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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Shazam debuts with 53.5 million dollars, handing DC Comics another win

Overseas, Shazam! grossed 102 million dollars in 79 markets, including 30.9 million dollars in China.

By: AP | New York | Published: April 8, 2019 9:33:38 am
Shazam! debuts with 53.5 million dollars, handing DC Comics another win Pitched as “Big meets Superman,” Shazam! stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a teenage foster kid who transforms into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi).

Seven films in, the DC Extended Universe is finally flying with some wind behind its back. The well-reviewed, relatively modestly budgeted Shazam! debuted with 53.5 million dollars in ticket sales over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, handing DC its latest critical and box-office success.

Though one of the oldest characters in DC’s superhero stable, Shazam! doesn’t boast the name-recognition of Batman or Superman. But by scaling back to a 100 million dollars budget and going for the lighter, comic tone, Shazam! steadily built up its word of mouth with stellar reviews. Warner Bros. also showed the film nationwide two weeks before opening, where it made 3 million dollars in advance screenings.

Shazam! came out well ahead of the weekend’s other top draw, Pet Sematary. Paramount Pictures’ remake of the original 1989 Stephen King adaptation opened in a distant second with 25 million dollars. It’s a solid start for Pet Sematary, though far from the haul that the last big-screen adaptation of King’s conjured up: It opened with 123.4 million dollars in 2017.

Last week’s top film, Dumbo, slid steeply in its second week. Landing in third, the Disney live-action remake dropped 60% with 18.2 million dollars.

Pitched as “Big meets Superman,” Shazam! stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a teenage foster kid who transforms into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi).

Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief at Warner Bros., said the studio originally forecast a 40 million dollars opening. “That was the right number for us,” Goldstein said. “That’s what we needed to make money on it.”

But expectations grew based on reviews (91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience reaction (an A Cinemascore). The PG-13-rated film attracted an especially young crowd; 45% were under 25.

The result further validated DC’s pivot following the disappointments of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Warner Bros. has since steered its comic book adaptions in a different direction, leaning more on stand-alone entries less predicated on the overall “universe” and more fluctuating in tone. Following Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Shazam! makes it three in a row for DC superhero standalones.

Earlier in the week, Warner Bros. also teased the DC release Joker, with Joaquin Phoenix, at CinemaCon. An even smaller-budgeted origin story with a similarly unique, albeit much darker, tone; it was one of the most talked-about movies at the Las Vegas event.

“Wonder Woman was really the start of changing the ship,” Goldstein said. “When you look at each of these properties, they’re all very different. Their approach is different. Their tone is different. But here’s the commonality: All good movies, all well done. I think that’s what you’ll see out of DC is very specific approaches for that property.”

Overseas, Shazam! grossed 102 million dollars in 79 markets, including 30.9 million dollars in China.

“DC has really found its groove,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “They’re really breaking out each character. Shazam and the Joker could not be two more different characters within the DC Universe. But I think that diversity of content is going to serve them well.”

Also read | Shazam: Zachary Levi shines in DC’s sunniest film yet

Dergarabedian noted the two most dominant genres in movies right now — superheroes and horror — swamped theaters over the weekend, taking up four of the top five spots at the box office. The stiff competition in similar-styled holdovers could have slightly depressed results for both Shazam! and Pet Sematary. But right now, there’s scant room on the calendar between major comic book films and horror releases.

In fourth was Jordan Peele’s horror thriller Us, which added 13.8 million dollars in its third week. Its cumulative global total stands at 216.6 million dollars.

Marvel’s Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel, which recently crossed 1 billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales, took in 12.7 million dollars domestically in its fifth weekend. Captain Marvel, ironically, was Shazam’s original name when the character was first crafted, as a Superman knockoff, in 1939. He was relaunched in 1973 as Shazam after decades of lawsuits and the debut of Marvel’s own Captain Marvel.

The weekend’s other wide-release newcomer was STX Entertainment’s “Best of Enemies,” starring Taraji P. Henson as a civil rights activist and Sam Rockwell as a Ku Klux Klan leader. It opened with 4.5 million dollars.

In limited release, Claire Denis’ High Life, starring Robert Pattinson, opened with about 100,000 dollars in four theaters for A24.

Also read | Shazam post-credit scenes explained

Neon’s Aretha Franklin documentary, Amazing Grace, debuted with 96,000 dollars in eight locations. The film, shot over two days at the New Bethel Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1972, was lost for decades in part because its director, Sydney Pollack, failed to slate the images, leaving them not synced with the audio. Before her death last August, Franklin sued several times to prevent its release.

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