Weekend Box Office: Zendaya’s CHALLENGERS Smashes the Competition

1. Challengers
Amazon MGM | NEW
$15M Opening Weekend

Amazon/MGM’s romantic sports drama Challengers was in it to win it this weekend as it took the #1 spot with an estimated $15,011,078 from 3477 locations. That’s a $4,317 PSA, as well as a huge win for leading lady Zendaya who is the clear MVP here by opening an original R-rated three-hander drama arguably almost entirely off the back of her star power. (After all, her face does take up almost 100% of the poster). The debut is in line with our projections, which had the movie opening above $13 million.

This is also the second-highest opening for an original R-rated drama since the pandemic, under Don’t Worry Darling’s $19M debut and above others like Air and House of Gucci, which both opened in the $14M range. Amazon emphasizes that the theatrical is not their end-all/be-all and is meant to drive downstream value for the title when it eventually debuts on their service, likely later this summer. According to Deadline the movie was budgeted at $50+ million.

Exit data showed the audience skewing younger (76% under 35 years of age) and female (58%), with a noted number of young women showing up to the film in pairs or groups. This suggests Challengers as a communal experience that may drive the next few weekends if The Fall Guy doesn’t sap some of that audience.

  • 41% – 18-24 years
  • 35% – 25-34 years
  • 22% – 35 years and older

Compare this to 2022’s tennis biopic King Richard, where 55% of opening weekend audience was 35-plus with 33% over age 50, although it was a similar 60/40 split favoring women. Meanwhile, demographics for Challengers skewed largely white…

  • 43% Caucasian
  • 27% Hispanic
  • 17% African American
  • 9% Asian
  • 4% other

Warner Bros. is handling international territories, where Challengers generated an estimated $9M for the weekend on 6,344 screens in 52 markets, including France, Italy, Korea, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, and the UK. Numbers from last weekend‘s Australia and New Zealand release only fell -21% this week. An additional 12 markets open next week including Belgium and Holland, with Japan as the final scheduled market on June 7. Internationally the film is at $10M, with the global running cume now at an estimated $25M.

An underserved sub-genre of sports film, the tennis movie has generally had moderate results at the domestic box office in the last two decades…

  • Wimbledon (2004) – $16.8M
  • Match Point (2005) – $23M
  • Battle of the Sexes (2017) – $12.6M
  • Borg vs McEnroe (2017) – $231K
  • King Richard (2021) – $15.1M

Likewise, the films of director Luca Guadagnino definitely have a domestic ceiling, even for Best Picture nominee Call Me By Your Name

  • I Am Love (2009) – $5M
  • A Bigger Splash (2016) – $2M
  • Call Me By Your Name (2017) – $18M
  • Suspiria (2018) – $2.4M
  • Bones and All (2022) – $7.8M

So why did Challengers succeed when two of the major components usually don’t deliver on this level? Easy: the Zendaya factor is definitely in play here. The red-hot 27-year-old actress already delivered key supporting roles in the MCU’s Spider-Man trilogy and Legendary’s two Dune pictures, plus a showy part in hit musical The Greatest Showman. March’s Dune: Part Two in particular gave her a dominant presence in a major franchise. Let’s also not forget her Golden Globe and Emmy-winning lead performance in HBO series Euphoria. With her visibility soaring, it was Zendaya’s time to carry a movie and she’s done so with gusto, pretty much guaranteeing she’s at the top of every producer’s A-list now.

Perhaps another big takeaway is that female-driven romances are back in vogue after the success of Challengers as well as last year’s comedies No Hard Feelings and Anyone But You. With these types of pictures becoming nearly exclusive to the streaming realm (see this year’s forthcoming The Idea of You and A Family Affair), studios seem to have forgotten that movie houses are the #1 date destination. Looks like the next big one in theaters is the Blake Lively vehicle It Ends With Us, dropping in August.

2. Unsung Hero
Lionsgate | NEW
$7.75M Opening Weekend

Lionsgate and the Erwin Brothers’ Kingdom Story Company told the true story of the Smallbone family of Christian musicians in Unsung Hero to the tune of an estimated $7,750,000 million to take the #2 spot for the weekend on 2,832 screens. The debut aligns with our prediction range of $6-$10 million and above early tracking leading into the weekend, which had the move opening in the $5-$6 million range. It is also the biggest opening for a faith-based film this year and, with a reported $6 million budget, is well on the way to profitability. Early access screenings on Wednesday night and Thursday night previews definitely helped boost the Friday numbers, but here’s the 3-day…

  • Friday – $3,650,000
  • Saturday – $2,350,000
  • Sunday – $1,750,000

One emerging picture of 2024 is that it is slowly becoming the year faith-based movies turned mainstream at the box office. With the Top 5 success of Ordinary Angels, Cabrini, and the Fathom release of The Chosen: Season 4, family values have never looked more popular… or profitable. Even a general audience picture like Arthur the King that was marketed specifically to Christian audiences performed at a similar level to these other properties. Let’s compare Unsung Heroes‘ opening to these similarly targeted releases from this year…

  • Unsung Hero – $7.75M
  • Arthur the King – $7.63M
  • The Chosen: Season 4 (Ep. 1-3) – $7.37M
  • Cabrini – $7.16M
  • Ordinary Angels – $6.16M
  • Someone Like You – $2.97M

It should be noted that Unsung Heroes did not feature any real name Hollywood talent onscreen, unlike previous Lionsgate/Kingdom Story Company collaborations such as Dennis Quaid in I Can Only Imagine (2018), Kelsey Grammer in Jesus Revolution (2023), or Hilary Swank in Ordinary Angels (2024). The movie did get a big boost from being associated with co-writer/co-producer/co-director Joel Smallbone’s band For King & Country, but as we’ve seen this year -with remarkably similar turnout movie after movie- there is simply a built-in audience of a specific size that is hankering for this content, and Lionsgate specifically knows how to deliver on marketing.

