Weekend Preview: Zendaya’s CHALLENGERS Looks to Take the Top Spot

Courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios

Two very different wide releases hit the box office this weekend: a steamy love triangle romance set in the world of professional tennis and a faith-based film from production company Kingdom Story Company (I Can Only Imagine). Can the faith-based crowd carry Unsung Hero past the star power of Challengers‘ Zendaya? The Boxoffice Barometer breaks down our predicted top three for this weekend.

Boxoffice Barometer

Forecasting the Top 3 Movies at the Domestic Box Office
April 26-29, 2024

1. Challengers
Amazon/MGM Studios | NEW
Opening Weekend Range: $13 – $20M


  • Fresh off the success of Dune: Part Two—and its accompanying press campaign, during which the fashionable star grabbed headlines over a period of weeks—Zendaya boasts major name recognition, particularly among younger audiences. Her presence in Sony’s Spider-Man movies has only helped boost her visibility, which we believe can help push this mid-budget title to greater prominence in the marketplace.
  • Director Luca Guadagnino, if not a household name, lends Challengers a measure of credibility, particularly among art house crowds, following his work on Call Me By Your Name, Bones and All, A Bigger Splash, and his 2018 Suspiria remake.


  • Though Zendaya may, at this point, be considered an A-list star, she has yet to open a movie on the strength of her name alone; in all her biggest cinematic hits, including the Dune and Spider-Man franchises and 2017 movie musical The Greatest Showman, she played a supporting role.
  • Comps for this one are a tough call; though it is, technically, a sports movie, the marketing leans more on romance and behind-the-scenes drama than the sport itself, making comparisons to tennis movies like Battle of the Sexes (2017) and King Richard (2021) inexact.

2. Unsung Hero
Lionsgate | NEW
Opening Weekend Range: $6 – $10M


  • Previous collaborations between Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company have proven lucrative, with the partnership’s films a prime example of the reliability of the faith-based market. Previous domestic totals include:
    • I Can Only Imagine (2018): $83.4M
    • Ordinary Angels (2024): $19.1M
    • Jesus Revolution (2023): $52.1M
  • Historically, the faith-based market sees more walk-up ticket purchases than do other genres, making it easy to underestimate opening weekend earnings by relying on pre-sales data alone.
  • The film’s modest budget of approximately $6 million relieves the earning pressure on this title at the box office, so even an opening weekend haul on the more modest end of our range would not be considered a failure.


  • While Unsung Hero shares a genre, a production company, and a distribution company with the aforementioned trio of faith-based films, one thing it doesn’t have is a widely recognizable star prominently featured in the cast. Ordinary Angels, released earlier this year, had Hilary Swank in the starring role; I Can Only Imagine featured Dennis Quaid and country star Trace Adkins; and Jesus Revolution has faith-based movie stalwart Kelsey Grammer in a supporting role.
  • Looking outside the domestic market, faith-based films tend to have very little pull internationally, so the blow of a possible underperformance in U.S./Canada is unlikely to be softened by ticket sales in other countries.

3. Civil War
A24 | Week 3
Weekend Range: $4 – $8M


  • Despite the use of a bait-and-switch marketing campaign that sold opening weekend audiences on the promise of an action movie (while delivering a bleak drama that focuses a lot more on journalism instead), Civil War enjoyed a solid hold between its second weekend to keep the top spot at the box office despite competition from three new releases.
  • The film’s divisiveness (it scored a B- CinemaScore over opening weekend) has helped bolster the title as a divisive conversation topic, drawing curious audiences deeper into the film’s run.


  • There are two sides to the coin here. A24’s ad campaign for Civil War presented the film in a somewhat misleading light, making it look more action-heavy and politics-driven than what it actually is—a movie about photojournalism. The bait-and-switch—which resulted in a B- CinemaScore—could turn away audiences looking for a more mainstream film.
  • The box office win Civil War enjoyed in its second weekend might have less to do with the film itself than with the performance of last week’s new releases, namely Universal’s horror film Abigail, which opened to $10.2M—substantially lower than it had performed in pre-release tracking .
  • As discussed in last week’s column, A24’s release strategy for Civil War, to frontload the film in terms of screen count, compared to a more gradual rollout, is an unusual one for the studio—and a risky one given the studio’s reputation for putting out niche or divisive movies. Going into its third weekend, Civil War‘s domestic total sits just under $5M short of its reported $50M budget. Any ground to be caught up needs to be caught up quickly, as next weekend sees the (unofficial) summer movie season kick off with the release of star-driven popcorn flick The Fall Guy from Universal.
Courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios