The Spool / Box Office Report
Box Office: “Sonic the Hedgehog” Speeds Past “Call of the Wild”
The kid-friendly video game movie keeps pace with a $26 million second weekend, staying ahead of Harrison Ford and his dog.
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The kid-friendly video game movie keeps pace with a $26 million second weekend, staying ahead of Harrison Ford and his dog.

Prior to this weekend, everyone assumed Sonic the Hedgehog would easily outpace Call of the Wild for the top spot at the weekend box office. Over the last few days, though, a tight race began to emerge between the two family movie titles, with Call of the Wild performing much better than its projected $15-18 million bow. In the end, though, Sonic got a bigger Saturday boost than Call and managed to snag the number one spot. Falling 55% from its opening weekend, Sonic grossed another $26.3 million for a ten-day domestic total of $106.6 million. Though it isn’t holding as well as many past February family movie hits, Sonic still appears poised for a fantastic $160-170 million domestic finish.

In second place was Call Of The Wild, which scored a $24.8 million debut. Going into the weekend, the perception was this would be another Disney/20th Century Studios disaster, but interestingly, that’s actually a pretty good opening weekend for a live-action movie about dogs. It had the sixth-best bow ever for this subgenre. It’s also the eighth-biggest opening weekend for a non-Star Wars/Indiana Jones title starring Harrison Ford and the third-biggest opening 20th Century Studios has seen since they got bought up by Disney eleven months ago.

Part of why Call outperformed expectations may be due to how the Jack London story it’s based on hasn’t been adapted for the screen countless times in modern times. Unlike the endless modern King Arthur or Robin Hood movies, the last theatrical film adaptation of Call of the Wild was back in the early 1970s with Charles Heston, so a new adaptation had some novelty.

It didn’t hurt that this was one of the first 20th Century Studios titles Disney actually marketed heavily, which included a TV spot proclaiming that this film’s pooch star was a part of the Disney dog family. Such marketing efforts resulted in a much bigger than expected bow. Call’s biggest problem now is that it carries an enormous $125 million budget. It’s got a long way to go until it’s profitable but at least it’s opening weekend exceeded expectations. There are worse ways to kick off a box office run.

All of last weekend’s releases got a major boost from Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday as well as last Sunday’s grosses leading into a holiday Monday. Those factors led to small weekend-to-weekend dips last weekend but, with no holidays to prop themselves up, that meant most of the holdovers this frame had severe drops. A key example of this was Birds of Prey, which dropped 59% for a third-weekend sum of $7 million for a $72.5 million domestic total. The newest DC Extended Universe is headed for an $85-90 million domestic gross.

The other new wide release of the weekend was Brahms: The Boy II. Shockingly, a sequel to a tepidly received horror movie from four years dumped in late February with minimal marketing didn’t drum up much business. Grossing just $5.9 million from 2,151 locations, Brahms opened to 45% less than the $10.9 million debut of its predecessor. Expect Brahms to vanish from theaters quickly after such a dismal debut. Those holding out for Brahms III: Season of the Witch shouldn’t hold their breath.

Moving back to holdovers, rounding out the top five was Bad Boys For Life, which dropped 49% for a sixth-weekend gross of $5.8 million. Having now grossed $191.1 million domestically, Bad Boys has $200 million in its sights and is still far and way the biggest movie of 2020 domestically.

Next up was 1917, which fell 46% this weekend to add $4.4 million to its domestic box office loot. 1917 has now grossed an outstanding $151.1 million domestically. The holdovers that most suffered this frame were the ones who debuted last weekend, like Fantasy Island, which stumbled a steep 66% from last weekend. Grossing only $4.1 million, this horror title has grossed $20.1 million after ten days of release and will likely struggle to crack $30 million domestically.

Parasite had the smallest weekend-to-weekend decline in the top ten with a 45% drop as it added $3.1 million to its domestic haul that now stands at $48.9 million, making it the fourth-biggest foreign-language film of all-time domestically. Jumanji: The Next Level finally had a more routine weekend-to-weekend decline this week as it fell 46% from last frame. Grossing an additional $3 million, Jumanji has now cracked $310.9 million.

Last weekend, romantic drama The Photograph got a big Valentine’s Day boost. That holiday giveth but it also taketh away. For this particular weekend, it fell a whopping 77% from last weekend to gross another $2.8 million for a ten-day domestic haul of $17.6 million.

