Universal’s horror-comedy “Cocaine Bear” blew past box office projections, earning an impressive $23 million from 3,534 North American theaters in its opening weekend. The blood-splattered animal adventure landed in second place on domestic charts behind Disney’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which all but collapsed in its sophomore outing.
“Ant-Man 3” managed to remain in first place given its huge $106 million opening, but the comic book installment is suffering from negative word-of-mouth. It added $32.2 million from 4,345 venues in its second weekend of release, marking a brutal 69% decline from its debut.
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Now, “Quantumania” holds the ignominious distinction as the biggest week-to-week drop in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including “Thor: Love and Thunder” (which fell 67%), “Black Widow” (which plunged 67.8% while debuting simultaneously on Disney Plus) and “Eternals” (which fell 62% after equally bad reviews). Globally, the movie has generated $364 million, including $167 million domestically and $196 million internationally.
Elizabeth Banks directed “Cocaine Bear,” which earned another $5.3 million at the international box office for a global debut of $28.4 million. The movie was budgeted at roughly $35 million. For Universal, “Cocaine Bear” is another win for original ideas following its killer-doll movie “M3GAN,” which became a surprise hit to the tune of $170 million globally.
“It’s an outrageous comedy that absolutely delivers on its premise,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “People were ready to see something over the top.”
Moviegoers were mixed on “Cocaine Bear,” giving the film a “B-” CinemaScore. Inspired by the true story about a drug runner’s plane crash, the wildly R-rated “Cocaine Bear” follows the residents of a small town who try to escape a 500-pound black bear that ingests a duffle bag of blow.
“Audiences tend to be tough after being grossed-out,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. Yet that didn’t deter patrons from buying tickets. “Horror comedies benefit from the outrageous, and this story of an accidentally cocaine-crazed bear is wacko,” he adds.
In third place, Lionsgate’s religious drama “Jesus Revolution” put projections to shame by debuting to $15.5 million from 2,475 theaters. Heading into the weekend, the movie was expected to earn $6 million to $7 million.
Faith-based audiences — 59% were female and 89% were 25 or older — were charmed by “Jesus Revolution,” bestowing the film a rare “A+” CinemaScore. From “I Can Only Imagine” filmmakers the Erwin brothers and their company Kingdom Story Company, the $15 million-budgeted movie follows a youth minister and a pastor as they partake in the evangelical Christian movement that swept Southern California in the early 1970s.
Paul Dergarabedian, a senior Comscore analyst, says there’s a “massively underserved faith-based audience.” “With ‘Jesus Revolution,’ [Kingdom Story Company] hit another home run in their partnership with Lionsgate and have created quite a fruitful business model for releasing these types of films to an enthusiastic and faithful fan base.”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” rounded out box office charts. At No. 4, James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel added $4.7 million from 2,495 venues in its 11th weekend of release. It’s now the ninth-highest grossing movie in North America with $665.4 million. Overseas, the sci-fi blockbuster has generated a massive $1.6 billion, bringing its global tally to $2.267 billion.
Another box office mainstay “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” followed closely behind with $4.1 million from 2,840 locations in its 10th weekend in theaters. The animated sequel, set in the “Shrek” universe, has been chugging along with $173 million domestically and $442 million worldwide.
Overall, the weekend box office is encouragingly ahead of last year’s tally by 47%, according to Comscore. Michael B. Jordan’s sports drama “Creed III,” Paramount’s thriller “Scream VI,” the Warner Bros. superhero sequel “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” and Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 4” will attempt to sustain the momentum in the coming weeks.
“Year-to-date, 2023 has been much better than 2022, but 2022 dug itself into an early hole with a thin release schedule,” says Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross. “So that’s a hollow victory.”
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