‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Dominates Box Office With Mighty $70 Million Debut

UPDATED: Paramount’s family film “Sonic the Hedgehog” ignited over Presidents’ Day weekend with $70 million during its first four days in theaters, one of the best results for the holiday weekend.

“Sonic” earned $58 million in North America over the traditional weekend and $100 million globally, supplanting 2019’s “Detective Pikachu” ($54 millIon) for the biggest inaugural showing ever for a video game adaptation. The better-than-expected start is even more notable since movies based on video games tend to be rejected by moviegoers.

That could have been a reality for “Sonic” if director Jeff Fowler had not gone back to the drawing board after immense internet backlash from fans over the first trailer. The movie, which cost $87 million to make, was postponed three months to give the filmmakers enough time to redesign the title character. It proved to be a sound decision because audiences gave the film an “A” CinemaScore. Ben Schwartz voices the furry blue creature, who teams up with a local sherif (James Marsden) to defeat the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).

“The consumer always determines what is right and what is wrong. They made their voices clear, and we listened,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “This movie exceeded [audience’s] expectations. That’s a testament to that reset and terrific performances by Jim Carrey and the entire cast.”

After a string of financial failures in 2019 including “Gemini Man” and “Terminator: Dark Fate,” “Sonic’s” box office performance was a necessary win for Paramount. The studio could have a strong year in theaters should its sequels to “Top Gun” and “A Quiet Place” deliver.

“Sonic” unseated last weekend’s victor, Warner Bros.’ comic-book adaptation “Birds of Prey,” for the No. 1 spot on box office charts. After its disappointing $33 million debut, the Margot Robbie-led superhero adventure landed in second place with $17.2 million over the weekend and pulled in $19.86 million through Monday. Those ticket sales, down 48% from its inaugural outing, push its domestic haul to $62 million.

A number of movies opened alongside “Sonic” this weekend, including Universal’s romance drama “The Photograph,” Sony’s thriller “Fantasy Island” and Searchlight Pictures’ remake “Downhill.”

Despite terrible reviews and weak audience reactions, “Fantasy Island” earned $14 million through Monday (and $12.35 for the three days), enough for third place. Blumhouse’s PG-13 horror remake of the late ’70s TV show carries a $7 million price tag. It should easily turn a profit, but poor word-of-mouth could negatively impact box office receipts in weeks to come.

“The Photograph” benefitted from Valentine’s Day and came in fourth with $12.18 million over the weekend and made $13.26 over the four-day stretch, on par with expectations. That’s a solid start since the film cost $15 million to produce. “The Photograph,” starring Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield, was written and directed by Stella Meghie and produced by Will Packer (“Girls Trip,” “Ride Along”).

“It was the perfect release date,” said Universal’s president of domestic distribution Jim Orr, noting that Galentine’s Day (a nonofficial holiday celebrating female friendships) provided a nice boost in Thursday previews. “With [strong audience scores] from our core female audience, we’re going to have a nice run. It’s very encouraging.”

“Downhill,” a black comedy starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, debuted at No. 10 to a muted $4.6 million over the weekend and brought in $5.1 million through Presidents’ Day. The remake of Ruben Ostlund’s “Force Majeure,” about a married couple forced to reevaluate their relationship after an avalanche threatens their family ski trip, premiered at Sundance to mixed reviews. Moviegoers reacted to the film not unlike they might to an impending snowy cataclysm, giving the film a “D” CinemaScore.

Elsewhere, Neon’s “Parasite” added an exceptional $5.5 million after its historic Oscar win and picked up $6.8 million over the four days. Ticket sales for the Academy’s best picture winner shot up 234%, the biggest post-Oscars bump in the past decade, according to Neon. After opening in limited release last October, Bong Joon Ho’s dark thriller has amassed $44.34 million in the U.S., a huge result for a foreign-language film. 

Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” rounded out the top five, generating $11.45 million for the three days and $13.01 million through Monday. To date, the action comedy sequel has made an impressive $183 million.

Sam Mendes and Universal’s “1917” followed at No. 6 with $8 million over the weekend and $9.4 million during the four days. Though the WWI drama didn’t win the Oscar for best picture as predicted, “1917” became a sizable commercial hit, grossing $322 million worldwide.

As a whole, the domestic box office is up over 8% from last year according to Comscore. International figures, however, are hurting since coronavirus fears have closed theaters in China, the world’s second biggest moviegoing market.

Updated 2/17 at 8:30 a.m. to reflect Monday ticket sales.

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