Warner Bros.′ Black Adam opened with an estimated $67 million, according to studio estimates Sunday, giving Dwayne Johnson his biggest box office weekend as a leading man and launching the DC Comics character he spent a decade bringing to the big screen.
Black Adam was a $200 million bid to upset the balance of power in a DC Extended Universe dominated by Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. The $67 million debut fell well short of that stratosphere, even with the significant move of Johnson starring in his first superhero film. Still, Black Adam managed the highest opening weekend since Thor: Love and Thunder debuted with $143 million in July.
Black Adam, which stars Dwayne Johnson as an ancient Egyptian summoned to the present, was particularly hampered by poor reviews (40% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). Moviegoers were kinder, giving the film a B+ CinemaScore. It collected $73 million internationally for a global haul of $140 million.
Black Adam took a circuitous route to reach theaters. The character was originally planned to be launched as a villain in 2019’s Shazam! before executives pivoted to give Black Adam a standalone feature. The slasher Shazam!, which cost closer to $100 million to make, opened with $53.5 million at the box office and ended up an over-the-top success with $366 million worldwide.
However, the stakes were higher for Black Adam. While promoting the film, Johnson hasn’t been shy about his desire to follow up Black Adam with a showdown with Superman. But whether the receipts for Black Adam are enough to warrant it remains unclear. Under new leadership, Warner Bros. is revising his approach to DC Comics adaptations.
Jeff Goldstein, head of distribution for Warner Bros., celebrated the results as a personal best for Johnson outside of the Fast & Furious films and a PG-13 film with broad appeal that audiences responded to better than critics. Still, it’s a time of transition for Warner Bros.’s reorganization of the DC unit as the studio seeks more Marvel-sized successes. Next on tap is Shazam! Fury of the Gods in March.
“It’s about making good films. It’s about finding the right scripts,” Goldstein said. “Our studio is definitely going through a major revamp of our production leadership and style and approach. I think we’re going to be able to crack this nut. We’re definitely focused on doing that.”
Ticket to Paradise, the Balinese romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, turned out to be clever counter-programming. The Universal Pictures release debuted with $16.3 million, well above recent sales for rom-coms, which have struggled in recent years at the box office. The film is already a hit overseas, where it premiered last month and has collected $80.2 million in ticket sales.
Earlier this month, Universal’s R-rated Bros , an LGBTQ milestone in the genre, debuted with a disappointing $4.8 million. Ticket to Paradise had a notable advantage in its two stars and particularly appealed to older audiences; 64% of ticket buyers were 35 and older, the study said.
“It was an event movie for all audiences this weekend, but especially for older audiences who can be difficult to get into theaters,” said Jim Orr, head of distribution for Universal. “We all know this is a demographic that doesn’t exactly run out to see movies opening weekend. That gives us great encouragement in the coming weeks and months.”
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore, noted that it was the first weekend with a $65 million opening and more than $100 million in total domestic box office sales since July. It was largely due to the star power, he said in the appeal of both Ticket to Paradise and Black Adam with Johnson.
“He was the engine that really drove this box office despite quite a bit of headwinds with the DC brand, and this is not such a well-known character,” Dergarabedian said. “This is a very strong starting point for Dwayne Johnson in the mix of DC Comics. He’s like a supercharger. Forty percent Rotten Tomatoes, but people just want to see Dwayne Johnson on the big screen because he’s larger than life.”
Last week’s top film, Halloween Ends, dropped massively in its second weekend. The Universal horror sequel, which was released simultaneously on the Peacock, dropped 80% with $8 million. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ Smile continued to defy the typical declines for horror releases. With $8.4 million in its fourth week of release, Smile came in third and increased its total domestic sales to $84.3 million.
As more established awards contenders land in theaters, Searchlight Pictures’ The Banshees of Inisherin kicked off its run with one of the best per-theater averages of the year. The Martin McDonagh drama starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson opened with $181,000 in four theaters for an average of $45,250 per night. For A24, Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio as a father and daughter on vacation, also debuted solidly in four theaters, averaging $16,589 apiece. movie theater.