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‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ Breaks Video Game Pic Opening Record With $70M & Reps 4th-Best Presidents’ Weekend Debut – Monday Update

Deadline — Anthony D'Alessandro

UPDATED, Monday AM: Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog will hit $70 million in four days, according to the studio, after a $16.5M Sunday that is down 20% from Saturday. The pic based on the Sega character remains the best domestic opening for a video game property on the big screen on both a three-day and four-day basis, and among all Presidents’ Day openers it’s the fourth best after Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther ($242.1M), Fox’s Deadpool ($152.1M) and Universal’s Fifty Shades of Grey ($93M).

The expectation by Paramount is that Sonic makes $12M on Monday. Industry estimates figure at this point in time that this ‘A’ CinemaScore movie has a final U.S.-Canada cume in the $200M vicinity.

On both a three-day and four-day basis, Sonic is Jim Carrey’s second best domestic opening of all time at the box office behind Bruce Almighty ($67.9M 3-day, $85.7M 4-day).

While we’ve mentioned continually throughout the weekend how Paramount’s make-good to fans on fixing Sonic’s teeth has gone a great way in building a success at the box office, overall the studios’ trailers for the film have garnered more than a half billion views worldwide to date. Paramount took out a TV spot during the Super Bowl pregame that featured four of the fastest athletes praising the blue critter on his legendary speed: Michael Thomas, Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Busch, and Allyson Felix. Speaking of athletes, Paramount held advance influencer screenings for those in the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, WWE, UFC, boxing and NASCAR.

Ensuring that the faithful showed up to Sonic this weekend was Sega, which incorporated the movie character into their mobile games and promoted across social media extensively.

Other online marketing highlights of the Sonic campaign included the original song “Speed Me Up” by Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Yachty and Sueco the Child which has clocked over 15M streams, propelled by a TikTok Challenge launch that was timed to the single’s release, churning 1.8 billion views overall.

There was also a first-to-market global Snapchat AR lens which allowed fans to witness Robotnik chasing Sonic across the globe at major international landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, Chinese Theatre, The Flat Iron Building, Tower Bridge in London, Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Brandenburg Gate in Germany.

Among Sonic‘s promotional partners were a lot of first-time brands to Hollywood: It was Jack in the Box’s first-ever film partnership and Valpak’s first ever full-pack takeover. Additional partners for Sonic included Puma, Bimbo, Pastime Foods, Books a Million and Arby’s. Sonic, Puma, The Shoe Surgeon collaborated on five pairs of limited-edition custom Pumas inspired by the hedgehog’s shoes in the movie.

Field promotional activities zeroed in on families, garnering parent bloggers in Los Angeles followed by a “Family Day” event and premiere on the Paramount lot featuring games and activities for kids on a blue carpet. Sonic was also on display in a costume tour in 16 markets and the “Fastest Holiday Wrapping Paper Stations” in malls back in December.

Elsewhere this weekend, Warner Bros’ Birds of Prey is in second place and saw $17.2M over three days after a $4.68M Sunday, off 26%, with a revised estimate of $19.86M over four days and an 11-day running total of $62M.

The figures for Sony’s Blumhouse release Fantasy Island remain largely unchanged with a $12.35M three-day total after a $2.8M Sunday ($100K less than expected) and a $14M over four days, good for third place.

Universal’s The Photograph in fourth took $2.1M yesterday, -42%, for a three-day total of $12.1M and $13.3M over four days.

Fifth place still belongs to the fifth weekend of Sony’s Bad Boys for Life, which earned $3M yesterday, -30%, for an improved three-day total of $11.4M (-5%) and four-day total of $13M, for a running total of $183M.

Outside the top 5, Searchlight’s downer Downhill is seeing $4.6M over three days and $5.1M over four in revised numbers this morning after a $977,000 Sunday. Monday is expected to be around $512K.

