‘Sonic 2’ Leads Box Office; Michael Bay’s ‘Ambulance’ Stalls

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” powered to $71 million in its domestic box office debut, a hopeful indication that family audiences are feeling better about returning to movie theaters.

In taking the No. 1 spot, Paramount’s kid friendly film towered over Sony’s Marvel adaptation “Morbius” and Universal’s Michael Bay action-adventure “Ambulance,” which debuted in fourth place with a disappointing $8.7 million.

Ticket sales for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” set a new high watermark for video game adaptations, supplanting the opening weekend record established by its predecessor, 2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog.” The first movie collected $58 million in its first three days of release and ended the President’s Day holiday weekend with a mighty $70 million.

Overseas, the “Sonic” follow-up added $37 million from 53 territories, taking its international tally to $70 million and global total to $141 million.

“This is an outstanding opening,” said David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “With solid reviews and very good audience scores, ‘Sonic’ is going to have a strong run.”

Jeff Fowler returned to direct “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” after steering the original film to $319 million globally (before COVID-19 took hold) and setting a record for the highest-grossing video game adaptation in North America. Ben Schwartz returned to voice the speedy blue creature with a knack for busting bad guys and Jim Carrey reprized his role as mad scientist Dr. Robotnik, a combination that has proven to be a hit among moviegoers. “Sonic 2” landed a positive “A” CinemaScore from audiences. Film critics were mixed, as evidenced by the film’s 68% average rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“This film did such a great job in service of the fans while not excluding general audiences,” said Paramount’s president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson. “That’s a neat trick.”

“Sonic the Hedgehog” continues a box office hot streak for Paramount, marking the studio’s fourth movie in 2022 to open in first place. The others were “The Lost City,” “Scream” and “Jackass Forever.” It’s a needed rebound since Paramount largely stepped back from theatrical releases during the pandemic, instead selling titles like Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Eddie Murphy’s comedy sequel “Coming 2 America” and Michael B. Jordan’s action thriller “ Without Remorse” to streaming services.

Universal, on the other hand, has endured a bumpy start to the new year. The female-fronted heist film “The 355” and religious drama “Redeeming Love” fizzled at the box office, while Jennifer Lopez’s romantic comedy “Marry Me” fell short of expectations since the movie opened day-and-date on NBCUniversal’s streamer Peacock. Holdover from Illumination’s animated comedy “Sing 2,” which has grossed $162 million since December, has been a bright spot. And a stacked summer slate, including “Jurassic World Dominion,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and Jordan Peele’s horror film “Nope,” look to reverse those fortunes.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” cost $90 million, far more than the $40 million that Bay and Universal shelled out for “Ambulance.” That’s a relatively cheap price tag for a film that is heavy in explosives and special effects. However, the $40 million figure does not include the many millions spent on marketing and other efforts necessary to spread the word about the movie’s release.

Overseas, the R-rated “Ambulance” earned $22.4 million from 68 international markets, boosting the film’s global tally to $31.1 million. Ticket buyers, at least those in North America, appeared to enjoy the film, which secured an “A-” CinemaScore. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Candyman,” “The Matrix Resurrections”) and Eiza Gonzalez (“Baby Driver”), the movie follows two adoptive siblings turned bank robbers, who hijack an ambulance and hold the vehicle’s occupants hostage .

“With great audience scores, I think we will have a nice domestic run,” said Universal’s president of domestic distribution Jim Orr.

At the domestic box office, the lackluster start for “Ambulance” is yet another sign of consumer’s changing tastes. The kind of adrenalized, physics-defying mojo that turned Bay’s past films like “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor” into zeitgeist-y hits doesn’t always work these days. In the current movie theater environment, fewer genres seem to be resonating with ticket buyers.

“There used to be a lot of these movies at the theater,” Gross says of crime thrillers. “But today’s audiences want something special every time — the bar is set higher now.” He adds, “At a cost of $40 million plus marketing, the film is unlikely to recover costs, even with better numbers overseas and good ancillary value on Peacock.”

In a distant second place, “Morbius,” a comic book adventure starring Jared Leto and taking place in Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, collected $10.2 million, a catastrophic 74% drop from opening weekend. After two weeks in theaters, the $75-million budgeted “Morbius” has generated $57 million in North America and $69.3 million internationally.

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum’s romantic action-adventure “The Lost City” landed at No. 3, ahead of “Ambulance” and “The Batman.” The Paramount Pictures film added $9.1 million from 3,797 locations in its third weekend of release, dipping only 38% from last. So far, “The Lost City” has amassed $68.8 million at the domestic box office, which is a strong result for the genre. However, the movie cost $68 million to produce, so international audiences will be key in turning “The Lost City” into a commercial winner.

Rounding out the top five, Robert Pattison’s Caped Crusader story “The Batman” brought in $6.5 million from 3,254 attendances. The Warner Bros. movie, which does not land on HBO Max until next week, has grossed a huge $358 million domestically and $376 million overseas. With $735 million worldwide, it’s currently the highest grossing movie of the year at the domestic and global box office.

In sixth place, A24’s action-adventure-comedy-fantasy-sci-fi mashup “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had a strong expansion after two weeks in limited release. Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and starring Michelle Yeoh, the film earned $6 million from 1,250 cinemas. The well-reviewed “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” in which Yeoh’s character exists in a multiverse, has generated $8.4 million to date.

“Give this movie enormous credit for successfully challenging the genre, for doing it on a reasonable budget, and for playing on over 1,200 screens,” says Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross.

Leave a Comment