Blue Beetle Ends Barbie’s Box Office Streak



Blue Beetle” has dethroned “Barbie” at the domestic box office. The latest DC superhero adventure claimed the No. 1 spot despite a softer-than-expected debut of $25.4 million.

At the international box office, “Blue Beetle,” starring Xolo Maridueña as the alien symbiote, added $18 million from 63 markets. With $43 million globally, it’s one of the softest starts in the history of the DC Cinematic Universe.

After four consecutive weekends in first place, “Barbie” landed on her feet at second place with $21.5 million from 4,003 theaters, a huge result at this point in its theatrical run. After five weeks of release, Greta Gerwig’s fantasy-comedy has generated $567 million and will soon overtake Universal’s animated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($574 million) as the biggest domestic release of the year.

“Blue Beetle” cost more than $100 million to produce and many millions more to promote, so it’ll need to defy the box office odds to justify its price tag. Reviews and word of mouth may not do much to fill seats; the film has a “B+” CinemaScore and 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. In a note to press, Warner Bros. suggested the impact of Tropical Storm Hilary “is anticipated to be significant, particularly in Southern California where the film is over‐indexing.”

It’s the third DC film in 2023 to tumble out of the gate after “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” ($30.1 million in March) and “The Flash” ($55 million in June). Even 2021’s “The Suicide Squad,” which debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, enjoyed a bigger start with $26.2 million. But that film — as well as “Shazam 2” and “The Flash,” which flopped in their theatrical runs — were based on higher-profile characters compared to Blue Beetle.

Directed by Ángel Manuel Soto, the film centers on college graduate Jaime Reyes, who gets chosen to become a symbiotic host to an ancient alien biotech relic that turns him into the superhero known as Blue Beetle. A fourth DC adaptation, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” is slated to release in December before the studio’s new chiefs James Gunn and Peter Safran take the faltering comic book universe in an entirely new direction.

“After a dozen nearly flawless years, the [comic book] genre has performed unevenly during the last 3-and-a-half years,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “We’re going to know more about superheroes in November and December,” he adds in reference to “Aquaman 2” as well as Disney’s sequel “The Marvels” on Nov. 10. “Those two films will determine the state of superheroes in 2023 and going forward.”

Universal’s talking-dog comedy “Strays” also stumbled in its debut, digging up a paltry $8.3 million from 3,223 theaters for a fifth-place finish. The R-rated movie cost $46 million and could struggle overseas, where funny films tend to have limited appeal. It flopped at the international box office with $1.9 million from 21 territories for a global tally of $10 million.

“This is a soft opening,” says Gross. “Audience ratings are good, with lukewarm reviews from critics.”

Theatrical comedies are a rare breed in Hollywood these days, and even with a starry voice cast of Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx, “Strays” fared far worse than Jennifer Lawrence’s raunchy “No Hard Feelings” ($15 million) and Universal’s drug-fueled “Cocaine Bear” ($23 million). It barely beat Bert Kreischer’s stand-up inspired “The Machine,” which crumbled with $5 million.

“Strays” landed behind two holdovers, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.”

“Oppenheimer” took third place with $11 million in its fifth weekend of release, bringing ticket sales to $286 million. The R-rated historical drama crossed $700 million at the global box office over the weekend, surpassing 2014’s “Interstellar” ($714 million) to stand as Nolan’s fourth-highest grossing movie. It’s the fourth-biggest release of the year behind “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($1.35 billion), “Barbie” ($1.27 billion) and “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3” ($845 million).

Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” landed at the No. 4 spot with $8.4 million from 3,477 venues. After three weekends on the big screen, the animated family comedy has grossed $88.1 million in North America and $30 million internationally. It cost $70 million and will end up as a modest box office performer.

At the specialty box office, Park Chan-Wook’s 2003 vengeance thriller “Oldboy” returned to 250 theaters in honor of its 20th anniversary. The film grossed $880,000 in five days and will cross $1 million in its first week of re-release, an impressive result for a re-release. The top-performing cities were San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, according to Neon.

Elsewhere, “Meg 2: The Trench” swam past the $300 million mark with worldwide ticket sales at $316.6 million. A majority of those returns are coming from international territories, where the shark sequel has grossed $250 million. The follow-up isn’t living up to its predecessor, 2018’s “The Meg,” which earned $145 million in North America and $529 million globally. At the domestic box office especially, “The Trench” has been shark bait in the wake of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”


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