Sonic the Hedgehog
Paramount and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog raced to the top of the box office on Friday, easily topping a slew of President’s Day newbies with a $21 million gross. That includes $3 million in Thursday previews and qualifies as the single-day gross for any video game movie ever, just ahead of (sans inflation) the $20.5 million Friday and $20.3 million Saturday of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu over its eventual $54.3 million opening weekend. Providing Sonic doesn’t collapse, and it really shouldn’t (it’s perfectly enjoyable kid-friendly fun with strong performances from James Marsden and Jim Carrey), we’re looking at a Fri-Sun gross of around $61 million (above Detective Pikachu) and a $73 million Fri-Mon holiday opening.
So, yes, Sonic the Hedgehog may be our first true-blue video game-based blockbuster since, offhand, Angelina Jolie’s first Tomb Raider in 2001. That would be/is a massive win for the “based on a video game” sub-genre and Paramount, a studio that really needs a big hit as they hope that A Quiet Place part II, the third SpongeBob movie and Top Gun: Maverick can score accordingly. And, yes, it was clearly worth the time and money that was spent to redo the animation of its title character. There was clearly an interest in a Sonic the Hedgehog movie starring a cartoon character who actually looked like the video game character. If anything, the delay turned out to be a blessing.
Sonic was the first “big” kids flick since Jumanji: The Next Level and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in mid-December. Its original mid-November opening would have put it alongside Terminator: Dark Fate, Charlie’s Angels and Frozen II, although only one of those broke big. The current February 14 slot made it the first “big” (sorry Dolittle) live-action kid flick after six weeks of R-rated (The Grudge, 1917, Bad Boys for Life, The Gentlemen, The Rhythm Section, Birds of Prey) biggies. As such, for families whose kids had already seen the year-end kid flicks, Sonic was a pack of bottled water in a desert. It helped that the movie was good, operating as a grounded kid-friendly fantasy that wasn’t trying to be an epic or a blockbuster spectacle.
The film plays out like an old-school kid flick, complete with an arbitrary road trip and most of its location work taking place in a small town while making sure that James Marsden’s aww-shucks hero and Jim Carrey’s over-the-top baddie are at least as entertaining as our title character. It’s not quite the glorious triumph of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle or even Rampage, but it made sure that it offered a halfway decent movie with entertainment value for those not obsessed with the specific IP. The film earned an A- from Cinemascore and I’d expect halfway decent legs at least until Pixar and Disney’s Onward kicks off the spring/pre-summer moviegoing season in three weeks.
Michael PeÃ±a, Lucy Hale, and Austin Stowell in ‘Fantasy Island’
Sony and Blumhouse
In other newbie news for Friday, Universal and Will Packer’s The Photograph earned $6.28 million on Friday, setting the stage for a $12.81 million Fri-Sun/$14 million Fri-Mon opening weekend. The romantic drama, starring Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae, was written and directed by Stella Meghie. The $15 million flick earned a B+ from Cinemascore, so this opening is explicitly okay whether it sticks around after Valentine’s Day or, like About Last Night ($48 million from a $27 million Fri-Mon debut) and Endless Love ($23 million from a $14.4 million Fri-Mon debut), absolutely collapses after Valentine’s Day weekend.
Sony and Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island earned $5.38 million on Friday for a likely $12.7 million Fri-Sun/$14.3 million Fri-Mon debut weekend. The critically-savaged (for good reason, natch) had a fun idea, taking an old fantasy TV show and warping it into a horror movie, but the movie takes forever to get into gear and has 4,000 false endings. Alas, the film (starring Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen and Michael Rooker) earned a C- from CinemaScore, so it’s not long for this world. That said, there are moments where the Jeff Wadlow-directed film feels like one of those accidental discoveries that would be quite scary at 1 am in the morning on basic cable or network television.
The last wide newbie was Downhill, about a patriarch confronting his cowardice after he instinctively ditches his family during an apparent blizzard. Yes, it’s an English-language remake of Force Majeure. This Searchlight release, directed by Nat Faxon and penned by Faxon, Jim Rash and Jesse Armstrong, arrived with little buzz and poor reviews, so (despite the 2,301 theater count), it is playing closer to Will Ferrell’s “one for me” Roadside Attractions offerings (Everything Must Go, Casa de mi padre) than a big-scale studio release. I kind of liked the Will Ferrell/Julia Louis Dreyfuss vehicle, warts and all, although audiences gave it a D CinemaScore grade. As such, its $2 million Friday and $5.5 million Fri-Sun/$6 million Fri-Mon debut weekend isn’t a surprise.