Sunday AM writethru final w/chart: After a string of pricey duds with Gemini Man, Terminator: Dark Fate, and Rhythm Section, Paramount gets back on track with its net $87M production of Sonic the Hedgehog. This film’s 4-day projections have continually boomed over the weekend, from $55M+ on midday Friday, to $64M+ yesterday morning, to around $68M per Paramount this AM (that’s also where the industry average is; some even believe the blue critter can run up to $70M+).

After a strong $20.6M Saturday, a 2% dip from Friday’s $21M,, the film has a 3-day of $57M, Sonic the Hedgehog has feasibly beat the 3-day start of Legendary/Warner Bros.’ Pokemon: Detective Pikachu ($54.3M) to become the best opening for a video game feature adaptation of all-time. On a 4-day basis, Sonic is also faster than Detective Pikachu, which earned $58M over a non-holiday period last May.

All in, worldwide for Sonic the Hedgehog is $100M, which is fantastic, but not a record debut for a video game pic. Pikachu‘s technical global start (with domestic) was $157.3M, while Legendary/Universal’s Warcraft was around $119.1M, not counting its pre-box office run in China.

More things to shout about: Sonic the Hedgehog reps the 2nd-best domestic 3-day debut for Jim Carrey after 2003’s Bruce Almighty ($67.9M).

Speaking to the pic’s playability and swelling grosses throughout the weekend is the movie’s near-even split between 51% general audiences and 49% families. “It’s not just a kid’s film,” said Paramount Domestic Distribution President Chris Aronson this morning. Furthermore, 44% of the audience felt that Sonic exceeded their expectations, which is far above the comp for a film like this.

Talk about a turnaround year for Paramount, and Sonic is just the beginning, with A Quiet Place II (March 20), The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (May 22), and Top Gun Maverick (June 26) yet to come.

“From producers Toru Nakahara to Neal Moritz to Jim Gianopulos to steering this ship, and bringing Paramount back to its rightful place in the top tier of studios, to Marc Weinstock and Mary Daily and their global marketing team, Sonic is a remarkable team effort,” exclaimed Aronson this morning.

Video game fare has always been ambitious to adapt to the big screen, the exhibit A example of risk and failure being Cinergi’s 1993 Super Mario Brothers (distributed via Disney at the time!) which cost a then-exorbitant $48M and only grossed a near $21M domestic. Then you have more recent examples, like the $160M Warcraft movie, which failed in the US with $47.3M and was carried by China with a global gross of $439M.

It stands to reason that Hollywood would be attracted to video game fare, given the immediate opportunity to exploit a brand and draw mobs of fans. In the case of Sega’s 1991-born Sonic the Hedgehog (and these industry stats haven’t been updated in a while), he’s a character that has grossed far north of $5 billion in game sales, spawned various animated TV shows, with free mobile game downloads near 1 billion as of last year. Why wouldn’t a studio want to make a movie about this guy?

The trick with video game fare is walking the tightrope of appeasing the game’s fans while providing solid entertainment to the non-faithful, and that’s what Paramount has pulled off here with Sonic. CinemaScore in Friday polling rose to an ‘A’ (from its ‘A-‘ pre-polling) with PostTrak showing parents at 4 1/2 stars now, kids under 12 still at 4 1/2, and general audiences at 4 stars. All great. Updated exits through last night showed 56% males and 70% under 25.

Sonic over-performed in the West and South Central, with the top grossing theaters coming out of LA, NY, Orlando, Houston, Phoenix, DC, San Francisco, Miami, Tampa, Seattle, and Dallas. Canada came in with a 5.67% market share on 7.5% of locations.

While a feature version of Sonic had been brewing as far back as the 1990s at MGM (and then Dreamworks for a bit), this iteration with Original Film producer Moritz has been simmering since 2013 at Sony. By 2016, Oscar-nominated animated short director Jeff Fowler (Gopher Broke) boarded with EP Tim Miller, the project repping Fowler’s feature directorial debut. The following year, Original Film landed a first look at Paramount, with Sony putting Sonic in turnaround, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Heading into the weekend, social media monitor RelishMix spotted an excitement among Sonic fans about seeing him on the big screen for the first time, “with some interesting carryover to more casual family/animated ticket purchasers as well.”

