It’s a nail-biter at the box office.
Sony’s “Gran Turismo” is projected to narrowly outrace the competition with $17.3 million at the box office. But “Barbie” is close behind with $17.1 million, so it’s possible that when the final tally is revealed, the summer blockbuster will have reclaimed its crown and “Gran Turismo” will have to settle for second place.
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“We call these estimates for a reason,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior Comscore analyst. “Only $200,000 separates these two movies, so we’ll have to see how things shake out on Monday.”
As for “Gran Turismo,” its opening figure includes a sizable $5.3 million from preview screenings and fan events that the studio hosted over recent weeks. That’s an unusual bit of accounting. One that came about because Sony, which originally planned to open the film on Aug. 11, instead pushed back its debut by two weeks. At the same time, it orchestrated several days of special screenings for the film to generate excitement and raise its profile. So, while most studios include Thursday preview grosses in their opening numbers, folding in several weeks of grosses is taking the definition of “weekend” in creative directions. To be clear, “Gran Turismo” has company in its capacious approach to assessing a debut. Paramount’s “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” did the same thing, including results from multiple preview screenings into its inaugural weekend. Needless to say, Warner Bros. which backed “Barbie,” isn’t a fan of this practice since it could deny them a victory.
“I understand why Warner Bros. would be upset,” says Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “But this game has been going on for some time. They’ve all been extending the idea of an opening for a long time to include more previews and sneak screenings, but this is more egregious than what other studios have done in the past. They just want a headline saying they’re number one.”
Beyond photo finishes, there’s another reason that this random weekend in the dog days of summer is being closely scrutinized. You see, Sunday is the second National Cinema Day, during which more than 3,000 theaters across North American will slash ticket prices to a mere $4. Exhibitors are hoping to get bargain hunters to turn out, boosting attendance and giving them a chance to sell more over-priced popcorn and Coke. Privately, studios don’t share their enthusiasm, because of the whole making tickets cheaper thing. It’s unclear how that will impact grosses.
It’s not much of a win for “Gran Turismo.” The film has a $60 million production budget, so it will need to generate some great word-of-mouth if it wants to make a profit. Directed by Neill Blomkamp of “District 9” fame, the film centers around Jann Mardenborough, a young man whose love of the PlayStation video game, “Gran Turismo,” enables him to succeed in the world of auto racing. The film stars Archie Madekwe, David Harbour and Orlando Bloom, and received mixed reviews. Though not from Variety, which hailed it as “a race-car movie that gives the audience a contact high.” Audiences seemed to agree, giving it an A CinemaScore.
As for “Barbie,” the box office phenomenon is barreling towards a stateside gross of $600 million, having earned $594.8 million through the weekend. The film has already surpassed “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” to become the highest-grossing domestic release of 2023.
In its second weekend, “Blue Beetle” earned $12.8 million. The Warner Bros. and DC Films release has grossed $46.3 million domestically — a disappointing result for a movie that cost more than $100 million to produce (plus millions more in marketing).
Universal’s “Oppenheimer” nabbed fourth place with $9 million. The look at the life of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer has earned an extraordinary $300.1 million in North America, making it Christopher Nolan’s third highest-grossing domestic release. Only “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” have done better. It is also the fifth highest-grossing stateside film of 2023, bypassing “The Little Mermaid.”
Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” rounded out the top five with $6.1 million, pushing the animated adventure’s domestic gross to $98.1 million.
In limited release, “Bottoms,” a high school comedy from “Shiva Baby” director Emma Seligman, scored with $516,254 from just ten locations. That comes out to a sterling per screen average of $51,625. The film was produced by MGM and will expand to 700 additional screens across North America next weekend.
Among other new releases, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions’ “Retribution,” the latest chapter in Liam Neeson’s aging action hero era, earned a puny $3.3 million from 1,750 theaters. It’s the kind of film that usually does better on-demand. Then there’s Bleecker Street’s “Golda,” a biopic about former prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, which opened to $1.7 million from a little over 800 screens. Finally, Briarcliff Entertainment’s “The Hill,” a faith-based story about a baseball player who overcomes a physical disability, earned $2.5 million from 1,570 locations.
Next weekend will see the return of Denzel Washington in “Equalizer 3,” who is back in ass-kicking style to close out the summer of 2023. As things stand, the business has earned roughly $3.9 billion in ticket sales and should cross the $4 billion mark for the first time since the pandemic.
“It’s a milestone a lot of people didn’t think the box office would reach,” says Dergarabedian.
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