Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” has become a Presidents’ Day weekend hit at the box office, as industry estimates are now reporting a $58 million opening weekend from 4,167 screens for the Blue Blur’s movie debut. That result will also set a new record for the best opening by a video game adaptation, topping the $54.3 million set last year by “Detective Pikachu.”
With no major family films released since the holiday season and a 4-day weekend leaving kids out of school for an extra day, “Sonic” has filled a niche in the movie market and is now estimated to reach $70 million by the end of Monday. That number would rank among the top 5 highest extended openings for Presidents’ Day weekend below “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Deadpool,” and the $242 million record held by “Black Panther.”
While films based on video games have had a history of being poorly received, “Sonic” has managed to please both kids and hardcore fans while avoiding scathing reviews from critics. The film has a 64% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes while receiving an A from CinemaScore audience polls and a 4/5 on Postrak with families giving it 4.5/5. With “Sonic” remaining the only family film in theaters until the release of “Onward” in three weeks, that should give Paramount plenty of time to capitalize on this strong word of mouth and build a domestic run of more than $150 million.
Such success would be long overdue for Paramount. “Sonic” has given the studio its biggest opening weekend since the $61.2 million launch of “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” back at the end of July 2018. In 2019, as the studio navigated the merger between parent company Viacom and CBS, the studio’s highest grosser was “Terminator: Dark Fate,” which grossed $261 million against a $185 million budget. “Sonic,” which Paramount says had a $87 million budget after tax incentives, should easily cross that total in the coming weeks.
In the No. 2 spot on this holiday weekend is Warner Bros.’ “Birds of Prey” with an estimated $17 million 3-day/$19 million 4-day total. While its 3-day weekend drop of 49% would be a decent hold for a normal weekend, it’s below the usual hold for a holiday weekend. “The Lego Batman Movie,” for example, had a drop of 38% on Presidents’ Day weekend in 2017 after a $53 million early February opening.
With an estimated two-weekend domestic total of $61.5 million, “Birds of Prey” is following a pace set by last year’s “Ford v Ferrari,” which made $59.4 million at this point in its run and grossed $116 million domestic and $224 million globally. Matching that should be enough to make “Birds of Prey” modestly profitable, though well below what the industry has come to expect for a DC film.
In a narrow race for third are Sony/Blumhouse’s “Fantasy Island” and Universal’s “The Photograph,” both of which are opening this weekend. “Fantasy Island” currently has the edge with a $12.5 million 3-day/$14 million 4-day total from 2,784 screens while “The Photograph” has a $12.2 million 3-day/$13.3 million 4-day total from 2,516 screens.
While the two newcomers are close in grosses, their reception is very different. “The Photograph” has been well received with a B+ on CinemaScore and a 76% Rotten Tomatoes score, while “Fantasy Island” has been panned with a C- on CinemaScore and 10% on Rotten Tomatoes.
But “Fantasy Island” doesn’t have the poorest reception among audiences this weekend. That goes to Searchlight’s “Downhill,” which has a woeful D on CinemaScore and 1/5 on Postrak to go with a tepid 42% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a remake of the Swedish thriller “Force Majure,” the film is projected to gross a $4.7 million 3-day/$5.2 million 4-day opening from 2,301 screens.
Finally, Universal’s “1917” and NEON’s “Parasite” are getting one last boost at the box office from the Oscars. “1917,” which won three Oscars for its technical work, is approaching the $150 million domestic mark after grossing an estimated $9.3 million over four days this weekend, giving it a $145.6 million total after eight weekends.
“Parasite,” meanwhile, is having the highest weekend total of its theatrical run after becoming the first non-English film to win Best Picture. Taking advantage of the global headlines, NEON expanded Bong Joon-ho’s thriller to a wide release of 2,001 screens and is estimated to bring in a 4-day total of $6.6 . million. With $44.3 million grossing in the U.S., “Parasite” now stands among the top 5 highest grossing non-English films in American box office history.