

Oldboy (Neon) REISSUE Week 3

$60,040 in 71 (-111) theaters; PTA: $846; Cumulative: $2,842,000 (adjusted)

Birth/Rebirth (IFC) Week 3

$23,670 in 18 (-1) theaters; Cumulative: $105,325

Theater Camp (Searchlight) Week 8

$32,000 in 100 (-20) theaters; Cumulative: $3,782,000

The Miracle Club (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8

$50,726 in 116 (+39) theaters; Cumulative: $2,194,000

Asteroid City (Focus) Week 12 310

$36,000 in 46 (-264) theaters; Cumulative: $28,120,000

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