Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach are poised to clobber the box office competition as “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” readies to power past the $100 million mark in its opening weekend.
Universal and Illumination’s big screen adaptation of the popular video game, which opens in 4,000 North American theaters on Wednesday, looks to collect a towering $125 million or more in its first five days of release. It’ll be the second 2023 release, following Disney’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” ($106 million) to open above $100 million.
“Mario” will easily lead domestic box office charts over last weekend’s champ, “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” as well as fellow newcomer “Air,” a sports drama directed by Ben Affleck.
Ticket sales for “D&D” are projected to drop by 50-55% after its $37.2 million opening weekend. It’ll be in a close race for second place with “Air,” which debuts on Wednesday and aims to score $16 million to $18 million over the five-day period. Amazon is bringing the $90 million-budgeted movie to 3,507 cinemas, marking one of the rare streaming-backed movies to get a traditional theatrical release.
“Mario,” directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, follows the mustachioed plumber and friends as they prepare to stop the all-powerful Bowser from world domination. Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” as “sheer animated fun,” writing that “second time’s the charm for Mario on film.”
That’s a relief to fans who were burned by the 1993 live-action “Super Mario Bros,” starring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi, which became the textbook example of failed video game adaptations after flopping in spectacular fashion. So, despite the brand’s ubiquity — Nintendo has reportedly sold more than 413 million copies of the game and grossed more than $30 billion since 1985 — the upcoming “Mario” movie wasn’t a guaranteed win for Universal, Illumination, and Mario’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto. (On top of that, Pratt’s casting of the playful Italian plumber, didn’t go over well on the internet.)
But times and tastes have changed since the ill-fated adaptation from the ’90s. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” comes to the big screen at (comparatively) boon times for game-to-screen stories. The genre, which was once filled with more misses than hits, has experienced a revival thanks to “Sonic the Hedgehog” and its 2022 sequel, Tom Holland’s “Uncharted” and more recently, “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.”
Elsewhere, “Air” is hoping to serve as counter-programming by catering to a different kind of enthusiast — sneaker-heads. Amazon Studios spent $40 million to market the movie, including a rousing premiere at SXSW. It’s not clear how long the film is playing on the big screen before it’ll stream on Prime Video — or what kind of ticket sales it’ll need to count as a win for Amazon.
“Air” recounts the true story of the Nike shoe salesman who pursues NBA rookie Michael Jordan for a deal to wear their shoes. Affleck also directed the R-rated film in his first return behind the camera since 2016’s “Live by Night.” He and Damon are reuniting as Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro and Nike co-founder Phil Knight, respectively, while Viola Davis is starring as Michael Jordan’s mother, Deloris.
In Variety’s review, chief film critic Peter Debruge referred to “Air” as the “ultimate example of the American dream, a funny, touching Cinderella story about how the third-place sneaker brand wished upon a star, and how that man — and his mother — were smart enough to know their value.”