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Reflecting the pent-up demand to see new movies on the big screen, the weekend box office saw a spirited — and unexpected battle — between Mortal Kombat and Japanese anime pic Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train.
Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat topped the North American chart with $22.5 million from 3,073 locations, while Aniplex and Fumination’s Demon Slayer followed with an estimated $19.5 million from 1,605 sites. That’s by far the biggest domestic debut of all time for a foreign-language film. (Demon‘s per screen average was a hefty $12,188.)
As Hollywood and theaters struggle to emerge from the pandemic, the strong opening of both films was more good news following the huge box office showing of Godzilla vs. Kong, which roared past the $400 million mark over the weekend to finish Sunday with a global haul of $406.6 million.
“To really get a sense of how far pandemic-era moviegoing has progressed, we just have to look at the fact that two R-rated films with some crossover audience appeal are combining to nearly triple the opening weekend of Wonder Woman 1984 just four months ago. People are increasingly comfortable and ready to get back to the movies,” says Shawn Robbins of BoxOffice Pro.
Like all other 2021 titles, Mortal Kombat — based on the blockbuster martial arts video game — debuted simultaneously this weekend on HBO Max.
Overseas — where the event pic opened in its first raft of markets several weeks ago — Mortal Kombat took in another $6.3 million for an early foreign tally of $27.6 million and global total of $50.1 million.
In North America, Mortal Kombat and Demon Slayer were both fueled by males, 69 percent and 66 percent, respectively, as well as ethnically diverse audiences. Demon Slayer also had the advantage of playing to families.
“The notion that younger males in the traditionally coveted 18 to 24 age demographic have over time migrated away from the big screen and toward the small screen has been shattered this weekend as fans of video games migrated from the small screen to watch Mortal Kombat at the multiplex on the big screen,” says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore.
Dergarabedian also noted that overall revenue reached its highest level since the COVID-19 crisis commenced more than a year ago.
Pre-pandemic, the late April marquee would often be crowded with Hollywood titles. Not this year, as studios continue to hold back many of their bigger titles until summer, if not later. This dearth provided Demon Slayer — already a record-breaking blockbuster overseas — a chance to compete in a real way and play on thousands of screens.
Demon Slayer, released in Japan late last year, is the top-grossing film of all time in that country at more than $361 million. It is also the biggest anime ever. Through Sunday, the movie has earned well north of $400 million.
Warners and Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong placed third domestically with $4.2 million for a domestic total of $86.6 million. Universal’s Nobody followed with $1.9 million for a total of $21.7 million, while Raya and the Last Dragon rounded out the top five with $1.7 million for a cume of $39 million.
In advance of Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast, the weekend would have provided a box office boost for top nominees. That’s not the case this year amid the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic. The best picture winner — many nominees for which debuted on streaming services — is guaranteed to be the lowest-grossing victor of all time at the box office.
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