The DC superhero film Blue Beetle led weekend ticket sales with an estimated US$25.4 million (S$34.5 million), according to studio estimates, dethroning Barbie from the top spot after a record-setting run that left movie theatres coloured pink for a month.
The Barbie phenomenon is far from over. Greta Gerwig’s film, which earlier this week became the highest grossing Warner Bros release ever domestically, nearly managed to stay No 1 again with US$21.5 million in its fifth weekend. It’s up to US$567.3 million in North America and an eye-popping US$1.28 billion globally.
And the other half of Barbenheimer also continues to perform remarkably well for a movie so far into its run. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer took in US$10.6 million in its fifth week. With a US$285.2 million domestic total, Oppenheimer now owns the distinction of being the biggest box-office hit never to land No 1 at the weekend box office. The previous record-holder for that unlikely stat is 2016’s Sing, which grossed US$270.3 million in the shadow of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Hidden Figures.
Oppenheimer has done even better overseas. Its global gross stands at an estimated US$717.8 million through Sunday.
Blue Beetle, starring Xolo Maridueña, came in on the lower side of expectations and notched one of the lower debuts for a DC Comics movie. Though earlier planned as a streaming-only release, Warner Bros elected to put Blue Beetle, the first DC movie to star a Latino superhero, into theatres in the late summer, a typically quiet period at the box office.
The production price tag of about US$105 million was lower for Blue Beetle than the average superhero film. It’s the final release produced under an earlier regime at DC Studios, which James Gunn and Peter Safran took the reins of last year.
The film, directed by Ángel Manuel Soto and written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, drew solid reviews – certainly better than the three previous DC releases this year (The Flash, Black Adam and Shazam! Fury Of The Gods). Blue Beetle (76 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) is the rare comic-book film to put a Hispanic cast front and centre.
But it also faced some tough luck, and not just the unexpected staying power of Barbie and Oppenheimer. Southern California was bracing on Sunday (Aug 20) for Hurricane Hilary – potentially dampening ticket sales in the region. (Los Angeles was still its top market.) And like recent releases, Blue Beetle didn’t have its cast available to promote the movie due to the ongoing actors strike.
Universal’s raunchy R-rated canine comedy Strays showed even less bite. The film, with a voice cast including Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx, landed in fifth place with US$8.4 million. Comedies have generally struggled in theatres in recent years, but Strays had it particularly rough given that its starry cast was unavailable.