“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” topped the box office in its debut, beating expectations by collecting an impressive $21 million in North American ticket sales.
The anime film, playing on 3,007 screens, is being distributed domestically by Crunchyroll, which specializes in anime film and television. “Super Hero” is a necessary bright spot in an otherwise dreary August at the box office. The newest “Dragon Ball Super” installment earned twice as much as the weekend’s other new nationwide release, Universal’s survival thriller “Beast,” starring Idris Elba. Dinged by mixed reviews, “Beast” opened to a modest $11.5 million from 3,743 North American cinemas.
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“We’re absolutely thrilled that ‘Dragon Ball’ fans could come together to experience and enjoy this amazing film in theaters,” Mitchel Berger, Crunchyroll’s senior VP of global commerce, said in a statement. “Crunchyroll thanks all of the fans, whether or not you are a ‘super’ fan or a newcomer, and we hope they come back again and again.”
“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” is the latest example of the passionate audience for anime films in the United States. Crunchyroll, which is owned by Sony Pictures, has been owning the market in North America. Earlier this year, the company’s PG-13 “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” notched a remarkable $17.6 million in its debut, while its 2021 release “Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train” generated $21.2 million to start, which is even more impressive since cinemas were still operating at reduced capacity at the time. However, anime features tend to play like horror films in terms of ticket sales, with front-loaded performances begetting substantial declines after the first week of release.
Directed by Tetsuro Kodama, the well-reviewed “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” benefitted from its presence in premium formats, including Imax, 4DX and Dolby Cinemas. The movie played on 327 Imax screens, which accounted for $3.4 million in domestic ticket sales. At Imax, those returns rank as the widest and highest-grossing opening weekend for an anime film. For CJ 4DPlex, a South Korean company that specializes in immersive multi-sensory technology, “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” also set an anime record in the format with $525,000 from 51 domestic screens.
“This is another outstanding Crunchyroll anime opening. This has become an impressive niche theatrical business,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. But, he adds, “Crunchyroll movies play fast in the U.S.; their domestic multiples are low.”
Like critics, audiences were similarly mixed on “Beast,” giving the film a so-so “B” CinemaScore. Directed by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (“Adrift”), “Beast” follows a father and his two teenage daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries), who find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion. The movie, which cost $36 million to produce, has raked in $10.2 million to date at the international box office.
Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution, is encouraged that “Beast” appealed to a broad audience. Among opening weekend crowds, 34% were African American, 26% were Caucasian, 23% were Hispanic and 10% were Asian. Meanwhile 47% of ticket buyers were above the age of 35, skewing slightly older than expected.
“It’s great to see,” Orr says, referring to the audience breakdown. “It’s a very good start to what I’m convinced will be a great run.”
Elsewhere on domestic box office charts, Sony’s action-thriller “Bullet Train” slid to third place after two consecutive weekends at No. 1. The movie brought in $8 million from 3,781 locations in its third weekend of release, taking its domestic tally to $68.9 million. That’s a decent result for a star-driven action film outside of a franchise in today’s fractured moviegoing landscape. But it cost $90 million to make — and many millions more to promote to the masses — meaning it needs to keep chugging along in theaters to justify its hefty budget. “Bullet Train” has amassed $81 million overseas and a solid $150 million globally.
In fourth place, Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” pulled in $5.85 million from 2,969 locations in its 13th weekend of release. Tom Cruise’s blockbuster action sequel, which hits home entertainment in the coming days, has grossed an eye-popping $683 million to date, enough to overtake Marvel’s 2018 superhero epic “Avengers: Infinity War” ($678 million) as the sixth-highest grossing domestic release in history. For those keeping track at home, it’s only $17 million away from catching the No. 5 spot, “Black Panther” ($700 million). Since it opened in theaters over Memorial Day weekend, “Maverick” has only spent one weekend outside of the top five on North American box office charts.
The Warner Bros. animated adventure “DC League of Super-Pets” took the No. 5 slot with $5.77 million from 3,537 venues. After four weeks in theaters, the family friendly film has generated $66.4 million in North America.
On the independent scene, A24’s slasher satire “Bodies Bodies Bodies” took 10th on domestic charts, adding $2.4 million from 2,541 theaters. The movie, which has been slowly expanding its footprint in recent weeks, has generated $7.4 million to date.
In far fewer theaters, Paramount’s psychological horror film “Orphan: First Kill” collected $1.6 million from just 498 venues. The prequel to 2009’s “Orphan” has such a scant screen count because it debuted simultaneously on digital platforms and on Paramount+, the studio’s streaming service.
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