Weekend Box Office: BOB MARLEY wins, DEMON SLAYER Slays, DRIVE AWAY DOLLS Skids

Credit: Wilson Webb / Working Title / Focus Features -- Photo courtesy Crunchyroll -- Photo courtesy Lionsgate, by Allen Fraser

Demon Slayer: To the Hashira Training

As with The Chosen cutting a big slice of the box office pie the last few weeks, another TV show leaped to the big screen thanks to Sony and Crunchyroll’s release of the dark fantasy anime Demon Slayer: To the Hashira Training in 1,949 theaters. Sony is projecting an $11.575 million weekend for the #2 spot, with $1.1M coming from 151 domestic IMAX screens (worldwide IMAX for the new Demon Slayer is at $4M). This is behind Paramount’s returning champion Bob Marley: One Love, which earned $13.5M domestically to hold the #1 slot despite dropping 53%, but notably on 1648 more screens than its anime competition (3,597). Perhaps if Sony had secured even a few hundred more screens, they could have taken the weekend?

Here’s how the 3-day broke down for Demon Slayer:

  • Friday – $5.525 million (#1 position over Bob Marley)
  • Saturday – $3.530 million
  • Sunday – $2.520 million

The popular anime series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has been on the air since 2019, streaming in the US via Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Funimation. To the Hashira Training, which is made up of clips from the last episode of Season 3 and the first episode of Season 4, has so far taken in a reported $12.1 million overseas since debuting in Japanese theaters on February 2.

In April of 2021, the made-for-theaters animated film Demon Slayer: The Movie – Mugen Train opened at $22,789,600 million to nab second place at the domestic box office before ultimately taking in $49.8 million here. The film went on to make a staggering $507.1 million worldwide (the biggest movie released in 2020, period), becoming the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time both globally and in Japan itself. A compilation film made up of clips from the show titled Demon Slayer: To the Swordsmith Village came out in 2023, where it opened to $10,117,806 million domestically on its way to doing $16.9M in North American territories and $56.1M worldwide.

Here are some of the biggest domestic TV anime-based film openings to compare, along with their domestic totals:

  • Pokemon: The First Movie (1999) – $31,036,678 million ($85.7M total)
  • Demon Slayer: The Movie – Mugen Train (2021) – $22,789,600 million ($49.8M total)
  • Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero (2022) – $21,124,049 million ($32.1M total)
  • Pokemon 2000 (2000) – $19,575,608 million ($43.7M total)
  • Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (2021) – $18,003,204 million ($33.9M total)
  • Demon Slayer: To the Swordsmith Village (2023) – $10,117,806 million ($16.9M total)
  • Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2018) – $9,816,197 million ($30.3M total)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh: The Movie (2004) – $9,485,494 million ($19.7M total)
  • Pokemon 3: The Movie (2001) – $8,240,752 million ($17M total)
  • My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission (2021) – $6,219,176 ($9.7M total)
  • My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (2019) – $5,891,252 ($13.5M total)
  • One Piece Film: Red (2022) – $4,838,903 million ($12.7M total)

Drive Away Dolls

Ethan Coen, one half of the celebrated filmmaking duo The Coen Bros., finally helmed his first solo movie sans brother Joel Coen after four decades making movies. The result, the female-centric comedy-crime-road-movie Drive Away Dolls, is off to a poor start, with Focus Features launching the quirky film in a moderate release across 2,280 theaters to the tune of only $2.4 million. Placing at #8 on the chart, this is well below the projected $4 million for the title. Quality did appear to be a factor here, with a middling 65% critical on Rotten Tomatoes and a “C” CinemaScore.

Leads Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Beanie Feldstein have yet to prove themselves as draws, while some of the bigger cast members (Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal) only had minor roles despite being paraded out in trailers and TV ads. Ultimately, when you have untested stars -and a low-concept original story focused on wacky characters, ala the pair’s The Big Lebowski– you need to deliver the goods, and Drive Away Dolls felt more like a warmed-over Thelma & Louise or post-Tarantino 90’s movie.

When other Coen Brother Joel branched out to do a solo movie with 2021’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, he did so with a major star (Denzel Washington) at the center. Still, because it was an Apple streaming release, it never got to prove itself at the box office despite an Oscar nod for Denzel and rapturous reviews. As it is, the duo is already planning to reunite again for a horror movie.

When they were still a team, the storied films of Joel and Ethan Coen, such as Fargo (1996) or A Serious Man (2009), often did not open wide, preferring a platform release to spread word-of-mouth. Even their Best Picture Academy Award winner, No Country For Old Men, was gradually platformed and spent most of its run on 800-1300 screens, only truly going wide for one post-Oscars weekend on 2037 screens. A scant 6 of the pair’s 18 movies ever opened wide, all of which had at least one major movie star to anchor them (George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Tom Hanks):

  • Hail, Caesar! (2016) – $11,355,225 million
  • True Grit (2010) – $24,830,443 million
  • Burn After Reading (2008) – $19,128,001 million
  • The Ladykillers (2004) – $12,634,563 million
  • Intolerable Cruelty (2003) – $12,525,075 million
  • The Big Lebowski (1998) – $5,533,844 million

Ordinary Angels

The Lionsgate drama Ordinary Angels had a solid debut performance at #3 with $6.5 million this weekend at 3,020 North American locations. Led by Oscar-winner Hilary Swank and Reacher star Alan Ritchson, the movie earned surprisingly positive notices from critics for a faith-based film and an A+ CinemaScore.