“The overall sentiment from fans is one of ‘thanks’ to Paramount for adjusting the first look of Sonic to match a more beloved one based on the Sega video games. The fans’ discussion suggests they feel as if they’ve been heard, while most of the time, they are not (even if they do end up buying tickets to cinemas or seeing the re-make/re-imagining later).”
Sonic touted a social media universe heading into opening weekend of 577.5M, close to 3-fold higher than the average video game movie, comprised of 18.2M Facebook Fans, 11M Facebook video views, 32.9M Twitter followers, an enormous 508.9M YouTube views, and 6.5M Instagram followers.
Social media activity was also excellent for Sonic, with a viral re-post rate for video materials of 30:1, far outweighing the usual 13:1 for the video game pic genre. The average daily YouTube views for top clips were around 116K, far ahead of the standard 16K for the genre. But also, these clips were spread across a variety of themes and not simply skewed by boosted support on the studio platform.
“Overall, Sonic is the video game-based hit that others strive to be – and its social reach and activity actually benefited from the film’s false start last May (referring to its initial trailer – see our Notables for more),” says RelishMix in their latest report.
While RelishMix says that the social media campaign for Sonic “had plenty of fine efforts…from the soundtrack to Jim Carrey’s presence (18.1M followers),” the best publicity was actually director Fowler’s response to fans that he was taking the hedgehog into dental surgery after their gripes piped online over the blue guy’s teeth.
In the wake of this, RelishMix noticed that fans continued to seek out the old trailer that was pulled (now on a foreign site), which fueled another 25M views toward the pic’s overall social reach. Then, “when the new, revised Sonic debuted in trailers last November, fans were delighted. They were just as ready to discuss and debate as they were in May of 2019. But now, the discussion veered toward a frenzy, as the fans touted their influence on a big screen production of one of their favorite heroes. Credit to Fowler and Paramount for pivoting based on social media discussion and reading the reach/activity from last May correctly – that unchanged, the film would have had challenges ahead.”
Aronson tells Deadline, “I think the reset of Sonic due to the response from fans was so smart for SEGA, Paramount and everybody. To say ‘Hey we have to listen to the fans, and give the fans what they want.’ We did, and that’s a remarkable thing.”

In 2nd place, with a $19.6M 4-day, is Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey,with an expected $61.7M by Monday. Pic’s 3-day per the Burbank, CA studio is  $17.1M is -48%. Updated PostTrak exits are now at a middling 3 1/2 stars.

3rd right now is going to Blumhouse/Sony’s Fantasy Island with $14M, while Universal’s The Photograph will take $13.39M over 4 days. CinemaScore audiences gave Photograph a B+, while Fantasy Island was no adventure at a C-, PostTrak of 2 stars and 37% definite recommend.

Fantasy Island is actually doing a bit a better than expected after tracking lowered its forecast to $12M on Thursday. Some exhibitors thought the movie was pretty good, and that Sony was leaving money on the table by not emulating a Happy Death Day theatrical release (3,149 theaters in weekend 1 vs. Fantasy‘s 2,784) and by not holding previews on the night before Valentine’s Day.

At this point in time, Fantasy Island bests the 4-day of last Presidents’ Day Blumhouse release Happy Death Day 2U ($11M) which underperformed its projections (that pic’s 3-day originally estimated between $17M-$20M).

As a PG-13 genre pic, heck, it’s a date night movie. But with these types of exits, it’s clear that Sony was keeping their costs low. Of those who showed up, 57% were under 25, with females under 25 in the greatest abundance at 32%, followed by guys under 25 at 24%. Diversity draw was 42% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 18% Asian/Other, and 16% African American. Fantasy Island played best in the East and South but wasn’t really great anywhere.

