‘Black Adam’ Nabs $7.6 Million Thursday

Warner Bros. Discovery’s Black Adam (review) got off to a solid start on Thursday, earning $7.6 million in advance-day preview showings. That’s well above the $5.9 million earned by Shazam! in April 2019 ($9.225 million with sneak previews). That (better-reviewed and cheaper but also lower-profile) DC Films flick made $53.5 million over its opening weekend ($56.8 million including the sneak peeks). No, we shouldn’t expect Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam to pull a similar 10% Thursday-to-weekend split. Poor reviews (45% and 5.2/10 over at Rotten Tomatoes) and an increased frontloading for those pre-release showings argue for an opening weekend closer to $60 million than $75 million. Anything above $61 million would be a new record for a non-Fast & Furious Dwayne Johnson star vehicle.

Johnson’s films outside of Fast and Furious sequels tend to open over/under $35 million (Rampage, Jungle Cruise, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and $55-$60 million (San Andreas, Jumanji: The Next Level, Hobbs & Shaw). There are folks otherwise disinterested in a DC Films flick who will show up for Dwayne Johnson, and there are those disinterested in The Rock who will show up because it’s a DC Comics movie. The question was to what extent the notion of The Rock playing a DC superhero would inflate the grosses for a very expensive (around $195 million) film starring a B-level comic book character or whether the fandom for Johnson and the die-hard DC fandoms would mostly overlap.

Helping matters is that Black Adam is the first four-quadrant action-fantasy franchise flick since Thor: Love and Thunder in early July. Audiences are likely desperate for big movies and big kids’ movies. Even DC League of Super Pets (starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart) legged out to $95 million domestic from a $23 million debut. That should spur Saturday/Sunday matinee business. We can expect a critic/audience split on this one, since it delivers the colorful, IMAX-worthy, kid-friendly superhero ultraviolence in spades. In an earlier, less franchise-obsessed time, films like Black Adam weren’t supposed to get rave reviews from us seen-it-all film critics. Pre-teen me didn’t take it personally when Roger Ebert panned Tim Burton’s Batman movies.

The film cost over/under double Birds of Prey and Shazam!, and it’s likely to get kneecapped in three weeks by Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Overseas business should be decent, but there’s no guarantee of a Chinese release or a face-saving China box office result, even if it does play there. Sure, Rampage grossed $155 million in 2018 and Hobbs & Shaw earned $205 million in 2019, but The Batman and Wonder Woman 1984 made over/under $25 million and Shazam! (back in 2019) grossed just $43 million. This is a New Line production with the budget of a big-deal Warner Bros. tentpole. Grosses on par with a Conjuring Universe film won’t cut it this time.

Nonetheless, an $7.6 million Thursday gross likely means that we won’t be looking at anything under $55 million for the Fri-Sun frame. Could it soar closer to $70 million by Sunday night? Absolutely, and that would be an unmitigated win for all invested parties. If it does open well this weekend, it won’t be because of credit cookies or non-stop chatter (courtesy of Johnson) about a Black Adam vs. Superman movie that may never happen. Let’s see how you handle Shazam first, Mr. Adam. It’ll be because audiences thought a Black Adam movie starring Dwayne Johnson looked worth seeing in theaters and even the bad reviews assured folks that they’d get what they were paying for.

Meanwhile, Universal’s Ticket to Paradise earned $1.1 million in Thursday previews. The $60 million-budgeted George Clooney/Julia Roberts rom-com, about two divorced parents who team up to sabotage their daughter’s wedding, has already earned $72.5 million overseas following a slow international roll-out. Movies aimed at adults and not encased in franchises or fandoms don’t tend to break the bank on Thursday night, so we should still be looking and an over/under $15 million domestic debut. The movie works as a reminder of movie star chemistry and raw star power, and I expect it’ll be leggy over the next month as the only game in town for audiences who don’t care about Marvel or DC.

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