The Spool / Box Office Report
Box Office: “Sonic the Hedgehog” Runs Rings Around the Competition
Everyone's favorite talking hedgehog burns up a $57 million opening weekend at the box office, while Birds of Prey experiences the typical second-weekend slump.
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Everyone’s favorite talking hedgehog burns up a $57 million opening weekend at the box office, while Birds of Prey experiences the typical second-weekend slump.

All figures discussed in this piece are for the three-day weekend.

Video game movies usually don’t do well. Modern-day Paramount Pictures releases usually don’t do well. Put those two together and you should get a recipe for a box office calamity, right? Turns out, the Paramount Pictures video game movie Sonic the Hedgehog ended up being a sleeper hit with the biggest video game movie opening weekend in history with $57 million. Exempting the 2018 movie Mission: Impossible- Fallout, that’s the biggest opening weekend for a Paramount release since Star Trek Beyond in July 2016. It’s also the seventh-biggest February opening weekend ever and the second-biggest opening weekend for a Jim Carrey title, only behind the $67.3 million bow of Bruce Almighty in May 2003.

How on Earth did Sonic the Hedgehog go from one of the most reviled teaser trailers of all-time to becoming a major hit? Chalk that up to how Paramount spent the money necessary to fix one of the most detested parts of the first Sonic teaser, namely the character design of the titular lead character. That kind of heavy-duty VFX work meant Sonic had to be delayed from its original November 2019 release date, which turned out to be a blessing. Instead of opening two weeks before Frozen II, Sonic now became the first big family movie juggernaut of 2020. Made for just $87 million, Sonic is well on its way to profitability and kicking off a new franchise. The only question that remains is how long until Shadow the Hedgehog shows up?

In second place was last weekend’s box office champ, Birds of Prey, which dropped 48% from last weekend, a better than usual hold for a comic book movie. For comparison’s sake, it’s a better second-weekend hold than all but one of the other DC Extended Universe rites. The $59.2 million in the bank after ten days of release also means that Birds of Prey is headed for a final domestic total in the $80-85 million range.

The second biggest of this weekend’s new wide releases was the one that took a trip to Fantasy Island. The newest live-action film adaptation of a classic TV show starring Michael Pena opened to $12.4 million, the biggest horror movie opening of 2020 so far and the biggest horror opening since It: Chapter 2 in September 2019. However, this opening is noticeably below the debuts of the majority of past Blumhouse titles, including director Jeff Wadlow’s last movie, Truth or Dare ($18.6 million). Horror movies make for great date night fare, which made Fantasy Island’s Valentine’s Day opening a brilliant release choice, but the project’s marketing was woefully generic and failed to entice more moviegoers to give it a shot. At least this title cost a mere $7 million to make, ensuring that Sony and Blumhouse will both see some profit on this endeavor.

Somehow, the only romantic movie opening over Valentine’s Day was The Photograph, which fared just fine with a $12.2 million debut. That’s not as big as the largest of past Valentine’s Day romantic drama performers like The Vow, but it’s still a solid debut considering it doesn’t have a super popular source material to lean back on. Its stars, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, also aren’t A-list names. Plus, The Photograph cost just $16 million to make, so it’ll end up being a tidy moneymaker for Universal, even if the fact that it was pretty frontloaded over the weekend means it’ll likely have a short life at the domestic box office.

Moving back to holdovers, those Bad Boys for Life kept impressing with only an 11% dip for an $11.6 million fifth-weekend gross. Having now grossed $180.6 million domestically, Bad Boys is now well-assured to become the sixth Will Smith vehicle to crack $200 million domestically. Elsewhere, while the Oscars may have come and gone, Best Picture nominee 1917 kept on recruiting moviegoers. Dipping just 12% this weekend, this war feature grossed another $8 million for a massive $144.4 million domestic gross. 

Three days ago, Jumanji: The Next Level crossed $300 million domestically and, over the subsequent weekend, once again showed off its domestic box office stamina by increasing 3% from last weekend for a $5.7 million tenth-weekend sum. The Next Level has now grossed a gargantuan $305.7 million domestically and could still get to $320 million before it finishes its domestic run. 

