BO Report: ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ powers up cinemas

Mario (Chris Pratt), Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) in Nintendo and Illumination’s 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie', directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

The Super Mario Bros. Movie has smashed global records and helped deliver exhibitors not only a bumper Easter, but the best weekend of 2023 so far.

Globally, the film earned the mantle of the highest opening for an animation ever at $US$375.5 million ($US204.6 million from North America), outstripping Frozen II‘s $US358 million. However, the caveat is Frozen II made its result over a traditional three-day window, while Super Mario Bros set its record over five.

The Universal title also delivered the best ever global opening for a video game adaptation, besting 2016’s Warcraft, which bowed to $US210 million.

Super Mario Bros is an origin story about the Italian-American plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day), who fall into a rogue warp pipe and are separated. Mario lands in Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Luigi in the Dark Lands, ruled by Bowser (Jack Black).

In Australia, Super Mario Bros amassed $10.5 million through Sunday from 717 screens, and when Wednesday’s opening figures are included stands at $12.1 million. That is the highest opening weekend of the year so far, outstripping Disney/Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Exhibitors are buoyed by the film’s success, overcoming middling reviews to prove popular across demographics.

As Wallis Cinemas programming manager David Simpson put it: “A Power Up we surely wanted.”

IMAX Melbourne found great success with the film in 3D, with the film its biggest opener of the year so far.

“It’s a fantastic result as animation can be niche content for IMAX Melbourne, but as the global box office takings for IMAX Corp indicate ($US21.6 million) the benefits of the IMAX experience post-COVID are allowing for greater diversification of content on our giant screen,” Jeremy Fee, acting IMAX Melbourne general manager tells IF.

Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard says the film is a true four-quadrant picture; it has had success across all experiences, including Vmax, Gold Class, Vjunior and 4DX. With excellent word-of-mouth, he predicts a “long and prosperous season” for the film.

“Comparisons are a little tricky given that it was the Easter long weekend and that the film opened on a Wednesday, but even taking just the Thu-Sun (at $10.5m) puts it up there with films like Incredibles 2 ($10.6m opening 4 days, lifetime $45m) and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on Boxing Day ($10.4m opening 4 days),” he says.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell echoes that the film was extremely popular with all ages.

“It was the key to a good Easter as it made up over 60 per cent of ticket sales,” he tells IF.

While Super Mario Bros isn’t Cinema Nova fare, CEO Kristian Connelly recognised its local and global success, telling IF: “Delivering for fans young and old and barely letting up for its tight 90 minute runtime, it promises to become one of the biggest films of all time.”

Other titles to open across the Easter weekend included Warner Bros.’ starry sports drama AIR, about the origins of the deal between Nike and Michael Jordan that would lead to the Air Jordans.

Directed by Ben Affleck, the film is led by Matt Damon as shoes salesman Sonny Vaccaro and also stars Affleck, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina and Chris Tucker. It proved a strong performer, collecting $2.1 million from 372 screens, or $2.3 million in previews, with Chard noting it is comparable to the openings for House of Gucci ($2.4 million opening 4 days) and Ford v Ferrari ($2.8 million).

The feature ranked in top place at Cinema Nova but Connelly notes it also appealed across the whole market, particularly in luxury cinema concepts. He calls the film’s result remarkable for an effects-free film – “the likes of which is rare to experience at the movies, with a dialogue heavy script that’s takes place mostly in offices and bars.”

“It’s success both here and internationally should cause studios to consider not only the appeal of entertainment aimed almost solely to adults and contains elements of comedy – a genre highly underrepresented in-cinema of-late.”

Ben Affleck in ‘Air’. (Photo: Ana Carballosa. Copyright: © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC)

Sony also had success with horror The Pope’s Exorcist, starring Russell Crowe as Father Gabriele Amorth, who was the Vatican’s chief exorcist between 1986 and 2016.

Earning $1.1 million from 207 screens, Simpson notes the film surpassed expectations, while Dell adds Crowe helped to draw in an older crowd. Chard believes a $3 million+ lifetime is acheiveable.

For Transmission, geriatric ward comedy Allelujah, starring Judi Dench and Jennifer Saunders, bowed to $172,173 from 96 screens or $189,962 with previews.

Also landing in the top 10 was Forum Distribution’s Es Jahano Door Kitte Chal Jindiye, a multiple narrative following of different Punjabi’s living legally or even illegally abroad. It collected $104,450 from just 20 screens.

Overall, exhibitors were pleased with the Easter line-up, with Dell reflecting that with strong holdovers in John Wick: Chapter 4, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves and Living, there was “a diversity of content that has been missing for a while and was appreciated by our patrons.”

Connelly echoed the sentiment, stating the weekend once again showed “audiences will flock to cinemas where there are attractive, ‘theatrical quality’ features to be enjoyed.”

According to Numero figures through to Sunday only, the top 20 titles tallied $19.7 million, up 111 per cent on the previous.

Now three weekends in, Studiocanal’s John Wick: Chapter 4 continues to hold well, gathering an extra $2.7 million to move to $16.6 million.

Paramount’s Dungeons & Dragons dropped only 29 per cent in its second frame to earn $1.9 million, advancing to $6.3 million.

After five weekends, Scream VI is starting to run out of puff for Paramount, earning $240,208 to bring its tally to $7.3 million. Ditto Shazam! Fury of the Gods for WB, which made $208,864 in its fourth frame to move to $4.7 million.

Bill Nighy-starrer Living collected $162,573 in its fourth frame to move to $2.4 million for Transmission.

Of the Australian titles in release, Roadshow’s Of An Age added $18,522 in its third frame to move to $272,584 – Connelly notes it continues to attract an enthusiastic local audience at the Nova. Documentary Shackleton: The Greatest Story of Survival made $11,008 in its fifth for Kismet, putting it at $247,914.

Screen Inc. released dance film The Red Shoes: Next Step, co-directed by producer Jesse A’hern and Joanne Samuel, on 39 screens to $10,273, or $12,554 with previews.

All figures, supplied via Numero, are through Sunday.