Box Office: ‘Elvis’ Targets $30 Million Debut, ‘The Black Phone’ Aims for $15 Million

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Director Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic “Elvis” dazzled at Cannes Film Festival, earning a 12-minute standing ovation. Will audiences respond with the same, sustained enthusiasm?

According to early estimates, the Warner Bros. film is aiming to collect $30 million from 3,900 venues in its domestic box office debut over the weekend. That’s a solid start for a drama catering to adult audiences. But given the film’s $85 million production budget, which does not include the many millions spent on promoting the movie, “Elvis” will have to keep singing in theaters throughout the summer to justify its price tag.

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Despite two buzzy new releases — “Elvis,” as well as Universal and Blumhouse’s creepy thriller “The Black Phone” — there’s a chance “Top Gun: Maverick” overtakes them both and returns to No. 1 on box office charts in its fifth weekend of release. Should that come true, it would be a remarkable accomplishment at this point in “Maverick’s” theatrical run.

Given stellar word-of-mouth, the nostalgia-fueled sequel to 1986’s “Top Gun” has withstood minuscule week-to-week drops and looks to score another $30 million to $33 million between Friday and Sunday. After only 25 days on the big screen, “Top Gun: Maverick” has grossed $474.7 million at the domestic box office and $901 million globally, making it the highest-grossing movie of the year in the U.S. and the second-highest worldwide.

It’ll be a competitive weekend at the box office as Universal and Blumhouse’s creepy thriller “The Black Phone” looks to open to at least $15 million from 3,100 domestic theaters. Elsewhere, holdovers “Jurassic World Dominion” could add as much as $29 million to $30 million in its third weekend in theaters and Disney’s Pixar film “Lightyear” should bring in $25 million in its sophomore outing. “Lightyear” got off to a rocky start (at least, by Pixar standards) last weekend with a $51 million debut.

The battle for first place could come down to the wire between “Maverick,” “Jurassic” and “Elvis.” For Hollywood, that kind of competition is welcome because it means audiences of all ages have been returning to theaters. For the first time in the pandemic era, the box office is finally starting to resemble pre-COVID times. In a rare feat, three movies — “Jurassic World Dominion” ($58 million), “Lightyear” ($51 million) and “Top Gun: Maverick” ($44 million) — each earned more than $40 million over the weekend.

Those box office returns come as moviegoing comfort reaches a new all-time high, according to the National Research Group. Per research conducted by NRG, 88% of moviegoers are “very or somewhat comfortable” going to the movies. Around a year ago, that percentage was closer to 59%.

Austin Butler stars as the king of rock and roll in “Elvis,” which chronicles the performers meteoric rise to fame through the eyes of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks). Luhrmann, who has mastered the art of on-screen opulence with “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby,” co-wrote the screenplay with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner.

“Elvis” has received mostly positive reviews, with most of the praise directed toward Butler’s star-making performance. Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman called the movie a “a fizzy, delirious, impishly energized, compulsively watchable 2-hour-and-39-minute fever dream.” He adds, “Yet ‘Elvis,’ for all its Luhrmannian fireworks, is a strange movie — compelling but not always convincing, at once sweeping and scattershot.”

“The Black Phone” is catering to younger audiences, who may only be vaguely familiar with a now-mythic figure like Presley. “Doctor Strange” filmmaker Scott Derrickson directed “The Black Phone,” which stars Ethan Hawke as a masked serial killer who kidnaps and torments a teenage boy.

Variety’s Gleiberman wasn’t totally spooked by the movie but praised Hawke’s lived-in performance, writing, “‘The Black Phone’ carries you along on its own terms — that is, if you accept that it’s less an ingenious freak-out of a thriller than a kind of stylized contraption.”

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