Warner Bros.’ “Black Adam” opened Sunday with an estimated €67 million according to studio estimates, giving Dwayne Johnson the biggest box office weekend as the lead, and releasing the DC Comics character that it took a decade to bring to the big screen.
“Black Adam” was a 200 million euro bid to upset the balance of power in the DC Extended Universe, dominated by the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. The €67 million output was pretty shy of this stratosphere, despite the considerable appeal of Johnson starring in his first superhero movie. Still, “Black Adam” had its highest opening weekend since “Thor: Love and Thunder”, which debuted in July with 143 million euros.
“Black Adam,” in which Johnson plays an ancient Egyptian summoned to the modern day, was hit hard by poor reviews (40% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). The moviegoers were kinder and gave the movie a B+ CinemaScore. It raised €73 million internationally for a global shipment of €140 million.
“Black Man” took a circuitous route to reach the theaters. The character originally appeared in 2019’s “Shazam!” before executives return to give Black Adam a standalone feature. The stupid “Shazam!”, which cost around 100 million Euros to make, opened with 53.5 million Euro ticket sales and was a huge success worldwide with 366 million Euros.
The stakes were higher for “Black Man,” though. While promoting the cinema, Johnson did not shy away from his desire to follow “Black Adam” in a showdown with Superman. But whether the “Black Man” receipts are sufficient remains unclear. Under new leadership, Warner Bros. is overhauling its approach to DC Comics adaptations.
Warner Bros.’s head of distribution, Jeff Goldstein, celebrated the results as a personal record for Johnson outside of the “Fast and the Furious” films, and as a PG-13 cinema with broad-based appeal to which audiences responded better than critics. Still, it’s a time of transition for Warner Bros.’ The studio is reorganizing its DC unit as it seeks more success in the Marvel dimension. The next tap is “Shazam! The Fury of the Gods in March”.
“It’s all about making good movies. It’s all about finding the right scripts,” Goldstein said. “Our studio is definitely going through a major overhaul in our production leadership, style and approach. I think we can solve this problem. We’re definitely focused on doing that.”
The Bali romantic comedy “Ticket to Heaven” starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney proved clever counterprogramming. The Universal Pictures release debuted with €16.3 million, well above the recent sales of romantic comedies that have struggled at the box office in recent years. The movie has already been a hit outside of the United States, where it premiered last month and sold €80.2 million in ticket sales.
Earlier this month, Universal’s R-rated “Bros” debuted with a disappointing $4.8 million, a genre-bending LGBTQ milestone. “Ticket to Heaven” had a notable advantage with its two stars and was particularly appealing to older audiences; The studio said that 64% of ticket buyers were aged 35 or over.
“This weekend has become an event theater for all audiences, but especially for older audiences who can be difficult to get into theaters,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s head of distribution. “We all know this is a demographic that doesn’t exactly run out of weekend opening movies. This gives us great encouragement for the weeks and months ahead.”
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at data firm Comscore, said this was the first weekend since July with $65 million in opening and more than $100 million in domestic ticket sales. In both the “Ticket to Heaven” and “Black Man” appeals with Johnson, he said he owed it a lot to his star power.
“Despite some headwinds for the DC brand and not being such a well-known character, it was the engine that really boosted the box office,” Dergarabedian said. “This is a very strong starting point for Dwayne Johnson in the DC Comics mix. He’s like a blockbuster. It’s 40 percent Rotten Tomatoes, but people want to see Dwayne Johnson on the big screen because he’s bigger than life.
Last week’s best feature film, “Halloween Ends,” fell heavily in its second weekend. The Universal horror sequel, which was released simultaneously on Peacock, fell 80% at €8 million. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ “Smile” continued to defy the fallouts typical for horror movies. In its fourth week, “Smile” came in third with 8.4 million Euros and increased its total domestic sales to 84.3 million Euros.
With more acclaimed nominees in theaters, Searchlight Pictures’ “The Banshees of Inisherin” debuted with one of the year’s best-per-theatre averages. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, Martin McDonagh’s drama opened for 181,000 Euros in four cinemas, with an average of 45,250 Euros per theatre. For A24, Charlotte Wells’ “Aftersun”, starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio as a father and daughter on vacation, also made a solid debut in four theaters, averaging €16,589 per movie.
Estimated ticket sales in US and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, according to Comscore. Final US figures will be released on Monday.
1. “Black Man”, $67 million.
2. “Ticket to Heaven”, $16.3 million.
3. “Smile”, $8.4 million.
4. “Halloween Ends”, $8 million.
5. “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile”, $4.2 million.
6. “Woman King”, $1.9 million.
7. “Terrible 2”, $1.9 million.
8. “Don’t Worry Darling,” $880,000.
9. “Amsterdam”, $811,000.
10. “Triangle of Sorrow”, $600,000.