Box Office: ‘The Bad Guys’ Wins Weekend With Solid $24 Million Debut

In a grim ”times have changed” comparison, it was less than five years ago when I was slightly disappointed that DreamWorks’ delightful Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie opened with “just” $23 million. That was well below “normal” for DreamWorks (Trolls had opened with $46.5 million in November 2016 and The Boss Baby had opened with $50 million in March of 2017), so this was a comedown closer to Turbo ($21 million in 2013) than Monsters vs. Aliens ($59 million in 2009). However, Captain Underpants only cost $40 million (Turbo, for example, cost $135 million), making its eventual $125 million global gross a modest success. Five years later, it’s genuine cause for celebration that Universal and DreamWorks’ well-reviewed and well-received The Bad Guys (review) has opened atop the domestic box office with $24 million.

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, scored DreamWorks’ biggest opening weekend since How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($55 million) in early 2019. It is also their biggest non-sequel debut since The Boss Baby ($50 million) in early 2017. It’s not 2010, back when DWA’s How to Train Your Dragon would “disappoint” with a $44 million debut but leg out to $220 million domestic. It’s also not 2010, back when How to Train Your Dragon cost $165 million and the entire world wasn’t zoned out on Twitter, YouTube and Netflix. Considering the struggles, even pre-Covid, for non-sequel toons, I’ll count The Bad Guys as a relative triumph for now.

The DWA toons have gotten cheaper (closer to Illumination’s $80 million budgets than Pixar’s $150 million budgets), and expectations for any animated films have shrunken in kind. Sure, if you’re How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Frozen II or (presumably) Minions: The Rise of Gru, you can expect to make bank. Alas, the mere idea of a big-budget animated theatrical is no longer an automatic event, which is partially why Sony leased The Mitchells Vs. The Machines to Netflix. We haven’t had a non-sequel animated blockbuster since Pixar’s Coco ($800 million, including $209 million domestic and $189 million courtesy of China) in November 2017. Four years after, Disney tried to sell Encanto’s $255 million worldwide gross as a success because lots of kids watched the (terrific) musical multiple times “for free” on Disney+.

Anyway, The Bad Guys, directed by Pierre Perifel and adapted by Etan Cohen, topped the domestic box with $24 million from 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 an 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 at a “normal for DreamWorks” 3.25-3.75x weekend-to-total multiplier for a $78-$90 million domestic finish. Considering The Bad Guys (which has grossed $88 million worldwide) was the first kid-friendly toon since Illumination’s Sing last Christmas (after Disney sent Turning Red to Disney+) and is now the last big kid-friendly toon until Pixar’s Lightyear on June 17 (because Warner Bros. moved DC Super-Pets to July 29), a $100 million-plus domestic total wouldn’t shock me.

Focus Features, also owned by Comcast, unleashed Robert Eggers’ The Northman (review) into 3,231 theaters over the weekend. 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, Anya Taylor-Joy, etc.) earned strong reviews (89% fresh and 7.7/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) but a B from Cinemascore. The Northman earned $12 million in its domestic debut and $18.5 million globally, raising its worldwide total to $23.5 million. The film, split between Regency and Focus, cost $70 million after rebates. Budget aside, that would be a decent showing for a movie like this 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.

Lionsgate released the Film Twitter-friendly The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (review) 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. The film earned just $7.175 million over its opening weekend. Massive talent aside, Nicolas Cage hasn’t been a butts-in-seats draw since Knowing in early 2009. This is his first major studio star vehicle since Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in early 2012. It’s an example of online fandom not equating to general audience interest (and how Hollywood expects our older stars to still open movies like it’s the 1990s). Still, it’s not like J.C.V.D. was a huge hit in 2008.

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