Does last weekend's strong box office mean going to the movies is returning to some approximation of normal? With about 57% of theaters in the United States and Canada reopened for business (albeit at limited capacity), Warner Bros.' "Mortal Kombat" opened to a surprisingly strong $22.5 million across 3,073 locations, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.
It is the biggest opening weekend for an R-rated movie since the coronavirus shutdown closed theaters more than a year ago and the second-largest pandemic-era opening weekend overall, following the studio's success with "Godzilla vs. Kong" this month.
Based on characters from the popular video game, "Mortal Kombat" is a reboot of the '90s film series and was released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.
Internationally, the film earned $27.6 million, for a global cumulative total of $50.1 million. The film's reception was mixed, with a B-plus audience grade from CinemaScore and a 55% "rotten" rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
In second place, Funimation's anime blockbuster "Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train" premiered with $19.5 million on 1,600 screens. A sequel to the anime television series, the film earned a rare 100% "fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The performance of "Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train" was surprising. The Japanese movie, which played dubbed and with subtitles, is a continuation of the "Demon Slayer" TV series, which itself comes from a popular manga series. It has already been a massive hit internationally. In Japan, it's the highest-grossing movie ever with more than $350 million in estimated ticket sales.
The two releases, while far from awards material, gave Hollywood some good news ahead of Sunday's Academy Awards. The outlook has been increasingly brightening for movie theaters, which are hoping for a semi-normal summer season, perhaps by late May or early June. "A Quiet Place Part II" and the Walt Disney Co.' "Cruella" are both set for release Memorial Day weekend.
Now in its fourth weekend, "Godzilla vs. Kong" added $4.2 million for a domestic cumulative total of $86.6 million and a global cumulative total of $406.6 million.
Thus far, the best evidence for a theatrical recovery comes ironically from movies that have played at home at the same time as they have in cinemas. With that approach, Warner Bros. has topped the box office nine out of 17 weekends this year, and accounts for 48% in North American market share.