DreamWorks Animation and Universal’s The Bad Guys, directed by Pierre Perifel and adapted by Etan Cohen, topped the domestic box office with a $7.7 million Friday gross in 4,008 theaters. That includes $1.15 million in Thursday previews, again showing the discrepancy in terms of Thursday-to-weekend legs when it’s a kid-targeted toon versus a heavily anticipated franchise sequel. Coupled with solid reviews (85% fresh and 6.8/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A from Cinemascore, and it’s looking like an over/under $25 million debut for the $80 million toon. It’s not 2009, back when DWA’s Monsters Vs. Aliens would open with $59 million and leg out to $198 million. But it’s also not 2009, back when Monsters Vs. Aliens would cost $175 million and the entire world wasn’t zoned out on Twitter, YouTube and Netflix. In 2022, this is a particularly good opening weekend for a non-sequel animated film.
The film, concerning a crew of anthropomorphic animal robbers (Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, Marc Maron, Anthony Ramos and Craig Robinson) who make a manufactured attempt to go straight, should score DreamWorks’ biggest opening weekend since How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($55 million) in early 2019. It’ll be their biggest non-sequel debut since The Boss Baby ($50 million) in early 2017. Considering the struggles, even pre-Covid, for non-sequel toons, we haven’t had an original animated blockbuster since Coca in late 2017, I’ll count The Bad Guys (based on Aaron Blabey’s kid-lit series) as a relative triumph for now. With the Cinemascore grade and ridiculous lack of kid-targeted animated films between Sing 2 last Christmas and Lightyear on June 17, The Bad Guys should continue DreamWorks’ pattern of exceptionally leggy runs and flirt with $85-$90 million domestic. It already had $55 million overseas as of last weekend.
Focus Features, also owned by Comcast, unleashed Robert Eggers’ The Northman into 3,231 theaters yesterday. The R-rated, original (loosely based on the story that inspired Hamlet with amusing similarities to The Lion King), star-packed (Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk and Willem Dafoe) Viking action drama earned $5.03 million yesterday. The film earned strong reviews (89% fresh and 7.7/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) but a B from Cinemascore. Who at this point still walks into a period actioner like this and doesn’t know what to expect? The $70 million (!!) flick should earn a $12.5 million opening weekend. Budget aside, that would be a decent showing for a movie of this nature even in pre-Covid times. Furthermore, you can’t complain that Focus didn’t market the hell out of this thing. Call it a (likely) loss for distribution but a win for theaters.
Meanwhile, Lionsgate released the meta-satirical, Film Twitter-friendly action comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent into 3,036 theaters. The well-reviewed (89% fresh and 7.3/10 on Rotten Tomatoes), $30 million original stars Nicholas Cage as Nicolas Cage who takes an offer of $1 million to attend a super fan’s birthday party only to discover that the guy (Pedro Pascal) may be a crime lord. Alas, the film earned just $3 million on Friday for a likely $8 million opening weekend. Massive talent aside, Nicolas Cage hasn’t been a butts-in-seats draw since Knowing in early 2009, and this is his first major studio star vehicle since Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in early 2012. It’s a fun movie, but it’s also a nostalgia project for a time when a film like this was indeed theatrically practical. That said, it’s not like J.C.V.D. was a huge hit in 2008.