Box Office: Sonic 2 Booms to $71 Million, Michael Bays Ambulance Stalls

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” powered to $71 million in its domestic box office debut, a hopeful indication that family audiences are feeling better about returning to theater.

In taking the No. 1 spot, Paramount’s kid friendly film towered over Sony’s Marvel adaptation “Morbius” and Universal’s Michael Bay action-adventure “Ambulance,” which debuted to a disappointing $8 million.

Ticket sales for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” set a new high watermark for video game adaptations, supplanting the opening weekend record established by its predecessor, 2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog.” The first movie collected $58 million in its first three days of release and ended the President’s Day holiday weekend with a mighty $70 million.

“This is an outstanding opening,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “With solid reviews and very good audience scores, ‘Sonic’ is going to have a strong run.”

Jeff Fowler returned to direct “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” after steering the original film to $319 million globally and setting a record for the highest-grossing video game adaptation in North America. Ben Schwartz returned to voice the speedy blue creature with a knack for busting bad guys and Jim Carrey reprised his role as mad scientist Doctor Robotnik, a combo that has proven to be a hit among moviegoers. “Sonic 2” landed an “A” CinemaScore from audiences.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” continues a box office hot streak for Paramount, marking the studio’s fourth movie in 2022 to open in first place. The others were “The Lost City,” “Scream” and “Jackass Forever.” It’s a needed rebound since Paramount largely stepped back from theatrical releases during the pandemic, instead selling titles like Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Eddie Murphy’s comedy sequel “Coming 2 America” and Michael B. Jordan’s action thriller “Without Remorse” to streaming services.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” cost $90 million, far more than the $40 million that Bay and Universal shelled out for “Ambulance.” That’s a relatively cheap price tag for “Ambulance,” which is heavy in explosives and special effects. However, the $40 million figure does not include the many millions spent on marketing and other efforts necessary to spread the word about the movie’s release.

The lackluster start for “Ambulance” is yet another sign of consumer’s changing tastes. The kind of adrenalized, physics-defying mojo that turned Bay’s past films like “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor” into zeitgeist-y hits don’t always work these days. In the current movie theater environment, fewer genres seem to be resonating with ticket buyers.

“There used to be a lot of these movies at the theater,” Gross says of crime thrillers. “But today’s audiences want something special every time — the bar is set higher now.” He adds, “At a cost of $40 million plus marketing, the film is unlikely to recover costs, even with better numbers overseas and good ancillary value on Peacock.

More to come…

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