Box Office: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ Looks to Speed Past Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘Ambulance’ and ‘Morbius’

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2, Sonic (voice: Ben Schwartz), 2022. © Paramount Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Col

An animated movie about a blue, anthropomorphic speed demon is expected to outrace a Michael Bay action-thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and a Marvel comic book adaptation at the box office this weekend. Welcome to the chaotic state of moviegoing in 2022.

Indeed, Paramount’s family friendly sequel “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” looks to sell more tickets in North American movie theaters than Universal’s starry high-speed heist film “Ambulance” and Sony’s antihero adventure “Morbius,” featuring Jared Leto. Also this weekend, A24’s action-adventure-comedy-fantasy-sci-fi mashup “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is expanding nationwide after two weeks in limited release.

Despite the popularity of all things superhero and the enduring appeal of A-list stars, the imminent dominance of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” isn’t unexpected. Before the pandemic shook up the movie theater business, its predecessor became a surprise box office success, collecting $58 million in its first three days of release and finishing the President’s Day holiday weekend with a mighty $70 million. The $90 million-budgeted follow-up, which lands in 4,232 domestic theaters on Friday, is aiming for a similar three-day start around $55 million or more.

Those ticket sales would easily be enough to tower over the box office competition. In its second weekend in theaters, “Morbius” will see a 55% to 60% decline from its $39.1 million debut, which would amount to $15 million to $17 million. (That’s on the optimistic end. Some box office watchers believe the vampire-infused horror story might drop anywhere from 65% to 70% given poor word-of-mouth.) And “Ambulance” is expected to earn at least $10 million from 4,300 locations in its opening weekend. Unless the film exceeds expectations, “Ambulance” could ignite to a career-low for Bay, a one-time blockbuster extraordinaire with “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Transformers.”

Jeff Fowler returned to direct “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” after steering the original 2020 film to $319 million globally and setting a record for the highest-grossing video game adaptation in North America. Ben Schwartz is returning to voice the title character, a speedy blue creature with a knack for busting bad guys, and Jim Carrey is reprising his role as Doctor Robotnikthe mad scientist obsessed with achieving world domination. The cast also includes James Marsden and Tika Sumpter, as the local sheriff Tom Wachowski and his veterinarian wife Maddie, and Idris Elba as the villainous Knuckles.

Already, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has grossed $29.8 million at the international box office. The film will open in 22 additional overseas markets this weekend, including Italy and Korea.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has gotten mixed reviews (Variety’s Peter Debruge says the film “wears out its welcome” and Washington Post’s Thomas Floyd noted “There’s no denying that kids will delight in ‘Sonic 2’s’ zany antics”) — not that Paramount is too concerned about critical sentiment. The studio is already working on a third film, as well as a spinoff series about Elba’s character Knuckles.

“Ambulance” has also received mixed-to-positive feedback. According to Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman, “it takes you back to an age when action thrillers were big, loud, decadent, ‘rebellious,’ and ripped off from ‘Die Hard.’ But this one, in its violent throttling way, is joyless.” Starring Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Candyman,” “The Matrix Resurrections”) and Eiza Gonzalez (“Baby Driver”), the movie follows two adoptive siblings turned bank robbers, who hijack an ambulance and hold the vehicle’s occupants hostage.

“Ambulance” cost $40 million to produce, which is significantly less than Bay usually spends to bring his explosive, special effects-heavy blockbusters to life. (That doesn’t include the many millions spent on marketing and other efforts necessary to spread the word about “Ambulance”.) His past films, including “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and the “Transformers” franchise, carried price tags well over $100 million.

Bay used to be a reliable box office draw, but his most recent effort, 2019’s combustable “6 Underground” was developed by Netflix and didn’t play in theaters at all, while his latest theatrical propositions, 2017’s “Transformers: The Last Knight” and 2016’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” fizzled on the big screen and ultimately lost money. “Ambulance” has a comparatively lean production budget, which could soften the blow in the event the film doesn’t connect with audiences.