US box office: The Bad Guys topples Fantastic Beasts 3 with US$24m debut

Universal’s kid-friendly caper The Bad Guys pulled off a heist for the ages, capturing the No 1 spot at the North American box office.

The animated comedy has collected US$24 million from 4,009 North American theatres in its debut, enough to take the crown from Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore. In its second weekend of release, the latest chapter in the Harry Potter prequel series plummeted to third place with US$14 million, a troubling sign for the Warner Bros’ Wizarding film franchise.

The Bad Guys may have towered over the competition, but it was not the only newcomer to movie theatre marquees. The Northman, a blood-soaked Viking epic from director Robert Eggers, and The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, a meta comedy in which Nicolas Cage plays a fictionalised version of himself, opened in theatres nationwide to varying results. With three original movies in wide release, this weekend indicates that Hollywood does, indeed, still have new ideas but audiences aren’t always willing to make the trek to watch them.

The Bad Guys carries a US$70 million price tag, so although the Dreamworks Animation film has topped the box office, it may have to claw its way to profitability in its theatrical run. The international box office will be critical to getting into the black. Already, the movie has grossed US$63 million overseas, bringing its global tally to US$87.1 million. It helps that in addition to strong reviews, audiences appear to be high on the film, which secured an “A” CinemaScore from ticket buyers. Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Anthony Ramos, Craig Robinson and Awkwafina lead the voice cast of The Bad Guys, which follows a crackerjack crew of animal outlaws as they attempt their most challenging con yet becoming model citizens.

The Northman opened in fourth place, generating US$12 million from 3,865 locations. That’s a great result for an arthouse film, but alas, The Northman does not carry the budget of an arthouse film. The movie reportedly cost US$90 million, though sources close to the production say the final number was closer to $70 million after factoring in tax incentives. And Focus Features, who split the cost with New Regency, did not skimp on promotional efforts. The Northman has posters with stars Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Bjork and Willem Dafoe plastered in Times Square.

“Reviews are excellent, but with a budget of around $75 million, The Northman will struggle to recover costs,” said David A Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, from Lionsgate, took the No 5 spot with US$7.1 million, a wobbly start given its reported US$30 million budget. Directed by Tom Gormican, the wacky buddy comedy of sorts follows Cage, whose star is declining as a billionaire super fan (played by Pedro Pascal) offers him US$1 million to attend a birthday party in the Maldives. When events take a turn, Cage teams up with the CIA and channels his most beloved movie characters to save his family from his biggest fan, who may be a dangerous arms dealer.

Despite stacked competition, Paramount’s family friendly sequel Sonic The Hedgehog 2 sped past Fantastic Beasts 3 and others to land in second place with US$15.2 million from 3,809 venues. After three weeks in theatres, the Sonic follow-up has generated a mighty US$145.8 million. The film is less than US$3 million away from surpassing its predecessor’s US$148 million pre-pandemic domestic box office total, though 2020’s Sonic The Hedgehog likely would have enjoyed a longer run on the big screen without COVID-19 spoiling those plans.

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