Some say the biggest hurdle for Fantasy Island is that it didn’t come off as scary in the trailers; that’s why we’re not at a $20M-plus opening for the pic. RelishMix says that while the new spin on the ABC series put off older viewers who were upset that Tattoo wasn’t in the movie, “Most folks who see the trailer feel like they know what they’re getting into – and they are either in the mood, or they’re not. Discussion suggests that those headed to theaters to try this horror take on a beloved series are skewing younger, and are definitely fans of cast members like Lucy Hale and Maggie Q. They like the idea of a Blumhouse take on a vacation gone wrong, and feel like the Valentine’s Day holiday allows them a good excuse for a popcorn flick.”

Hale, who now stars on CW’s Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene, is the biggest social media driver of the film, counting 38.4M followers which is more than a third of Fantasy Island‘s social media reach across Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram (112.5M).

Taking a lesson out of its own playbook that spicy romance pics work over the Valentine’s Day frame, the studio behind the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, Universal, saw Photograph work best in the Southeast and Northeast, with markets such as Atlanta, New York, and Washington DC significantly over-performing their norms, drawing 48% African American, 27% Caucasian, 17% Hispanic and 8% Asian/Other. The $15M feature production in updated exits saw 56% females, with 62% under 35.

Said Universal domestic boss of distribution Jim Orr, “Will Packer continues to be one of the most prolific and versatile producers in the industry. Here with The Photograph, director Stella Meghie crafted a beautiful and touching romance featuring an incredible cast led by Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield. With these very positive reaction scores we expect a strong domestic run from this holiday launch.”

Sony’s Bad Boys for Life is seeing a great hold in weekend 5 of $12.8M in 5th over FSSM, 3-day of $11.3M (-6%) and running total by Monday of $182.8M. A $210M final for the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence reteam is in the Sony pic’s future.

8th place belongs to NEON’s Parasite, which expanded from 1,060 venues to 2,001 following its Oscar Best Picture win for a 4-day of $6.6M per the distrib and running total by Monday of $44.3M. 3-day of $5.5M, is +243%. The Bong Joon Ho movie posted solid numbers in its core runs of New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, DC, Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, Phoenix, Toronto and more.

The Oscar boost for the pic timed with Valentine’s Day weekend is the perfect storm that is bound to take Parasite to a final of $50M, which would still be the 4th-highest-grossing foreign-language release of all-time, behind Sony Pictures Classics’ four-time Oscar-winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ($128.1M, 2000), Miramax’s three-time Oscar winner Life Is Beautiful ($57.2M, 1997)and Miramax’s Hero ($53.7M, 2002).

Searchlight’s Downhill isn’t melting any snow with a lackluster start of $5.2M over 4-days in 10th place, and awful exits of a D CinemaScore and PostTrak of 1 star, and a 26% definite recommend, agreeing with critics’ loathing of the Force Majeure remake at 42% rotten.

Though the 4-day is better than the $3.75M-$4.25M 4-day, Searchlight was spotting, but, man, this is a Will Ferrell film and star power has to mean at least something, not that this movie was ever suppose to do double digits. Wow, Holmes and Watson did better than Downhill in its CinemaScore with a D+.

At this level, it’s not going to be hanging around theaters. Arguably funnier than Marriage Story, the fact is that no one wanted to see a marriage on the rocks during a ski resort vacation that’s been impacted by an avalanche, specifically played out by Will Ferrell and Julia Louis Dreyfus. Best markets for Downhill were in the West, but even there it wasn’t that strong.

Overall ticket sales for the 4-day domestic weekend are estimated to be around $185.6M, which though +21% from last year’s Presidents Day/Valentines Day stretch, is still far off from the massive 2018 record $346.5M when Disney/Marvel had Black Panther on marquees.

Sunday AM numbers per studio-reported figures:

 

Weekend B.O. For Feb. 14-17

thumbrankpicdisscrs(cg)frisatsun3-day4-daytlwk
1Sonic the HedgehogPar4,167$21M$20.5M$15.5M$57M$68M$68M1
2Birds of PreyWB4,236$6.3M$6.3M$4.4M$17.1M (-48%)$19.6M$61.7M2
3fantasy IslandSony/Blum2,784$5.4M$4.1M$2.9M$12.4M$14M$14M1
4The PhotographUni2,516$6.3M$3.7M $2.2M$12.2M $13.3M$13.3M1
5Bad Boys for LifeSony3,185 (-345)$4.1M$4.3M$2.9M$11.3M (-6%)$12.8M$182.8M5
61917Uni/Amb/NR3,084 (-464)$2.4M$3.2M $2.4M$8.1M (-12%)$9.3M$145.6M8
7Jumanji: Next LevelSony2,410 (-319)$1.8M$2.1M$1.7M$5.7M (+3%)$7M$307M10
8ParasiteNEON2,001 (+941)$1.7M$2.1M$1.65M$5.5M  (+243%)$6.6M$44.3M19
9DolittleUni2,869 (-593)$1.6M$1.8M$1.57M$5M (-23%)$6.3M$71.7M5
10DownhillSea2,301$2M$1.5M$1M$4.6M$5.2M$5.2M1

 

******

Industry estimates as of Saturday AM:

Box Office For Feb. 14-17

thumbrankfilmdis.screens (chg)friday(vs. pv fri)3-day4-daytlwk
1Sonic The HedgehogPar4,167$21M$53.9M$64.3M$64.3M1
2Birds of PreyWB4,236$6.3M (-51%)$17.6M (-47%)$20M$62.1M2
3Fantasy IslandSony/Blum2,784$5.4M$12.9M $14.6M$14.6M1
4The PhotographUni2,516$6.3M$12.6M $13.8M$13.8M1
5Bad Boys for LifeSony3,185 (-345)$4M (+33%)$5.5M (-8%)$12.45M$182.4M5
61917Uni/Amb/NR3,084 (-464)$2.46M (+7%)$7.8M (-15%)$9.06M$145.3M8
7Jumanji: Next LevelSony2,410 (-319)$1.8M (+48%)$6.7M (+22%)$8.4M$308.4M10
8DolittleUni2,869 (-593)$1.6M (+11%)$6.2M (-4%)$8M$73.4M5
8ParasiteNEON2,001 (+941)$1.7M (+322%)$5.5M (+234%)$6.47M$44.1M19
10DownhillSea2,301$2.1M$5.3M $5.98M$5.98M1

UPDATED, midday Friday: Sonic the Hedgehog is quickly looking like a hit, besting the top end of its $50 million four-day projection with $55 million, off a $17M Friday (including $3M previews) and $45M three-day. Great stuff. Die-hard fans at Paramount’s special Los Angeles screening on Wednesday were abuzz with what the studio got right with this adaptation, including the pic’s game location references, characters and music — the pic is loaded with a bundle of Easter Eggs galore. This critter’s bad teeth are long forgotten.

Among top domestic openings for movies based on video games, the record currently belongs to Legendary/Warner Bros’ Pokemon: Detective Pikachu with a $54.3M three-day cume. In second is Paramount/Mutual Company’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie ($47.7M). At its current level, Sonic would rank third all time.

Warner Bros’ Birds of Prey will take second place with a four-day total of $18.9M in Weekend 2, includidng a three-day of $15.3M (-54%) off a second Friday of $5.9M. Its 11-day total is heading toward $61M.

Sony/Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island is looking at $15.1M over four days in third off a $5.6M Friday and three-day total of $13.4M. Rotten Tomatoes off last minute reviews is currently nothing to dream about at 14%. Despite that, I hear some exhibitors like the movie. Right now many are betting the pic over-indexes past its $12M tracking projection since it’s Valentine’s Day and the pic is prime as a date-night option.

In fourth is Universal’s The Photograph, with $6M today, $12.2M  for three days and $13.4M for four.

Fifth goes to Sony’s Bad Boys for Life is at $13.1M over four days in its fifth weekend. Pic’s Friday is $4.2M, and its three-day cume is looking at $11.6M (-22%). Total by Monday is looking to be $183.1M. More good news in Sony land: Jumanji: The Next Level crossed $300M yesterday. The sequel is 19% behind the last reboot’s running total in Week 9, which ended its stateside run at $404.5M.

Downhill is outside the top 5 this frame with $6.2M over four days, better than what tracking was seeing but not spectacular off last night’s icy exits. Friday is looking at $2.1M (including $200,000 in previews last night) and a three-day total of $5.5M.

PREVIOUSLY, 7:34 PM: Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog got off to a solid start Thursday night, scoring $3 million from shows that began at 5 PM at 3,150 locations.

That number is the same as what DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World made last February — a $3M Thursday off 6 PM showtimes — before soaring to a $55M opening weekend. Other titles Sonic is being compared to off its previews include Lego Batman ($2.2M, 5 PM previews, $53M opening), Lego Movie 2 ($1.5M 4 PM previews, $34.1M opening), and MGM/UAR’s animated The Addams Family ($1.25M 4 PM previews, $30.3M opening). Tracking and industry estimates have a wide projection on the four-day total for Sonic: $40M-$50M.

After last weekend’s letdown with Warner Bros’ Birds of Prey coming in 37% under its projections with $33M, man, do theaters need a hit this weekend. Working in all studios’ and exhibitors’ favor is the holiday break, with 21% K-12 schools and 9% colleges off today and 90% K-12 and 32% colleges out Monday for the Presidents Day holiday.

Sonic is at 65% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which though lower than it was yesterday still won’t hurt it because it’s a family film. Already there’s been a CinemaScore screening for the film, with Sonic TV spots touting an A- grade. Sonic‘s PostTrak exits were strong last night with 4 stars from general audiences, 4 stars from parents, and 5 stars from kids under 12. Of those who showed up, 60% were general audience, 40% were parents and kids. Boys under 12 outnumbered girls, 69%-31%. Definite recommend was 66% for general audiences, 72% from parents and 82% from kids — all great scores.

Lifelong fans of the Sega game are turning up wearing Sonic shirts, abundant at Wednesday’s special Los Angeles screening as well as last night’s 7 PM show at the Century City AMC which was sold out.

Universal’s Issa Rae-LaKeith Stanfield romance movie The Photograph earned $650,000 at 2,250 theaters last night from shows that began at 7 PM. The Stella Meghie-written and -directed film is expected to do between $12.5M-$15M over the four-day weekend. The pic expands to 2,516 theaters today. RT is at 79% fresh. Photograph‘s exits were 3 stars, a 49% definite recommend, with 51% females over 25, 31% males over 25 who were pulled in on a date, 12% women under 25 and 7% men under 25. Diversity demos were 47% African Americans, 33% Caucasians, 13% Hispanic, and 6% Asian.

Sony did not hold previews last night for Blumhouse’s feature take on the hit 1980s ABC show Fantasy Island. The studio held last-minute previews quite late: yesterday at 2 PM, and unfortunately that only makes us more suspicious about the $7M pic’s prospects here for the weekend. Tracking was lowered to $12M over the four-day frame yesterday from $13M-$15M.

Searchlight also has the Will Ferrell-Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy Downhill opening today at 2,301 theaters. Previews were held last night (and we’re waiting on them) because PostTrak audiences did not like the movie with a half-star and low 19% definite recommend. Maybe because it was the Farrell fans who showed up wanting something else, with guys over 25 at 46% (but they also brought dates, with women over 25 at 36%). Critics hated the remake of Force Majeure at 45% Rotten. The hoped-for opening is between $3.75M-$4.25M.

Birds of Prey ends the week with $42.1M at 4,236 locations. The Harley Quinn movie’s second four-day weekend is expected to be around $23M-$25M, off 25%-30% from the pic’s three-day total. If you’re looking for the film at your local cinema or online ticketing apps, it’s listed as Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

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