Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum’s screwball romantic comedy “The Lost City” collected $31 million at North American theaters over the weekend, a promising sign that Netflix hasn’t completely seized on the meet-cute market.
Of course, Paramount, which is behind “The Lost City,” did not rely only on positive reviews — or the tease of Tatum’s bare behind — to fuel ticket sales. The on-screen chemistry between Bullock and Tatum, who were inescapable on social media, billboards and in trailers while promoting the film, were key in getting audiences to cinemas.
That’s a huge accomplishment in an era where familiar franchises have been dictating commercial success (at least, compared to the promise of A-list stars). At the same time, “The Lost City,” an original adventure that has been described as “Romancing the Stone” meets “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” indicates that romantic comedies haven’t entirely fallen out of favor with moviegoers. Even by pre-pandemic standards, “The Lost City” marks a strong start for the genre.
“This is an excellent opening,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Romantic comedies have been in decline for a dozen years, well before the pandemic. The combination of big cast plus crowd-pleasing romance plus comedy plus adventure has worked before, and it’s working again.”
“The Lost City” cost $68 million, which is fairly expensive for a rom-com. But Bullock and Tatum get compensated handsomely to headline movies, and filming the explosion-heavy “The Lost City” on location in the Dominican Republic during COVID-19 did not come cheap. That price tag does not include the serious coin spent to market the movie, which premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin earlier this month.
“This has exceeded any of my expectations,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “It’s great to see us and [Bullock and Tatum] rewarded for taking a risk.”
Aaron and Adam Nee directed “The Lost City,” an amorous action-adventure that takes place on a remote tropical jungle. The story follows perennial rom-com queen Bullock as Loretta Sage, a middle-aged author who gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire (Harry Potter himself Daniel Radcliffe, in a villainous role) in the hopes she can discover the ancient lost city’s treasure from her latest story. Brad Pitt also appears in a chaotic cameo.
Ticket buyers were mostly receptive to “The Lost City,” which landed a “B+” CinemaScore. Opening weekend crowds skewed 56% female, while 47% were 35 or older. That’s notable because adult audiences have mostly remained hesitant about going to the movies amid the pandemic.
“I think this movie has become the catalyst to move that demographic off the couch and into the theater,” said Aronson.
Putting a finer point on the possible trend, Comscore box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian adds, “This performance now gives hope that young males are not the only audience interested in hitting the multiplex.”
In a win for Paramount, “The Lost City” marks the studio’s third movie in 2022 to open in first place, following “Scream” and “Jackass Forever.” During the pandemic, Paramount largely stepped back from theatrical releases, instead selling titles like Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Eddie Murphy’s comedy sequel “Coming 2 America” and Michael B. Jordan’s action thriller “Without Remorse” to streaming services. Other than “A Quiet Place Part II,” which powered to nearly $300 million worldwide, the studio’s slate was propped up by kid-friendly animated adventures “Paw Patrol” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”
At the domestic box office, “The Lost City” took down reigning champion “The Batman,” which held the No. 1 spot for three weekends in a row. The Warner Bros. superhero adventure, starring Robert Pattinson, took in $20.5 million between Friday and Sunday, enough for second place. Those ticket sales, a 44% decline from last weekend, are strong considering the movie has already been playing in theaters for a month. So far, “The Batman” has generated $332 million in North America and $672 million globally.
In third place, the Indian war epic “RRR” — which stands for Roudram Ranam Rudhiram — had a robust start, grossing approximately $9.5 million from 1,200 North American theaters. That footprint marks one of the widest domestic rollouts for an Indian movie. “RRR,” which clocks in over three hours, cost $73 million to produce.
Another new release, Bleecker Street’s survival thriller “Infinite Storm” with Naomi Watts, flopped in its debut, pulling in a disastrous $751,296 from 1,525 screens. Given mixed reviews, the film — about a climber who gets caught in a blizzard and attempts to save herself and a stranded stranger before succumbing to the elements — doesn’t look like it’ll be able to rebound on the big screen.
“Infinite Storm” landed behind “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which dropped to No. 8 in its 15th week of release. The latest Spidey adventure added another $2 million in North America, boosting domestic revenues to a mammoth $800.5 million. “No Way Home” is only the third movie in history to cross $800 million at the domestic box office, following “Avengers: Endgame” ($858 million) and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($936 million).
Tom Holland’s video game adaptation “Uncharted” and Crunchyroll’s manga adaptation “Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie” took spots four and five, respectively on box office charts.
In its sixth weekend of release, “Uncharted” brought in $5 million from 3,416 cinemas, boosting its North American tally to $133.5 million. Overseas, the big-budget tentpole added $7.7 million from 55 markets, taking “Uncharted’s” tally to $223 million internationally and $357 million globally.
“Jujutsu Kaisen 0,” a relatively under-the-radar anime film outside of a devoted fanbase, amassed $4.5 million from 2,430 locations. It’s a huge 73% decline in ticket sales from the movie’s $17.6 million debut. Still, “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” has earned a solid $27 million to date.
Elsewhere, A24’s action-adventure-comedy-fantasy-sci-fi mashup “Everything Everywhere All at Once” earned $509,659 from just 10 screens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — translating to $50,965 per theater. It marks the biggest limited opening weekend of the year, as well as one of the best starts ever for A24, the studio behind beloved indies such as “Lady Bird,” “Moonlight” and “Uncut Gems.” The film will continue to expand to select markets on Friday before debuting nationwide on April 8.
Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the well-reviewed “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stars Michelle Yeoh as a wife and mother who exists in a multiverse, a term popularized by Marvel comic book adventures. The cast also includes Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jenny Slate and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Another specialty release, Sony Pictures Classic’s steamy romance drama “Mothering Sunday,” earned $10,706 from five locations — averaging 2,141 per venue. Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Olivia Colman, and Colin Firth star in the World War I-set film, which follows an orphaned maid who spends the religious holiday with her wealthy lover.
For the next few weeks, movie theater lobbies look to be busy. Sony’s dark comic book adventure “Morbius” is scheduled for April 1, followed by Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and Jake Gyllenhaal’s action thriller “Ambulance” on April 8, and Warner Bros. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” on April 15. Then, Disney’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Tom Cruise’s long-awaited sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World: Dominion” are slated to kick off — Hollywood hopes — a sizzling summer season.
“Right now, we like what we’re seeing at the box office,” said Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross.