The Marksman (Courtesy of Everett Collection)
If time is a flat circle, then it’s only fitting that a second under-the-radar Liam Neeson movie is ruling over the U.S. box office during the pandemic. Months after his action thriller “Honest Thief” led domestic charts, another Neeson (you guessed it!) action thriller “The Marksman” has debuted at No. 1 with $3.2 million in ticket sales.
Robert Lorenz directed “The Marksman,” about a rancher and retired Marine living in Arizona who helps a young boy escape a Mexican drug cartel. The film, which premiered in 1,975 locations, should rake in $3.7 million through the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday. Open Road, the distributor behind “The Marksman,” also backed “Honest Thief.” That film bowed to $3.7 million last October and ended its theatrical run with $14 million in the U.S. and $28 million globally.
“The Marksman” joins the company of “Honest Thief” and Robert De Niro’s “The War With Grandpa” as some of the lowest-grossing box office toppers in modern history, highlighting the bleak reality that movie theaters are facing amid the country’s latest COVID-19 surge. Overall, around 65% of U.S. theaters remain closed due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, “Wonder Woman 1984” slid to second place after besting the (albeit muted) competition for three straight weekends. Warner Bros. did not provide a three-day total, but the studio projects the superhero sequel will generate $2.6 million through the extended holiday weekend. However, “Wonder Woman 1984” could drop to third place behind “The Croods: A New Age” when Martin Luther King day sales are finalized on Monday. Since it touched down on Christmas Day, Gal Gadot’s latest outing as Diana Prince has earned $35 million in the U.S.
“Wonder Woman 1984,” a DC Comics adaptation that cost $200 million to produce, released simultaneously on the fledgling streaming service HBO Max. It will be taken off the platform next Sunday, and the film will only be available to watch in theaters until it reaches its traditional home entertainment window. It’s expected to return to the streamer a few months later. Internationally, where HBO Max has yet to launch, the fantastical follow-up brought in $5.2 million, boosting foreign revenues to $105.9 million for a worldwide total of $141.7 million.
For now, Universal and DreamWorks’ sequel to “The Croods” placed third, amassing $2.04 million this weekend and looking to cross the long weekend with $2.9 million. The animated family film actually improved upon last week’s grosses by 13%, which is impressive considering it’s currently available to watch on home entertainment. Last year, Universal forged an agreement with major theater chains such as AMC and Cinemark to allow the studio to put new releases on demand after 17 days in theaters. In return, select exhibitors are getting an undisclosed cut of digital profits. After two months in theaters, “The Croods: A New Age” has made $40 million at the domestic box office. Overseas, the movie added another $2.2 million from 17 countries for an international total of $94.7 million and a global haul of $134.8 million.
Another Universal title, “News of the World” with Tom Hanks, landed in fourth place with a three-day total of $1.05 million and an expected four-day tally of $1.27 million. The Western drama, which is also available to watch on-demand, has collected $8.72 million on the big screen. Rounding out the top five is Sony’s thriller “Monster Hunter.” The video game adaptation with Milla Jovovich generated $920,000 over the weekend and should reach $1.09 million through MLK day. By Monday, it will have made $9.2 million to date.
Though “Promising Young Woman” fell to seventh place on box office charts, the film all but dominated social media chatter as the acclaimed revenge thriller hit premium-on-demand platforms this weekend. (Focus Features, the company distributing the movie, falls under its parent company Universal’s early VOD agreement.) It played in more than 1,000 theaters and collected $430,000 over the weekend, most of which came from drive-in locations. Directed by Emerald Fennell and starring Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” has grossed $3.4 million in theaters so far. The studio has not reported how many rented the film online.
At the specialty box office, IFC Films opened “MLK/ FBI” — a documentary directed by Sam Pollard — on demand and in more than 120 theaters nationwide. The film scraped together $27,500 over the three-day weekend and expects to make $33,250 through Monday. Though IFC didn’t provide tangible rental stats, the company said the documentary ranked within the top 10 on Apple Movies’ independent charts and on the top 5 for documentaries.
“We are so thrilled that the best reviewed and most important documentary of the year is connecting so strongly with audiences on all platforms,” said IFC Films president Arianna Bocco.
Overseas, Disney and Pixar’s “Soul” continued to chug along at the international box office, particularly in China where it now stands as the third highest-grossing Pixar movie of all time with $43.1 million. The critically beloved animated family film isn’t playing in U.S. theaters. Instead, it premiered on the company’s streaming service Disney Plus on Christmas Day. In total, “Soul” has made $57.4 million from 11 countries.
Variety's Rebecca Rubin contributed to this post.