Start your engines.
Hollywood’s latest go at at an auto racing movie — Sony’s Gran Turismo — expanded into thousands of theaters on Friday after hosting two full weekends of sneak previews and several fan events.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Gran Turismo had been set to launch on Aug. 11 but switched up its release plans because of the actors strike and the resulting prohibition on the cast — led by Orlando Bloom and David Harbour — doing any press in recent weeks. The studio instead used the sneaks to build buzz before opening the movie everywhere on Aug. 25.
Based on Friday traffic, early estimates show Gran Turismo opening in first place with $16.5 million from 3,856 theaters against a $60 million budget. The film’s muted showing underscores the difficulty studios face when adapting video games for the big screen, as well as for racing movies, a challenged genre. Gran Turismo earned a glowing A CinemaScore from audiences, which Sony hopes will translate into a strong September fun.
The $16.5 million opening includes a hefty $3.9 million in grosses from the previous sneaks. It’s hardly the first time that a Hollywood studio has added such grosses to an opening weekend number, but the early Gran Turismo screenings were far more robust than is the norm.
Put another way: Warner Bros. and Greta Gerwig’s mega-blockbuster Barbie would otherwise be assured of topping the weekend chart. Early estimates show Barbie earning $15.7 million from 3,736 locations in its sixth weekend as it gets ready to jump the $600 million mark domestically either this weekend or early next week. (The Barbie team is none too pleased about the Gran Turismo situation. Nor can anyone can remember another instance in which including sneak grosses changed the order of a film.)
Box office analysts caution that numbers for all films could shift between now and Monday because of Sunday’s second annual National Cinema Day, when tickets will be slashed to $4 for any film in any format at thousands of theaters across the country. “It will be a wild day in theaters,” says one Hollywood studio distribution chief.
DC’s Blue Beetle slotted a third-place finish with $9.5 million to $10 million from 3,871 locations in its second outing
Taking fourth place is Universal’s summer sensation Oppenheimer, which earned an estimated $8 million from 2,872 cinemas for a domestic total of $299 million. In yet another milestone, Oppenheimer has passed up Inception to become Christopher Nolan’s third-highest grossing film at the domestic box office behind The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, not adjusted for inflation.
In addition to Gran Turismo, a number of indie titles made a play this weekend as the summer box office speeds toward the finish line. (The hope is that domestic revenue for the season will hit the $4 billion mark in a return to pre-pandemic levels.)
Roadside Attractions Retribution, the latest action pic from Liam Neeson, looks to place No. 8 with $3.2 million from 1,750 theaters, in line with expectations. One bummer: It got slapped with a C CinemaScore from audiences, although it could make up ground on premium VOD.
Briarcliff/Open Road opened The Hill, an inspirational sports drama starring Dennis Quaid, in 1,570 locations. The movie is pacing to gross $2.5 million from 1,570 locations.
Bleecker Street’s specialty film Golda, starring Helen Mirren as former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, is looking to take in $2 million despite playing in far fewer theaters than The Hill, or 883 locations.
At the specialty box office, MGM and Amazon’s critically acclaimed Bottoms, a teen sex comedy directed by Emma Seligman, is off to a pleasing start as it launches in 10 locations. The film’s location average for the weekend is nearly $49,000.
Several high-profile rereleases were also on the marquee timed to National Cinema Day, including Jurassic Park and American Graffiti.
Numbers will be updated Sunday morning.