For the third summer in a row, the shark movie has made a comeback.
Warner Bros.' The Meg blew past all expectations in its North American debut over the weekend, swimming to $45.3 million from 4,118 theaters, the biggest opening of all time for a live-action shark pic — not adjusted for inflation — and riding the wave of success enjoyed by 47 Meters Down (2017) and The Shallows (2016). The Meg also marks the studio's biggest opening of the year to date, supplanting Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One ($41.8 million) and Ocean's 8 ($41.6 million).
The big-budget movie is also showing strength overseas. China's Gravity Pictures, which put up a significant portion of the budget, is handling distribution duties in the Middle Kingdom, where The Meg debuted to $50.3 million for a total foreign launch of $96.8 million and a global tally of $141.3 million. Imax turned in $13.6 million, with more than half coming from China ($7 million).
The pic's showing in North America was particularly good news for Warner Bros. and Gravity, which paid at least $150 million to produce the long-in-the-making film (the studio says the net budget was $130 million), which was directed by Jon Turteltaub. The Meg still isn't out of danger in terms of making its production and marketing costs back.
Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao and Cliff Curtis co-star in the movie, which follows a group of scientists trying to stop a mammoth shark from causing destruction. Heading into the weekend, tracking showed The Meg opening to around $20 million. In addition to besting predictions, the film prospered despite receiving a B+ CinemaScore, versus an A. The pic skewed slightly male (52 percent), while nearly 70 percent of the audience was over 25.
"To double tracking is extraordinary," says Warners distribution president Jeff Goldstein.
The Meg overindexed among Hispanic audiences, with a number of the top-grossing theaters located in heavily Latino markets, according to Goldstein. The top-grossing theater in the entire country was in San Antonio, while other big earners were cinemas in Miami, Corpus Christi, Texas, and Phoenix.
"These are cities you don't normally see on the top 20 list," Goldstein says.
In summer 1975, director Steven Spielberg made history with the classic shark film Jaws, which remains the top-grossing live-action shark film in the U.S., adjusted or not. The Shallows, starring Blake Lively, revived the genre in grossing $119 million globally against a modest $25 million budget in 2016. That was followed by 47 Meters Down last summer, which garnered $44.3 million against a $5.5 million budget.
The Shallows debuted to $16.8 million domestically, while 47 Meters down opened to $11.2 million. The record-holder for biggest opening for a shark pic is Deep Blue Sea, which opened to $19.1 million in 1999, not adjusted for inflation.
The Meg easily came in No. 1, while Mission: Impossible — Fallout fell to No. 2 in its third weekend with $20 million from 3,888 theaters for a pleasing domestic total of $162 million for Paramount and Skydance. Fallout took in another $38.4 million overseas for a foreign tally of $275.6 million and a global haul of $427.6 million. (It will soon catch up to the last film in the series, 2015's Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.)
Disney holdover Christopher Robin came in at No. 3 in its second weekend with $12.4 million for a domestic tally of $50 million and $62.1 million globally. (The Winnie-the-Pooh pic is rolling out slowly offshore.)
Several other movies bowed nationwide opposite The Meg, including Screen Gems' low-budget Slender Man, a supernatural horror film that came in No. 4 $11.3 million from 2,358 theaters. One question mark is whether a D- CinemaScore is hurting the movie, although poor CinemaScores aren't uncommon for horror flicks. The film follows a group of friends fascinated by the internet lore of the boogeyman known as the Slender Man. When they try to prove he doesn't exist, one of them mysteriously disappears.
Spike Lee's high-profile Cannes Film Festival entry BlacKkKlansman rounded out the top five with a pleasing $10.8 million from 1,512 theaters, a solid start for a specialty film launching in summer versus during awards season. Lee's last movie, Chi-Raq (2015), which topped out at $2.7 million domestically, didn't get a full-fledged theatrical release since it debuted on Amazon's streaming service soon after its release.
BlacKkKlansman, from Focus Features, tells the true story of two Colorado cops, one black (John David Washington) and one Jewish (Adam Driver), who infiltrated their local KKK chapter in the early 1970s. The movie, which nabbed an A- CinemaScore, drew a diverse audience. Caucasians made up 55 percent of the audience, followed by African-Americans (23 percent), Hispanics (13 percent) and Asians/Other (6 percent). More than 40 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 35, while the film skewed slightly female.
'"BlacKkKlansman has shown fantastic word of mouth with polls at 95% from audiences across the board in all ethnicities," Focus president of distribution Lisa Bunnell says. "It is Spike’s highest-grossing film in a decade, and his third-highest-opening ever — besting Malcolm X and just behind Inside Man and The Original Kings of Comedy.”
The weekend's fourth new nationwide offering was the indie film Dog Days from LD Entertainment. The family comedy, about the intersection of humans and canines, grossed $3.6 million from 2,357 locations. Its ensemble cast includes Eva Longoria, Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Lauren Lapkus, Thomas Lennon, Adam Pally, Ryan Hansen and Rob Corddry.
At the specialty box office, documentaries continued to prosper overall. Focus' Won't You Be My Neighbor? grew its total to $21.7 million, passing 2002's Bowling for Columbine, not adjusted for inflation. And Neon's Three Identical Strangers approached the $10 million mark in the U.S.
One weak spot among the doc boom is Dinesh D'Souza's Death of a Nation, which tumbled 57 percent in its second weekend to $950,000 for a domestic total of $4.5 million. The conservative filmmaker's latest outing could easily be the lowest grossing of his four docs by the end of its run.
Aug. 13, 8:23 am PST Updated The Meg debut with full weekend numbers.