A newcomer that made a notable splash this weekend was Impractical Jokers: The Movie. Based on a TV show I had no idea existed before I saw this film playing at my local Cinemark a few days ago, Impractical Jokers opened to $2.6 million from 357 locations for a per-theater average of $7,307. That’s handily the biggest limited release opening weekend of 2020 so far and ahead of all but two of the limited release opening weekends in 2019. Clearly, this show has a major fanbase that was ready to turn out in droves for a theatrical film adaptation. Who says comedies can’t make money on the big screen?

Call of the Wild entering the marketplace impacted family movie holdovers Dolittle heavily as that Robert Downey Jr. vehicle fell a hefty 62% from last weekend. Squawking up another $1.8 million, Dolittle has grossed an anemic $74.4 million. In its second weekend of release, Downhill fell 69% (nice) to gross another $1.4 million for a domestic total of only $7.4 million. Meanwhile, the comedy My Boyfriend’s Meds opened to $1.4 million from 350 locations this weekend for a solid per-theater average of $4,071 while the Guy Ritchie crime movie The Gentleman fell 55% from last weekend to pickpocket another $1.2 million for a $33.6 million.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire expanded into 130 locations this weekend and blazed $715,000 for a per-theater average of $5,500 and a domestic total of $1.45 million. Previously, director Celine Scammia’s biggest movie domestically was the $129,834 haul of Tomboy while Portrait is just shy of $1.5 million after only seventeen days of domestic play. See what happens when you actually give foreign-language films a decent domestic marketing push? Fellow NEON title The Lodge also expanded its theater count this weekend, though it had more muted results as it grossed $625,000 from 322 locations for a per-theater average of $1,941 and a domestic total of $921,282.

Next up we have Emma., which opened to $230,000 from 5 locations for a splendid per-theater average of $46,000. This bodes quite well for this Jane Austen adaptation’s wide release expansion on March 6th. Moving back to holdovers for a moment, The Assistant expanded to 167 locations in its fourth weekend of release and grossed $221,515 (a 6% increase from last weekend) for a per-theater average of $1,326. Though not a breakout hit, Assistant has already grossed $802,251 despite never playing in more 167 locations. That’s solid business for a bleak movie with no big-name director or stars. 

Moving back to limited release newcomers, CatVideoFest 2020 opened to $220,150 from 30 locations for a per-theater average of $7,338, a significant improvement over the $11,269 debut of the first CatVideoFest. Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart vehicle Seberg opened to $60,487 from 3 locations for a decent $20,162 per-theater average. Finally, after just two weekends of release, Ordinary Love already appears to be out of gas domestically as it expanded to 21 locations but grossed just $44,251 from 21 locations for a per-theater average of $2,107 and a domestic total of only $75,511.

The top 10 movies this weekend grossed $87.3 million, the lowest-grossing eighth weekend of any year since 2013. Call of the Wild may have overperformed but it was still a far cry from the kind of newcomers that have opened up to sizeable figures in years past like How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World or Get Out. To boot, in recent years, this particular frame has been boosted by a President’s Day juggernaut like Black Panther or Deadpool, both of which had significantly bigger second weekends than Sonic the Hedgehog. Heck, even the eighth weekend of 2011 fared better than the eighth weekend of 2020 and that was a frame where Hall Pass was the number one movie in America. 

February 2020 has now grossed just over $570 million domestically. With only six days left in the month, it does look like February 2020 will surpass the meager $624.4 million haul of February 2019 but will otherwise end up as one of the lower-grossing Februarys in recent years. Once again, we see what happens when you rely on only a scant few tentpoles to carry the whole box office load. Sonic’s a major hit but with the other would-be tentpole title of the month, Birds of Prey, severely underperforming, the month’s box office as a whole got dragged down. All other movies cleared out of the month to make way for these two titles, meaning there were no mid-range sleeper hits to help pick up the slack.

Mid-budget films like Safe House, The Monuments Men and Peter Rabbit which made big money in recent Februarys were nowhere to be found this year. The importance of having such titles around even when there are would-be tentpoles in the vicinity cannot be overstated. After all, it takes all sorts of titles to make a financially lucrative month at the domestic box office.