Box Office: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ Opens Big, ‘Ambulance’ Stalls

As the box office opens two films featuring high-octane speedsters this weekend, one has emerged a clear victor. Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” looks to top the charts this weekend with an impressive opening in the neighborhood of $67 million to $69 million, while Universal’s R-rated actioner “Ambulance” will likely fail to clear double digits.

“Sonic” unleashed on the box office on Thursday to the tune of $6.3 million in previews and has only gained steam since, playing in 4,234 locations. The Sega sequel is outperforming its 2020 predecessor, which opened to $58 million at a time when COVID-19 was still a nebulous threat to most North Americans. That “Sonic 2” is opening even stronger isn’t only good news for Paramount’s hunt for sustainable IP, but it also shows that family audiences are largely ready to return to theaters for the right movie.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” stars funnyman Ben Schwartz as the voice of the titular video game character, with Idris Elba joining the series as the voice of the villain Knuckles the Echidna. Colleen O’Shaughnessey, who has regularly voiced Tails the Fox in the video game series, reprized the role of Sonic’s sidekick for the film. The live-action cast includes Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik and James Marsden as Sheriff Tom Wachowski, as well as Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Lee Majdoub and Tom Butler.

“Sonic 2” has garnered mixed reviews, currently holding a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. variety‘s Peter Debruge wrote the film “takes what was endearing about the original — in a word, personality — and renders it generic in a hurry.” The speed demon’s second run has been met warmly by audiences though, with the film earning an “A” CinemaScore rating, indicating resounding enthusiasm from general audiences. With a big opening and great word-of-mouth under its belt, Paramount should have no trouble recouping the $90 million production budget for the film.

While the blue blur is demonstrating a more successful side of the box office’s recovery after COVID-19 lockdowns, Universal’s “Ambulance” could ultimately pan out as a cautionary tale. The R-rated demolition derby from action aficionado Michael Bay likely won’t crack double digits in its opening, landing in fourth place on domestic charts with a projected $8.1 million from 2,374 locations. That’s hardly a victorious start for a prospective crowd pleaser, even one that carries a modest $40 million production budget.

“Ambulance” had plenty of factors in its favor heading into its opening. The film boasts a diverse leading trio of popular stars — Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eiza González — as well as some of the strongest reviews of Michael Bay’s career. Audiences have largely been approving, bestowing an “A-” CinemaScore rating, and the film has locked down IMAX format auditoriums for the week, opening up the opportunity for premium ticket pricing. Even so, an opening beneath $10 million indicates that adult audiences are going to be more discerning about what releases to roll out to theaters for after the age of pandemic lockdowns.

“Ambulance” follows adoptive siblings (Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II) as they steal an ambulance in an attempt to escape from a bank heist. In his review, variety‘s Owen Gleiberman wasn’t too receptive, writing that “’Ambulance’ is simply too much of a not-so-good thing. It never stops huffing and puffing to entertain you, but it’s joyless: a tale of escape that’s far from a great escape, because for all its motion it’s going through the motions.”

Meanwhile, everything is not well in comic book movie land. Columbia Pictures’ “Morbius” is on track to earn $10 million in its sophomore outing. That marks a 75% drop-off from its previous outing — a fundamental collapse for a potential franchise starter. The entry in the studio’s self-branded Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters was all but blasted by critics before release. Given the steep week-to-week fall, it seems that audiences aren’t impressed either.

“Morbius” should expand its domestic gross beyond $56 million through Sunday. The Jared Leto vehicle has already pushed past $100 million globally, which outpaces the film’s $75 production budget, though a long series of release delays due to COVID-19 likely ballooned that figure for Sony. With the vampire action movie’s audience numbers already being sucked dry, one has to wonder whether ticket buyers would mobilize for a “Morbius 2.”

There’s still one superhero success story at the box office though and its name is revenge. Warner Bros. “The Batman” should take fifth at the box office in its sixth weekend of release. The DC adaptation earned an additional $1.75 million on Friday, expanding its domestic gross beyond $354 million. “The Batman” stands head and shoulders above all other 2022 domestic releases as the highest grossing film of the year. It should continue to pad its standing before hitting HBO Max at the end of the month.

Paramount’s “The Lost City” looks to take bronze with a projected $9.25 million weekend. The Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum two-hander has performed respectably since its debut and should expand its domestic gross beyond $68 million through Sunday — a figure that matches the film’s reported production budget. Paramount probably would’ve liked higher numbers by now, though the film remains one of the biggest romantic comedies of the past few years.

In other news, A24 expanded its Michelle Yeoh sci-fi discombobulator “Everything Everywhere All at Once” this weekend, adding 1,212 theaters after two weeks of limited release. The critically acclaimed independent release should draw $5.6 million through Sunday — good for sixth place on domestic charts.

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