Box Office: ‘Mortal Kombat’ Pulls Ahead of Surprisingly Strong ‘Demon Slayer’

For the first time since the pandemic struck, not one, but two movies brought in notable ticket sales at the domestic box office. It’s the clearest indication yet that people appear ready to return to the movies after nearly a year of staying home to stream.

“Mortal Kombat,” a martial arts-inspired adaptation of the popular video game, led U.S. box office charts, taking in a robust $22.5 million from 3,073 North American venues. The Warner Bros. movie is already available to watch on the streaming service HBO Max for a month — a strategy the studio is deploying for its entire 2021 slate.

Though the R-rated “Mortal Kombat” easily cinched first place, it had more competition than it may have expected heading into the weekend. In a not-so-distant second, “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” earned a solid $15.9 million from 1,598 locations. That number is slightly below estimations that suggested the movie could reach $19.5 million over the weekend, but it’s an impressive haul nonetheless. The anime action adventure, from Funimation and Aniplex, has been a massive commercial hit in international markets such as Japan, where it currently ranks as the highest-grossing movie ever with $365 million. In total, “Demond Slayer” has surpassed the $400 million mark.

Box office analysts have been encouraged by the one-two punch of “Mortal Kombat” and “Demon Slayer,” especially since only 50% of cinemas in the country have reopened. Multiplexes that have been able to welcome back patrons have been capping attendance in line with government guidelines. In Los Angeles, for example, that means 50% capacity or 200 people. In New York, theaters are currently operating at 25% capacity and will be able to expand to 33% starting on Monday.

“This weekend is another very good step,” said David A. Gross, who runs the movie consultancy FranchiseRe. “Moviegoing should start to normalize in early June.” That’s around the time that potential blockbusters, including “A Quiet Place Part II” (May 28), “In the Heights” (June 11) and “Fast & Furious” sequel “F9” (June 25) are expected to open.

Overseas, “Mortal Kombat” collected $6.3 million from 37 foreign territories, brings its international tally to $27.6 million. The film, produced by New Line Cinemas for a modest $55 million, has generated $50 million globally to date.

Among other wide releases, “Godzilla vs. Kong” landed in third place with $4.2 million from 2,856 venues. After four weeks in theaters, the Warner Bros. and Legendary monster mashup has amassed $86.5 million. The film, which is available on HBO Max through the end of April, has surpassed $400 million at the global box office. With those ticket sales, it has surpassed Christopher Nolan’s confusing sci-fi spectacle “Tenet” ($363 million) as the highest-grossing Hollywood blockbuster since the pandemic hit.

“It’s evident that ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is reigniting moviegoing everywhere and that audiences are more than ready to return to theaters, where and when it’s safe, for a big screen experience like this one,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution.

In fourth, Universal’s “Nobody” pulled in $1.86 million in its fifth weekend in theaters. Starring Bob Odenkirk as a take-no-prisoners father of two, the movie has grossed $21 million in the U.S. and $38 million worldwide. Audiences can also rent “Nobody” on demand, for a $20 rental fee, thanks to an agreement that Universal hammered out with theater chains such as AMC and Cinemark.

Rounding out the top five is Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon,” an animated adventure that’s also playing on the streaming service Disney Plus for an extra $30. The movie, geared toward younger audiences, added another $1.6 million to its domestic total, which currently stands at $39.8 million.

More to come…

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