Fresh off a historic Best Picture win, Parasite expanded into 2,001 locations where it continued its utterly impressive domestic box office run with a $5.5 million haul. That’s already an impressive gross on its own merits, but it’s extra-spectacular when compared to the post-Oscars performances of recent Best Picture winners. For example, it’s a 130% increase from the $2.4 million The Shape of Water grossed the weekend after its Best Picture win and an 18% increase from the $4.7 million Green Book grossed the frame after its Best Picture victory. Parasite has now grossed $43.1 million domestically and looks to crack $50 million before its domestic box office journey is finished.

Interestingly, the presence of new family movie titan Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t deter Dolittle to a great degree as it grossed another $5 million this frame, a small 23% drop from last weekend. Though this title is holding well, its domestic gross is still at just $70.5 million, not good at all for a movie that cost $175 million to put together. Interestingly, the nineteenth weekend of Parasite proved to be more of a draw than a brand new Will Ferrell comedy playing in 300 more theaters than Bong Joon-ho’s Best Picture winner. That new comedy was Downhill and it only opened to $4.6 million, a terrible opening for a movie opening in just over 2,300 locations and especially poor for a wide release headlined by Will Ferrell.

Downhill’s marketing emphasized its two famous leads (Julia Louis-Dreyfus also headlines) but also prominently featured the kind of dark comedy that’s usually a hard sell to domestic moviegoers. It didn’t help that reviews for the feature were mixed and that Ferrell’s draw as a performer has dwindled greatly in recent years. 

Right outside the top ten was The Gentlemen, which continued its decent domestic box office run by dropping 35% from last weekend and grossing $2.7 million for a $31.2 million domestic gross. Better yet, it seems nothing can stop Knives Out as this nearly three-month-old title grossed an additional $2.1 million this weekend (a 7% dip from last weekend) for a $161.8 million domestic cume. Little Women dropped 36% this frame, giving the acclaimed drama another $1.5 million for an impressive $105.3 million domestic gross. 

In its third weekend of release, Gretel & Hansel dropped 58%, a much steeper weekend-to-weekend drop than most holdovers this weekend. This horror title scared up an additional $1.4 million this weekend for a domestic gross of $14.1 million. Next up is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which fell 45% to gross another $1.2 million, bringing its domestic sum up to $512.7 million. In its eighteenth weekend of release, Jojo Rabbit dropped 39%, giving it another $924,000 for a $31.7 million haul so far.

After a one-week Oscar-qualifying run in December 2019, Portrait of a Lady on Fire returned to theaters this weekend and burned up some good business with $440,000 from 22 locations for a $20,000 per-theater average and a domestic gross of $558,000. Meanwhile, The Assistant expanded into 82 locations and grossed $212,352 for a per-theater average of $2,590 and a solid domestic gross of $484,461. Fellow limited release holdover The Lodge went into 21 locations this frame, allowing it gross $126,000 for a per-theater average of $6,000 and a domestic gross of $226,001. In terms of limited release newbies, The Times of Bill Cunningham opened to $44,475 for an impressive per-theater average of $22,238 while Ordinary Love had a much meeker $24,873 bow at 3 locations for a per-theater average of $8,291.

The top ten movies this weekend grossed a total of $139 million, a noticeable improvement over this same weekend in 2019 and 2017 though considerably down from the same frames in 2018, 2016 and 2015. Sonic the Hedgehog was on par with past February sleeper hits but fellow newcomers like Fantasy Island and Downhill dropped the ball and kept this holiday weekend from hitting the box office highs seen in years past.

Through tomorrow, February 2020 is estimated to have grossed $395.2 million, which means this month won’t have any trouble beating out the meager $624 million haul of February 2019. However, February 2020 appears poised to end up noticeably behind many past February’s thanks to a number of underperforming newcomers. All hopes for February 2020 exceeding expectations now lie on Brahms: The Boy II becoming a box office juggernaut.