Expect the box office to be in full bloom this weekend.
Enlightenment and Universal’s Nintendo video game adaptation The Super Mario Bros. movie has every chance of becoming the first blockbuster of 2023 if tracking is any indication. Not only does the PG photo pique interest among families, it also appeals to the generations of adults who grew up playing Nintendo’s wildly popular Mario games (or those who still play).
Opening Wednesday to take advantage of spring break, the film is looking to make a five-day debut of $125 million or more in North America, and well above $200 million worldwide. And many are already predicting a robust run, rather than front-loaded.
Mid-February, Marvel and Disney’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania debuted to $120.4 million over the four-day Presidents Day weekend, but dropped steeply. To date, the film’s worldwide gross is a disappointing $472.9 million, including $212 million domestically.
The Super Mario Bros. movie will open in more than 4,000 movie theaters in North America and in 60 overseas markets. The animated comic adventure story follows Brooklyn plumbers and brothers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) as they are transported to the magical world of Mushroom Kingdom and separated. The film’s voice cast also includes Keegan-Michael Key, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Kevin Michael Richardson and Sebastian Maniscalco. Charles Martinet, who has voiced the characters of Mario and Luigi in the Super Mario games for over three decades, also makes a special voice appearance.
The film is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel. It is co-funded by Universal, the parent company of Chris Meledandri’s Illumination, and Nintendo.
Universal’s marketing campaign has been relentless since the first trailer dropped at New York Comic Con in October, followed by a new trailer for Avatar: the way of the water. There have also been a number of digital initiatives that have generated millions of hits, while the three trailers have been viewed more than 750 million times, according to the studio. Spots for the film have appeared at virtually every major sporting event, including the Super Bowl and March Madness basketball games.
Another movie advertised at the Super Bowl was that of filmmaker Ben Afleck Sky, which also opens on Wednesday. The biographical sports marketing drama — starring Matt Damon and Viola Davis — chronicles Nike’s early game-changing days and is backed by Amazon Studios, Skydance Sports and Mandalay Pictures. It is also the inagaural project of Affleck and Matt Damon’s Artists Equity, which the duo founded with RedBird Capital last year.
Sky is historic as it is the first film from Amazon Studios to receive an exclusive theatrical release around the world before streaming on Prime Video at a date yet to be determined. It is also Affleck’s first time directing his old friend Damon. The film boasts critical acclaim and a coveted Rotten Tomatoes review score of 99 percent.
Adult dramas were badly hurt by the COVID-19 crisis and have yet to fully recover at the box office. A great tracking service suggests Sky will score a five-day debut of $18 million, though more conservative pundits suggest $16 million or $17 million. The film cost $70 million to $80 million to produce (not including marketing or the total price Amazon paid for the high-profile project, which was originally going to go directly to Prime).
Abroad, where Warner Bros. International handles the distribution rights under the deal with Amazon, Sky opens this weekend in 59 markets.
Buzz has been building since Affleck took the film to the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival in Austin, Texas, last month. The film’s marketing campaign is led by former Warner Bros. veteran Sue Kroll, who is familiar with heads-up marketing for Amazon (she is close to Affleck and worked on his Oscar-winning Argo).
In Affleck’s latest directorial outing, Damon portrays former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro, who accomplished the impossible and signed a mid-’80s rookie Michael Jordan to a shoe deal that would put Nike on the map and the global, billion-dollar contemporary sneaker industry.
Davis plays Jordan’s mother, while Affleck plays Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Matthew Maher, Marlon Wayans, Jay Mohr, Julius Tennon and Chris Tucker also star.
Neither SuperMario nor Sky will host previews Tuesday night.