Warner Bros. Continues to Lead 2024 Studio Rankings

Warner Bros.’ two big 2024 releases crossed major global milestones with Dune: Part Two inching past the $700M mark with $704,243,000 million, while the mighty Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire crossed the $500M marker with $519,380,000 million. The films landed at #9 and #3 on domestic chart, respectively. That means New Empire is poised to soon pass 2014’s Godzilla ($529M) and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island ($561M) as the top global earner in Legendary’s MonsterVerse. However, in Japan (where the film is distributed by longtime Godzilla studio Toho) Godzilla X Kong opened at #2 with $2.4M behind Detective Conan: The Million Dollar Pentagram. Not taking the top spot might be attributed to piracy of the month-old US release, an unfavorable comparison to homegrown champ Godzilla Minus One, or a simple dismissiveness of the American version of Godzilla.

Other Notable Performances

Internationally, Universal’s big action comedy The Fall Guy starring Ryan Gosling opened in 3,938 locations in 38 markets for an estimated $8.7M cume. The top market was Australia, with $2.9M across 132 screens, where it performed above Bullet Train and The Lost City, while Spain opened with $1.0M (above The Lost City and Mad Max: Fury Road). Other #1 international openings include the Netherlands, New Zealand, Israel, Ukraine, Central America, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, and Norway.

After scoring big on opening weekend and then holding tight enough to retain the #1 spot in its second, Civil War finally fell from the top this frame with $7,004,038 million in 3,518 theaters to land at #4 with a -38% drop.

It’s not very often you get a movie charting after 2,344 weeks in release, but that’s what happened with Fox’s theatrical re-release of Ridley Scott’s seminal 1979 Alien, which landed at #11 with $1.6M in 1,750 theaters. The sci-fi horror classic is being brought out of theatrical mothballs to grease the wheels for the August 16 release of new entry Alien: Romulus, which is reportedly set somewhere in the 57 years between the events of Scott’s franchise-starter and James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens. Scott serves as producer on Romulus. Between May and September of 1979 Alien earned $59,864,651 million, which was followed by a Halloween 2003 release in 347 theaters of a slightly elongated Director’s Cut which brought in $1,279,565 million in its debut week followed by an additional $435,827 thousand over the following three weeks. This weekend’s performance had a low PSA ($893) compared to the 2003 re-release ($2,950), but the theater count was less about earning and more about advertising Romulus with a 9-minute pre-show interview between Scott and the upcoming entry’s director Fede Álvarez. PostTrak gave the well-known movie 5/5 stars with 92% reporting “positive” and 87% “excellent,” but was this largely younger audiences getting introduced to the film or die hard fans experiencing it on the big screen?

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

Title Weekend Estimate % Change Locations Location Change PSA Domestic Total Week Distributor
Challengers $15,011,078   3,477   $4,317 $15,011,078 1 Amazon MGM S…
Unsung Hero $7,750,000   2,832   $2,737 $7,750,000 1 Lionsgate
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire $7,200,000 -25% 3,312 -346 $2,174 $181,680,000 5 Warner Bros.
Civil War $7,004,038 -38% 3,518 -411 $1,991 $56,194,932 3 A24
Abigail $5,250,000 -49% 3,393 9 $1,547 $18,788,000 2 Universal
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare $3,860,000 -57% 2,845 n/c $1,357 $15,448,667 2 Lionsgate
Kung Fu Panda 4 $3,550,000 -24% 2,767 -188 $1,283 $184,999,000 8 Universal
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire $3,250,000 -27% 2,627 -482 $1,237 $107,388,000 6 Sony Pictures
Dune: Part Two $1,985,000 -33% 1,334 -680 $1,488 $279,743,000 9 Warner Bros.
Boy Kills World $1,675,475   1,993   $841 $1,675,475 1 Roadside Att…
Alien $1,563,000   1,750   $893 $63,568,728 2,345 20th Century…
Monkey Man $1,150,000 -50% 1,538 -1,103 $748 $23,917,000 4 Universal
Spy x Family Code: White $1,100,000 -77% 2,009 n/c $548 $7,075,000 2 Crunchyroll
The Mummy $1,040,000   1,236   $841 $156,599,000 1,304 Universal
The First Omen $700,000 -61% 1,000 -1,430 $700 $19,248,646 4 20th Century…
Arthur the King $253,000 -52% 411 -301 $616 $24,870,172 7 Lionsgate
The Long Game $214,000 -62% 341 -484 $628 $2,764,176 3 Mucho Mas Media
Shrek 2 $170,000 -69% 254 -565 $669 $439,641,000 1,041 Universal
Late Night with the Devil $108,101 -29% 275 24 $393 $9,848,565 6 IFC Films
Sasquatch Sunset $97,964 -79% 562 -294 $174 $897,669 3 Bleecker Street
The Beast $62,300 16% 117 58 $532 $280,078 4 Janus Films
La chimera $40,000 -53% 57 -55 $702 $637,883 5 Neon
One Life $36,557 -51% 95 -28 $385 $5,581,546 7 Bleecker Street
Immaculate $30,240 -76% 55 -145 $550 $15,662,264 6 Neon
Stress Positions $26,743 -11% 15 14 $1,783 $63,033 2 Neon
Humane $25,756   56   $460 $25,756 1 IFC Films

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