Delivering on the high end of expectations ($5-7 million), the audience was 60% female. According to PostTrak 91% of attendees were in the 25+ range, with 56% of that grouping female. With younger male audiences flocking to Demon Slayer, this was perfect counter-programming for a slow end-of-February frame.

Based on the true story of a woman’s efforts to help a father save his child’s life during a blizzard, the film hailed from director Jon Gunn, who has carved out a career directing or producing breakout movies aimed at Christian audiences. Last year’s Jesus Revolution was a particular Cinderella story.

Gunn and Kingdom Story Company’s method of packaging faith films as mainstream while stacking the cast with lower-rung but still recognizable players (Britt Robertson, Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Mike Vogel, Gary Sinise, Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid, Kelsey Grammer) has proven to be a winning formula, with notable growth on each successive film. Here’s how Gunn’s most recent movies have played out financially:

  • Do You Believe? (2015) – $3,591,282 million ($12.9M total)
  • The Case for Christ (2017) – $3,967,885 million ($14.6M total)
  • I Still Believe (2020) – $9,103,614 million ($10.4M total)
  • American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story (2021) – $5,861,836 million ($26.5M total)
  • Jesus Revolution (2023) – $15,882,067 million ($52.1M total)

Ordinary Angels also had a stellar co-screenwriter in the form of Kelly Fremon Craig, whose two writer/director efforts, The Edge of Seventeen and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, have been warmly embraced. She is now well on her way to becoming the Nora Ephron of her generation.

Other Notable Performances

Bob Marley: One Love held strong at the #1 spot with $13.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $71.2M. Overseas, the movie locked down an estimated $15M (almost even with domestic) from 59 markets, giving the reggae music biopic an international total of $49.4M while crossing the $100 million worldwide milestone for $120.6M all-in. It should only be another weekend or two before the film crosses into nine figures domestically. The film also added eight new territories, including a #1 opening in Italy.

While Sony was raking it in with Demon Slayer, their homegrown would-be blockbuster Madame Web sunk 61% from second to fourth place with an estimated $6.0 million for the weekend, bringing its total domestic cume to $35.446 million. The studio had better news as their romantic comedy Anyone but You (also starring Sydney Sweeney) passed the $200 million mark worldwide, with $1.26M coming from North America this frame. The three biggest overseas territories for the rom-com have been…

  • Australia – $14.7M
  • UK – $14.2M
  • Germany – $13.9M

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

TitleWeekend Estimate% ChangeLocationsLocation ChangePSADomestic TotalWeekDistributor
Bob Marley: One Love$13,500,000-53%3,59758$3,753$71,189,0002Paramount
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba—To the Hashira T…$11,575,000 1,949 $5,939$11,575,0001Crunchyroll
Ordinary Angels$6,500,000 3,020 $2,152$6,500,0001Lionsgate
Madame Web$6,000,000-61%4,013n/c$1,495$35,446,0002Sony Pictures
Wonka$2,535,000-28%2,203-144$1,151$214,547,00011Warner Bros.
Drive-Away Dolls$2,400,000 2,280 $1,053$2,400,0001Focus Features
The Beekeeper$1,962,113-39%2,157-400$910$63,144,5467Amazon MGM
The Chosen: Season 4 Episodes 4-6$1,825,115-49%2,079-149$878$7,899,1272Fathom Events
Anyone But You$1,260,000-48%1,455-565$866$87,005,00010Sony Pictures
Land of Bad$984,000-47%1,317197$747$3,596,1552The Avenue
Perfect Days$653,000152%34n/c$19,206$1,328,74916Neon
Lisa Frankenstein$600,000-71%1,366-1,777$439$9,354,0003Focus Features
Mean Girls$450,000-61%728-622$618$72,133,0007Paramount
Night Swim$430,000-42%571-410$753$31,893,0008Universal
Les Misérables$337,000 162 $2,080$149,147,000583Universal
Stopmotion$330,398 384 $860$330,3981IFC Films
The Taste of Things$325,255-50%357-148$911$1,803,12916IFC Films
The Zone of Interest$296,136-42%371-72$798$7,436,48111A24
Trolls Band Together$75,000-35%145-14$517$102,974,00015Universal
The Iron Claw$43,112-61%72-74$599$35,611,82810A24
Wish$39,000-34%70-5$557$63,863,16914Walt Disney
The Holdovers$35,000-25%22658$155$20,082,00018Focus Features
All of Us Strangers$27,000-61%25-25$1,080$3,964,96010Searchlight
About Dry Grasses$14,400 3 $4,800$14,4001Janus Films
Golden Years$6,734 4 $1,684$6,7341Music Box Films
Ennio$3,763-29%2-1$1,882$26,2293Music Box Films
Credit: Wilson Webb / Working Title / Focus Features -- Photo courtesy Crunchyroll -- Photo courtesy Lionsgate, by Allen Fraser