Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick battle for No 1 at North American box office with US$30.5m each

In an unusually close box office battle, Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick have tied for first place in North America, with each film bringing in US$30.5 million (S$42 million) over the weekend.

Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick were locked in a close battle all weekend as the King of Rock and Roll took the No 1 spot on Friday (Jun 24) and dropped to second place on Saturday. The final results will be tallied on Monday.

Regardless of which film comes out on top, it’s a strong result for both. For Elvis, a US$30 million debut is impressive for a movie catering to older audiences. For Maverick, it’s almost unheard of for a movie to generate US$30 million in its fifth weekend of release.

Overall, it’s an encouraging weekend at the box office as five movies are putting up sizable results. Four  Elvis and fellow newcomer Universal’s Blumhouse thriller The Black Phone, as well as holdovers Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion each grossed US$20 million or more, while a fifth, Disney’s Pixar film Lightyear, came close with US$17 million.

Moreover, those ticket sales wouldn’t be far off from pre-COVID projections. Those healthy box office returns come as audiences have reportedly started to feel safer than ever going to their local cinema. According to a study by the National Research Group, 88 per cent of moviegoers are “very or somewhat comfortable” going to the movies – marking a new all-time high. Around a year ago, that percentage was closer to 59 per cent.

Baz Luhrmann directed Elvis, a kaleidoscopic take on the 20th century icon. Austin Butler stars as the king of rock and roll in Elvis, which chronicles the performer’s meteoric rise to fame through the eyes of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks). Audiences dug the film, awarding it an A- CinemaScore.

David A Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, called Elvis a “risky proposition”, one that seems like it will pay off.

“The music is dated, the character is not directly familiar, and the lead actor is unproven on the big screen. But critics and audiences are responding,” Gross said. “This is the Baz Luhrmann show, a music, dance and sex appeal spectacular it’s a hit.”

The nostalgia-fuelled sequel to 1986’s Top Gun has benefitted greatly from stellar word-of-mouth, which has resulted in minuscule week-to-week drops. Now in its fifth weekend of release, Maverick added US$30.5 million from 3,948 venues between Friday and Sunday, pushing its North American total to US$521 million. It was already the highest-grossing movie of the year in the US and Canada, but after this weekend, it’s now the highest grossing movie at the global box office as well with US$1.006 billion to date. Notably, it’s the first movie of the year and only the second in COVID-19 times (following Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home with US$1.9 billion) to fly past the US$1 billion mark.

After two weekends in first place, Jurassic World Dominion slid to the No 3 spot with US$26.4 million from 4,233 North American locations. Those ticket sales have pushed the dino-centric tentpole past US$300 million at the domestic box office. With US$443.8 million at the international box office, Dominion has stomped to US$746.6 million globally and will imminently cross the US$750 million mark.

The Black Phone opened in fourth place with US$23.3 million from 3,150 North American cinemas. Overseas, the movie collected US$13.4 million from 45 territories, taking its returns to US$35.8 million globally.

The horror movie cost only US$18 million to produce, putting The Black Phone on a glide path to profitability. Scott Derrickson directed The Black Phone, which stars Ethan Hawke as a masked serial killer who kidnaps and torments a teenage boy. Moviegoers and critics have responded enthusiastically, giving the film a B+ CinemaScore and 84 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross says: “By keeping costs low, including efficient, targeted marketing, Blumhouse rarely misses. He adds, “The Black Phone is the kind of film that streamers have not been able to make high-profile, exciting, profitable on its own terms, and cheap.”

In fifth place, Disney’s Lightyear earned US$17.7 million from 4,255 venues, a steep 65 per cent decline from its opening. The spinoff story, set in Pixar’s Toy Story universe, has generated US$88 million in North America to date. Overseas, Lightyear collected $19.3 million from 44 markets, bringing its international tally to US$63.6 million and its global total to $152.4 million.

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