NEW YORK (AP) — Riding terrific reviews and a strong word-of-mouth, the role playing game adaptation “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” opened with $38.5 million in U.S. and Canadian movie theaters over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, stealing the top box-office perch from “John Wick: Chapter 4.”
The Paramount Pictures and eOne release appealed to more moviegoers than many expected a film based on a notoriously niche table top game to interest. “Game Night” directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley turned in a rollicking comic action-adventure, with a cast including Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page and Hugh Grant, that’s bringing in ticket buyers less familiar with “D&D.” Audiences gave “Honor Among Thieves,” which launched with a raucous opening-night premiere at SXSW, an A- CinemaScore. It scored 91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
“We know how good our movie is,” said Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount. “I know it’s been said before, but I think opening to $38-39 million is just the start. These kind of exits polls translate to playability.”
“Dungeons & Dragons” was also a big roll of the dice. The film, co-produced and co-financed by Paramount with eOne, which is owned by Hasbro, cost $150 million to make. With a production cost like that, “Dungeons & Dragons” will be looking for sustained sales through April and similar success overseas to potentially kickstart a new franchise. It launched internationally with $33 million.
“The challenge with this film is convincing everyone that this film is for you,” said Aronson. “Jonathan and John, these guys are really talented and great collaborators. We’re going to work more with them. Hopefully, this will be the start of a franchise.”
“John Wick: Chapter 4,” which launched last weekend with a franchise-best $73.5 million, slid to second place in its second weekend with $28.2 million. While a sizeable dip, the assassin action film, starring Keanu Reeves, has already accrued $122.8 million domestically and, after adding another $35 million internationally over the weekend, $245 million worldwide. Lionsgate has no shortage of plans for further expansion in the franchise.
Along with “John Wick: Chapter 4,” “Creed III” and “Scream VI,” “Dungeons & Dragons” adds to a string of well-received March releases that have surpassed box-office expectations and scored well with audiences. It’s a streak that Universal Pictures’ “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” will look to continue next weekend.
“While it may not be the highest grossing March ever, this is one of the best months of March for the industry in its history, coming off of three years of a pandemic-challenged marketplace,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “March is not the summer, but it’s sure felt like the summer, with hit after hit.”
Those film have helped push the 2023 box office well ahead of last year’s pace, up 28.7%, according to David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research. Still, overall ticket sales aren’t yet up to pre-pandemic levels, trailing the 2017-2019 average by 28.8%.
Games and toys are also proving to be dependable big-screen resources. “Dungeons & Dragons” will be followed this year by Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and a new “Transformers” movie. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is expected to extend a rising trend for the once-derided video game adaptation.
“Dungeons & Dragons” had little competition from new releases. The Christian drama “His Only Son” debuted with $5.3 million. A.V. Rockwell’s Sundance Film Festival grand jury prize winner “A Thousand and One,” about a mother (Teyana Taylor) who kidnaps her son from foster care, opened with $1.8 million at 926 theaters for Focus Features.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1.”Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” $38.5 million.
2. “John Wick, Chapter 4,” $28.2 million.
3. “Scream VI,” $5.3 million. (Tie)
3. “His Only Son,” $5.3 million. (Tie)
5. “Creed III,” $5 million.
6. “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” $4.7 million.
7. “A Thousand and One,” $1.8 million.
8. “65,” $1.6 million.
9. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” $1.2 million.
10. “Jesus Revolution,” $1 million.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP