The movie’s franchise-best opening provided the final boost needed to push domestic summer revenue past $4 billion for the first time in the post-pandemic era in a much-needed win for Hollywood studios and theater owners. Equalizer 3‘s estimated $42.3 million four-day opening also makes it the second-biggest Labor Day launch by far behind Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($94.7 million). The holiday isn’t usually home to big tentpoles, but 2021’s Shang-Chi was an exception as the box office struggled to come out of the pandemic.
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The industry achieved the $4 billion milestone on Friday. The final 2023 summer number looks to be $4.087 billion by the time Labor Day wraps, a 19 percent uptick over 2022 but still behind 2019 by 6 percent. (Before Barbenheimer, summer revenue was running a worrisome 7 percent behind 2022 and 15 percent behind 2019).
“For the industry, after a three-year hiatus, to generate enough summer box office heat to again reach the $4B benchmark for the season is a remarkable achievement made even more interesting by the unexpected and often confounding path that led to this key milestone,” says Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “From Barbenheimer to Sound of Freedom and a host of other high-profile hits and somewhat inexplicable misses, the unpredictable nature of this all-important 18-week corridor was on full display. Equalizer 3 is taking us out on a high note!”
Heading into the weekend, Equalizer 3 was tracking to take in $30 million for the four days but strong word-of-mouth kicked in as audiences bestowed the threequel with a glowing A CinemaScore. The film benefits from playing to an ethnically diverse audience. Caucasians made up 33 percent of Friday ticket buyers, followed by Blacks (31 percent), Latinos (20 percent) and Asians/Other (15 percent), according to PostTrak.
The first Equalizer opened to $34.1 million, followed by $36 million for the sequel, not adjusted for inflation. The performance of Equalizer 3 is particularly noteworthy considering Washington couldn’t fully promote the film because of the actors strike.
Overseas, the movie opened to a stellar $26.1 million from its first raft of markets for a global start of at least $68.4 million through Monday.
Greta Gerwig’s Barbie easily held at No. 2 in her seventh weekend with an estimated $13.1 million. The Warner Bros. pic achieved yet another milestone on Sept. 1 when jumping the $600 million mark domestically and passing up the $1.359 billion grossed by Universal and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie at the worldwide box office. Barbie has now become the top-grossing pic of 2023 and grossed $771.5 million overseas for a cume of $1.38 billion through Sunday.
Elsewhere in the top five, DC’s Blue Beetle is pacing to come in No. 3 at the Labor Day box office with an estimated four-day gross of $9.2 million for a domestic total of $458.5 million. The film is holding in better than expected after a soft opening and has jumped the $100 million mark globally.
Sony’s Gran Turismo: Based on A True Story is tumbling a steep 62 percent in its second weekend. The pic’s estimated four-day Labor Day haul is an estimated $8.6 million for a domestic cume of $30.7 million through Monday and $81 million worldwide.
Oppenheimer, like Barbie, continues to make headlines in its seventh weekend. The film has cleared the $850 million mark at the global box office to become Christopher Nolan’s third-biggest film ever. In North America, it looks to place No. 5 with $7.2 million for the four-day holiday weekend, with a domestic total through Monday of $310.3 million. Its overseas tally is $542.7 million for an estimated cume through Monday of $853 million.
MGM’s specialty pic Bottoms, a sex teen comedy, made a strong showing as it expanded into 715 locations, earning an estimated $3.7 million for the four-day holiday for a domestic total of $4.4 million.
That wasn’t the only action at the specialty box office. A24’s Talk to Me, playing in 1,075 theaters, has passed up Hereditary to become the top-grossing horror title in the indie studio’s history with $44.6 million in domestic ticket sales.
Sept. 3, 7:45 a.m.: Updated with revised estimates.
Sept. 4, 7:30 a.m.: Updated with revised estimates.
A version of this story was originally published Sept. 2 at 7:57 a.m.
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