Long-range tracking appeared to favor the shiny new original sci-fi film that genre fans were getting excited about. The closer it got to the release date, though, some finally remembered that late September animated releases have some history of putting up respectable numbers — certainly respectable enough to beat a release by the Disney-owned 20th Century Studios that, outside of a pair of titles, has not impressed with their numbers, and a horror franchise on its third or fourth reboot, depending on where you start. The result was certainly a boost to a box office suffering two of its worst weeks of the year but a setback for “original” material kind of based on a lot of other material.
The animated doggies won the weekend! As suggested in last week’s preview, Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie indeed took the crown from its two challengers. The first film had a $10.2 million start at the tail-end of August back in 2021, the first summer return for theaters since COVID began. It went on to gross $40.1 million despite also being available for streaming at home. The Mighty Movie had no such obstacles and went on to make $23 million this weekend. That may not be Hotel Transylvania or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs money, but it’s better than Storks, Abominable, The Lego Ninjago Movie, and The Boxtrolls, all of which opened on the final weekend of September.
Another notch in Paw Patrol’s collar is that all of those films cost anywhere from $50-85 million, while its own production cost is reported at a mere $30 million. That will go a long way to making this one a success, since none of those films made less than $50 million domestic or $100 million worldwide. Smallfoot in 2018 opened to $23 million, finished with over $83 million and $214 million globally. The Mighty Movie, which made $24.4 million internationally this weekend, could approach similar numbers, given the first film made an additional $100 million outside of North America. The Paw Patrol sequel also has another six weeks of non-animated family content to take away its audience until the new Trolls movie opens up a week before Thanksgiving. Paramount should be very happy with these numbers, and they clearly saw the writing on the wall, because they have already greenlit the third movie.
After the summer of Barbie and Oppenheimer everyone is back to rooting for original films of any kind. Unfortunately those cheers did not translate into tickets for Gareth Edwards’ The Creator, which saw its early tracking numbers for the mid-20s and its score with critics on the Tomatometer fade into reality. It shot out of the gate (as many early enthusiastic reviewers gush after early access) in the mid-80s but has since settled back to a fine if middling 69%. On one hand, $14 million is the studio’s fifth best opening since Disney rebranded Fox into 20th Century Studios, but that isn’t exactly anything to brag about, especially when its highest openings since February 2020 have been Avatar: The Way of Water, Free Guy, The Call of the Wild, and A Haunting In Venice.
Granted, we’re still talking about films as part of the pandemic timeline, but the $4.7 million-$9.9 million openings from The Last Duel to West Side Story in 2021 did not improve much in the $10.5 million to $12.8 million in 2022 from Barbarian to Death on the Nile. Same for 2023, with openings for The Boogeyman ($12.3 million) and A Haunting in Venice ($14.2 million). Barbarian was at least a success with its $4.5 million budget, as was The Way of Water with its $400 million. The Creator may find itself somewhere between $45-55 million domestic, but it’s going to take some healthy international returns to cover its $80 million price tag. Unfortunately, it has made just $18.3 million outside North America so far.