Comic book hero, Pet Sematary grab eyeballsWorld | 8 Apr 2019 3:13 pm
Seven films in, the DC Extended Universe is finally flying with some wind behind its back. The well-reviewed, relatively modestly budgeted “Shazam!” debuted with US$53.5 million in ticket sales over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, handing DC its latest critical and box-office success.
Though one of the oldest characters in DC’s superhero stable, “Shazam!” does not boast the name-recognition of Batman or Superman. But by scaling back to a US$100 million budget and going for the lighter, comic tone, “Shazam!” steadily built up its word of mouth with stellar reviews. Warner Bros. also showed the film nationwide two weeks before opening, where it made US$3 million in advance screenings.
“Shazam!” came out well ahead of the weekend’s other top draw, “Pet Sematary.” Paramount Pictures’ remake of the original 1989 Stephen King adaptation opened in a distant second with US$25 million. It is a solid start for “Pet Sematary,” though far from the haul that the last big-screen adaptation of King’s conjured up: “It” opened with US$123.4 million in 2017.
Last week’s top film, “Dumbo,” slid steeply in its second week. Landing in third, the Disney live-action remake dropped 60 percent with US$18.2 million.
Pitched as ”‘Big’ meets Superman,’” “Shazam!” stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a teenage foster kid who transforms into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi).
Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief at Warner Bros., said the studio originally forecast a US$40 million opening. “That was the right number for us,” Goldstein said. “That’s what we needed to make money on it.”
But expectations grew based on reviews (91 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience reaction (an “A″ Cinemascore). The PG-13-rated film attracted an especially young crowd; 45 percent were under 25.
The result further validated DC’s pivot following the disappointments of Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman” and David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.” Warner Bros. has since steered its comic book adaptions in a different direction, leaning more on stand-alone entries less predicated on the overall “universe” and more fluctuating in tone. Following “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman,” ″Shazam!” makes it three in a row for DC superhero standalones.
Earlier in the week, Warner Bros. also teased the DC release “Joker,” with Joaquin Phoenix, at CinemaCon. An even smaller-budgeted origin story with a similarly unique, albeit much darker, tone; it was one of the most talked-about movies at the Las Vegas event.
Overseas, “Shazam!” grossed US$102 million in 79 markets, including US$30.9 million in China.
“DC has really found its groove,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “They’re really breaking out each character. Shazam and the Joker could not be two more different characters within the DC Universe. But I think that diversity of content is going to serve them well.”
Dergarabedian noted the two most dominant genres in movies right now — superheroes and horror — swamped theaters over the weekend, taking up four of the top five spots at the box office. The stiff competition in similar-styled holdovers could have slightly depressed results for both “Shazam!” and “Pet Sematary.” But right now, there’s scant room on the calendar between major comic book films and horror releases.
In fourth was Jordan Peele’s horror thriller “Us,” which added US$13.8 million in its third week. Its cumulative global total stands at US$216.6 million.
Marvel’s Brie Larson-led “Captain Marvel,” which recently crossed US$1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, took in US$12.7 million domestically in its fifth weekend. Captain Marvel, ironically, was Shazam’s original name when the character was first crafted, as a Superman knockoff, in 1939. He was relaunched in 1973 as Shazam after decades of lawsuits and the debut of Marvel’s own Captain Marvel.
The weekend’s other wide-release newcomer was STX Entertainment’s “Best of Enemies,” starring Taraji P. Henson as a civil rights activist and Sam Rockwell as a Ku Klux Klan leader. It opened with US$4.5 million.
In limited release, Claire Denis’ “High Life,” starring Robert Pattinson, opened with about US$100,000 in four theaters for A24.
Neon’s Aretha Franklin documentary, “Amazing Grace,” debuted with $96,000 in eight locations. The film, shot over two days at the New Bethel Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1972, was lost for decades in part because its director, Sydney Pollack, failed to slate the images, leaving them not synced with the audio. Before her death last August, Franklin sued several times to prevent its release.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.-AP