Dungeons & Dragons Overperformed At The Box Office, But It's Got A Tough Road Ahead

Paramount Pictures had itself one heck of a year in 2022, and the studio already has one big hit on the books in 2023 with "Scream VI" (which is nearing $150 million worldwide after this past weekend). But the studio rolled the 20-sided dice with a big-budget reboot of "Dungeons & Dragons" with "Honor Among Thieves," which hit theaters over the weekend. The results are a mixed bag of good news and bad news. Unfortunately, even taking the good with the bad, this movie has a rough road ahead, financially speaking.

"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" pulled in an estimated $38.5 million during its opening weekend, per Box Office Mojo. That was on the higher side of expectations, which had the fantasy film from directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley taking in $30 million on the low-end. It also entered the weekend expecting to pull in a pretty under-whelming $25 million from international markets, yet it brought in $33 million, giving it a global start of $71.5 million.

This relative over-performance can be chalked up to solid buzz and good word-of-mouth. Critics have been very kind to the film (read our review here), which features an A-list cast headlined by Chris Pine. Audiences also liked it quite a bit, as it earned an A- Cinemascore. That could give it legs in the coming weeks, but that brings us to the bad news — and there is a fair amount of bad news to go around.

D&D still needs a miracle

A blockbuster fantasy film carries a big blockbuster budget, in this case $150 million (before marketing). That means we're talking about a movie that needs to make at least $400 million worldwide to be considered even a modest success. That would put it in the same ballpark as something like "Pacific Rim" or "Uncharted." But both of those movies had larger opening weekends, with "Uncharted" debuting to $44 million last year, ultimately limping its way to $401 million globally. That being the case, "Dungeons & Dragons" has a long, rough road ahead.

The movie would need remarkably long legs to save itself from becoming a flop. Not to mention making enough to justify a sequel, which is surely what Paramount had in mind. This was undoubtedly intended to be a potential franchise-starter. The real problem is competition, as "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is set to open this week, and it is going to draw huge crowds as the first family-friendly animated film to hit theaters since "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" last December. We've also got Ben Affleck's "Air," which has been drawing rave reviews from critics since it debuted at SXSW. Plus, just around the corner, we've got a pair of horror flicks in "The Pope's Exorcist" and "Renfield" on the way.

All of this to say, "Honor Among Thieves" may be able to generate positive word of mouth, and that buzz helped push it to do better than many analysts expected. Be that as it may, the circumstances surrounding the release, and the marketplace as it currently exists, suggests that this one won't have enough juice in the tank to save it from itself. And that's a shame, given that this one is a true crowd-pleaser, but the realities of the business are what they are.

And the rest...

A couple of other smaller-profile new releases hit theaters this weekend as well, led by the faith-based "His Only Son." It actually debuted at number three on the charts with $5.5 million, coming in behind "John Wick: Chapter 4," which pulled in $28.2 million in its second frame. The action flick dropped 61.8%, which probably had to do with the heavier-than-expected competition from "D&D." Even so, it is close to $250 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing R-rated movie since "Bad Boys for Life" in 2020. That's a good sign.

Circling back to "His Only Son," faith-based programming has proven remarkably reliable as of late. To that end, Lionsgate's "Jesus Revolution" has quietly passed $50 million domestically as of this most recent weekend. So yeah, this is probably going to be something we will see more of in the future. Anything that is capable of delivering a crowd is good for movie theaters right now. Also arriving this week was Focus Features' "A Thousand and One," which landed at number seven with just $1.8 million. A rough start for a film that has earned stellar reviews up to this point.

Elsewhere, things continued to look terrible for "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," which fell to number six on the charts and earned just $4.6 million in its third weekend. It hasn't even passed $120 million worldwide yet, and it carries a $125 million budget. We may be looking at the biggest bomb of the year, relative to expectations. Lastly, "Avatar: The Way of Water" finally fell out of the top 10 in its 16th weekend, marking the end of a remarkable run that resulted in $2.31 billion in ticket sales, giving us the third-highest-grossing movie ever. Never doubt James Cameron.

Top 10 movies at the box office March 31 — April 2, 2023:

1. "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" — $38.5 million

2. "John Wick: Chapter 4" — $28.2 million

3. "His Only Son" — $5.5 million

4. "Scream VI" — $5.3 million

5. "Creed III" — $5 million

6. "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" — $4.6 million

7. "A Thousand and One" — $1.8 million

8. "65" — $1.58 million

9. "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" — $1.23 million

10. "Jesus Revolution" — $1 million