NEW YORK – The redesigned “Sonic the Hedgehog” showed plenty of teeth at the box office, speeding to a $57 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday, while “Parasite” saw one of the largest post-Oscars bumps in years following its best picture win.
“Sonic” came in well above expectations, especially for a movie that just months ago was a laughing stock. After its first trailer was greeted with ridicule on social media last year, “Sonic” was postponed three months to give its title character a design overhaul – including fixing Sonic’s eerily human teeth.
Audiences responded to that makeover by anointing “Sonic the Hedgehog” the weekend’s top film and the highest-grossing opening for a video-game adaptation, not accounting for inflation. For Paramount, it’s a welcome success following misfires such as “Gemini Man” and “Terminator: Dark Fate.” The studio estimates “Sonic” will gross $68 million for the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
“If you don’t listen to your customer, and this goes for any business, then you’re going to fail,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount. “We retooled Sonic in a way that was obviously very satisfying for the fans and they were very forgiving. Now that they’ve seen the movie, they love the movie. It all worked out.”
The Sega video-game adaptation, directed by Jeff Fowler, drew decent reviews (63% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A grade from moviegoers on CinemaScore. The $87 million production co-stars Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik with Ben Schwartz supplying Sonic’s voice.
Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” had its biggest weekend yet (after 19 weeks of release), following its historic win at the Oscars. (“Parasite” was the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.) Despite the film already being available for weeks on digital platforms and on DVD, its $5.5 million weekend is the largest Oscars bump for a best-picture winner since “Gladiator” in 2001.
Last week’s opening of “Birds of Prey” followed up its disappointing debut by sliding to second with $17.1 million. Some theaters decided to retitle the movie “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey,” instead of “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).”
It was a busy weekend in theaters, with a handful of other new releases – “The Photograph,” “Fantasy Island” and “Downhill” – seeking to capitalize on both Valentine’s Day on Friday and Presidents Day on Monday.
“Fantasy Island,” the Blumhouse horror remake of the ’70s TV show, fared the best, collecting $12.4 million in ticket sales, despite terrible reviews. The low-budget, PG-13 film earned just a 9% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
“The Photograph,” a romance starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, opened with $12.2 million. The film cost $15 million to make.
“Downhill” debuted with $4.7 million, a modest start for a film starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. A remake of the acclaimed Swedish film “Force Majeure” by Ruben Östlund, “Downhill” didn’t do great with critics but fared even worse with audiences. They gave it a D on CinemaScore.
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” one of 2019’s most acclaimed films, received a slightly wider Valentine’s Day release. Following a one-week qualifying run in December, Celine Sciamma’s French period romance opened in 22 theaters with a strong per-screen average of about $20,000.
Final numbers are expected Tuesday.