Box Office: ‘Gran Turismo’ Opening Races Against ‘Barbie’ for No. 1

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The summer box office wind-down is in action as Columbia Pictures’ “Gran Turismo” looks to outrun a slew of holdovers. The racing feature got off to a head start with an $8.5 million opening day from 3,856 screens, a figure that includes a sizable $5.3 million from preview screenings over recent weeks.

In late July, Sony swerved with its release plans for “Gran Turismo,” bumping the formal opening two weeks later than its initial Aug. 11 release date, but organizing several days of special screenings for the film in hopes to build up world-of-mouth. It’s not atypical for studios to bolster their opening numbers by adding preview grosses — a typical “opening day” gross accounts for ticket sales across Thursday and Friday — but “Gran Turismo” certainly has had more runway than the typical wide release.

On the topic of unique situations, Sunday marks the second National Cinema Day — a promotional event that sees more than 3,000 locations across North American exhibitors discounting tickets to $4. While the industry-induced holiday looks to increase attendance (and concession sales) across theaters, the matter of which releases stand to benefit more from the surge casts some uncertainty over weekend projections.

“Gran Turismo” is now projecting an opening weekend north of $16 million, which places it ahead of the ever-bankable “Barbie” in a race for gold. That wouldn’t be a spectacular figure for the sports drama, which carries a $60 million production budget along with the branding of the popular PlayStation series of the same name.

With no massive main attractions on the horizon, Sony will bet on “Gran Turismo” humming over the coming weeks. Reviews haven’t exactly been warm— with aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes totaling a 49% approval rating from top critics — though Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman filed a rave, writing that the feature “gives the audience a contact high.” Audiences seem to be enthused, as research firm Cinema Score assigned an “A” grade after surveying early moviegoers. That kind of fandom could be fruitful for the film’s fortunes moving forward.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, “Gran Turismo” draws from the real life story of Jann Mardenborough, a young gamer who specializes in auto racing simulations and decides to try going pro. The film stars Archie Madekwe alongside David Harbour and Orlando Bloom.

Even with a shot in the arm of preview grosses, “Gran Turismo” may not be able to outrun “Barbie,” which has a shot at reemerging as box office victor more than one month into release. After falling to the opening of fellow Warner Bros. release “Blue Beetle” last weekend, “Barbie” is projecting a stronger hold than the superhero feature, earning $4 million on Friday (down only 37% from seven days ago). Earlier this week, the hot pink comedy from director Greta Gerwig surpassed “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” to become the highest-grossing domestic release of 2023. The North American haul now tallies $577 million and counting.

“Blue Beetle” is falling to third place in its sophomore outing, earning $2.6 million on Friday. Rivals project a 61% tumble for the superhero feature — not an especially remarkable hold, but far stronger than the plummets that faced this year’s other DC Studios releases, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” (which fell 69%) and “The Flash” (which cratered with 72%). “Blue Beetle” should scuttle up to a $43 million total domestic gross through Sunday, still a ways from accounting for a production budget of more than $100 million.

Universal’s “Oppenheimer” looks to slot in fourth place, projecting a mere 25% drop. Christopher Nolan features have become famous for their endurance at the box office and the sweeping biopic is no exception. Now in its sixth weekend of release, “Oppenheimer” should surpass a $300 million total domestic gross sometime over the next few days.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” will likely repeat in fifth place, expected to fall only 34%. The Paramount release has put up some impressive holds since debuting at the top of August. The total domestic gross is now above $95 million, with the $100 million milestone just on the horizon.

Also opening this weekend, Roadside Attractions is distributing Liam Neeson’s latest action pic “Retribution.” It’s been a while since the star, whose recent line of pictures includes “Memory,” “Blacklight” and the odd period noir “Marlowe,” has made a splash at the box office. “Retribution” looks to continue the pattern, projecting a debut between $2 million and $3 million as a foundation for a video on demand release.

In limited release, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “Bottoms” is bowing in 10 theaters across New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin. After earning strong reviews, the queer comedy made a splash on its opening day, grossing roughly $220,000 for a $22,000 per-theater-average.

Meanwhile, Bleecker Street is releasing “Golda,” a Golda Meir feature starring Helen Mirren, in 883 locations. The film is projecting an opening near the bottom of the top 10 in the low single-digits.

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