'Sonic' races to $57M debut weekend, and 'Parasite' sees big Oscar bump
NEW YORK — The redesigned "Sonic the Hedgehog" showed plenty of teeth at the box office, speeding to a $57 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday, while "Parasite" saw one of the largest post-Oscars bumps in years following its best picture win.
Paramount Pictures' "Sonic the Hedgehog" came in well above expectations, especially for a movie that just months ago was a laughing stock. After its first trailer was greeted with ridicule on social media last year, "Sonic" was postponed three months to give its title character a design overhaul — including fixing Sonic's eerily human teeth.
The makeover worked, and audiences responded by making "Sonic the Hedgehog" the weekend's top film and the highest-grossing opening for a video game adaptation, not accounting for inflation. For Paramount, it's a welcome success following misfires such as "Gemini Man" and "Terminator: Dark Fate." The studio estimates "Sonic" will gross $68 million over the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
"If you don't listen to your customer, and this goes for any business, then you're going to fail," said Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount. "We retooled Sonic in a way that was obviously very satisfying for the fans and they were very forgiving. Now that they've seen the movie, they love the movie. It all worked out."
The Sega video game adaptation, directed by Jeff Fowler, drew decent reviews (63% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A CinemaScore from moviegoers. The $87 million production co-stars Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik with Ben Schwartz supplying Sonic's voice.
The others: Bong Joon Ho's "Parasite" had its biggest weekend in its 19th week of release. Neon put "Parasite" into its widest release yet (2,001 theaters) following its historic win at the Oscars. ("Parasite" was the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.) And despite the film already being available for weeks on digital platforms and on DVD, its $5.5 million weekend is the largest Oscars bump for a best-picture winner since "Gladiator" in 2001.
Last week's opening of "Birds of Prey" followed up its limp debut by sliding to second with $17.1 million. Following its disappointing opening, some theaters retitled the movie "Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey," instead of "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)."
It was a busy weekend in theaters, with a handful of other new releases — "The Photograph," "Fantasy Island," "Downhill" — seeking to capitalize on both Valentine's Day on Friday and Presidents Day on Monday.
"Fantasy Island," the Blumhouse horror remake of the '70s TV show, fared the best, collecting $12.4 million in ticket sales despite terrible reviews. Sony Pictures handled the release of the low-budget, PG-13 film, which earned just a 9% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Universal Pictures "The Photograph," a romance starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield and produced by Will Packer ("Girls Trip," "Ride Along"), opened with $12.2 million. The film, written and directed by Stella Meghie, cost $15 million to make.
"Downhill," from Disney's Fox Searchlight Pictures, debuted with $4.7 million, a modest start for a film starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. A remake of the acclaimed Swedish film "Force Majeure" by Ruben Östlund, "Downhill" didn't do great with critics but fared even worse with audiences. They gave it a D CinemaScore.
Neon followed up its "Parasite" Oscar win with the Valentine's Day release of "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," one of 2019's most acclaimed films. Following a one-week qualifying run in December, Celine Sciamma's French period romance opened in 22 theaters with a strong per-theater average of about $20,000.