2023 was anticipated to be a renaissance for cinema, but as it approaches its midpoint, it has seen more near-misses and flops than resounding blockbusters.
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Nonetheless, there are silver linings to be found. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” have raked in substantial earnings, impressive even in comparison to pre-COVID times. Additionally, films like “Cocaine Bear,” “Scream VI,” and “Evil Dead Rise” have found success in the mid-budget range, attracting audiences during the transitional seasons when theaters work diligently to fill seats.
In a broader context, the domestic box office has reached $4.35 billion, marking a noteworthy 20.7% improvement over the same point in the pandemic-affected year of 2022, as reported by Comscore. Encouragingly, the industry seems to be on an upswing, with promising titles like “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” and “Barbie” poised to potentially become summer hits.
However, it’s also evident that studios grapple with the challenge of crafting films compelling enough to draw audiences back to theaters rather than opting for the convenience of streaming platforms. In simpler terms, don’t expect sequels like “The Flash 2” or extended versions of films like Ari Aster’s “Beau Is Afraid” to arrive anytime soon.
Let’s delve into the movies that have excelled, fallen short, or found themselves in between during the initial half of 2023.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
- Opening weekend: $146 million
- Current global gross: $1.33 billion
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has smashed records, boasting the biggest opening weekend of the year (so far) and crossing the coveted $1 billion mark. It resonates with audiences young and old, blending brand recognition and nostalgia from the iconic video game franchise. It stands tall as the highest-grossing film based on a video game, a remarkable achievement given the history of video game adaptations in Hollywood.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
- Opening weekend: $118 million
- Current global gross: $827 million
Despite concerns about a softer-than-expected opening weekend, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” bounced back admirably, securing its place as a box office winner. This quirky Marvel installment didn’t quite surpass its predecessor but still achieved a satisfying box office trifecta, putting to rest any doubts about its performance.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
- Opening weekend: $120 million
- Current global gross: $560 million
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” demonstrates that superhero fatigue is a myth when the movie is genuinely captivating. This animated adaptation has not only exceeded its predecessor’s performance but has done so in record time. Audiences eagerly anticipate the next installment, “Beyond the Spider-Verse,” set for 2024.
John Wick: Chapter 4
- Opening weekend: $73 million
- Current global gross: $427 million
“John Wick: Chapter 4” didn’t just surpass its predecessors at the box office; it emerged as the top earner of the entire franchise. Keanu Reeves continues to wield his iconic role as a legendary assassin with finesse, making this original action series a rare success story in Hollywood.
- Opening weekend: $58 million
- Current global gross: $275 million
Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut in “Creed III” paid off handsomely. This latest installment in the “Rocky” spinoff series outperformed its predecessors, solidifying its place as the highest-grossing entry and ensuring Adonis Creed’s continued journey in the boxing ring.
- Opening weekend: $15.8 million
- Current global gross: $52 million
“Jesus Revolution,” a faith-based film starring Kelsey Grammer, may not set records, but its low budget proved profitable. It serves as a testament to the resonance of faith-based stories and their audience appeal.
- Opening weekend: $67 million
- Current global gross: $689 million
With a staggering $340 million budget, “Fast X” faces challenges turning a profit during its theatrical run. Questions loom over the future of the franchise, as domestic performance lags, while international audiences maintain their love for the high-octane action series.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
- Opening weekend: $37 million
- Current global gross: $208 million
Despite critical acclaim, “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” struggled to engage audiences less familiar with the world of role-playing games. Its $150 million budget leaves a substantial gap to bridge to achieve profitability.
The Little Mermaid
- Opening weekend: $95 million
- Current global gross: $503 million
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” stumbled at the foreign box office, earning less than half of its global revenue overseas. In contrast, other Disney live-action remakes found more success internationally, leaving Ariel’s undersea adventure adrift.
- Opening weekend: $14.4 million
- Current global gross: $89 million
“Air” proves that audience affection for Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Viola Davis can elevate an adult drama. However, the film’s budget matched its earnings, potentially leaving the theatrical release in the red. Streaming might offer a more profitable avenue for this star-studded drama.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
- Opening weekend: $6.7 million
- Current global gross: $21.4 million
While “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” didn’t plummet, its $30 million production cost raises concerns about its theatrical profitability in a competitive landscape for indie films.
- Opening weekend: $55 million
- Current global gross: $210 million
Despite grandiose expectations, “The Flash” struggled to gain traction with audiences. Its $200 million production cost and extensive marketing expenses paint a grim financial picture for Warner Bros., marking another DC installment’s disappointing performance.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
- Opening weekend: $106 million
- Current global gross: $467 million
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” stumbled after a strong opening, falling short of the typical Marvel box office benchmark. The film’s performance underscores that opening weekends don’t always tell the full financial story, leaving the tiny heroes with a financial setback.
Shazam: Fury of the Gods
- Opening weekend: $30 million
- Current global gross: $133 million
“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” suffered the ignominy of being one of the biggest superhero misfires in recent memory. With an underwhelming domestic performance and a $100 million production cost, it leaves audiences and studios questioning the film’s enchantment.
Book Club: The Next Chapter
- Opening weekend: $6.7 million
- Current global gross: $27 million
“Book Club: The Next Chapter” failed to rekindle the magic of its predecessor, despite an ensemble cast of veteran stars. The decision to change studios did not yield the anticipated results, leaving this comedy-drama as a less-than-thrilling sequel.
- Opening weekend: $8 million
- Current global gross: $26 million
“Renfield” failed to emerge from the shadow of its classic monster legacy, proving to be a costly setback for Universal. With a $65 million price tag and limited box office returns, it joins a list of unprofitable attempts to revive the studio’s iconic monsters.
Beau Is Afraid
- Opening weekend: $2.6 million
- Current global gross: $10.9 million
Ari Aster’s “Beau Is Afraid,” while an intriguing mind-bender, struggled to connect with mainstream audiences. Its indie style faced a challenging market, and its $35 million budget further complicated its path to profitability.