Sonic 2 Wins The Box Office, But Ambulance And Morbius Are The Real Stories

This weekend was a bigger test for the box office than many may have realized, as we really had four new or recent releases that were really vying for attention this weekend. "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" and Michael Bay's "Ambulance" were both serving as brand new offerings for moviegoers, while "Morbius" was entering its ever-important second week and "Everything Everywhere All At Once" expanded to wide theatrical release. 

So, what did we learn? Well, quite a bit actually — but it's a mixed bag of good news and bad news. Let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

Sonic 2 has an absolutely massive debut

Paramount Pictures won the weekend easily as "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" collected a larger-than-expected $71 million according to Box Office Mojo. That puts it well above the original, which debuted to $58 million in 2020, and cements as the biggest opening weekend ever for a video game movie. That is no small thing, and it also makes the studio look very smart for giving the green light to "Sonic 3" and a Knuckles spin-off already. Internationally, it picked up $70 million, giving it a $141 million start against a reported $90 million budget. So yeah, this is a pretty damn good deal for Paramount.

The other big point here is that Paramount is having a stellar year, with its last four movies — "Scream," "Jackass Forever," "The Lost City," and now "Sonic 2" — all topping the box office. All very different types of movies, all big hits. And the studio was possibly looking to pivot away from bigger movies to focus more on streaming as of last year. Someone at the top of the food chain may want to start rethinking strategy here.

Morbius plummeted hard in its second weekend

While "Sonic 2" had the biggest opening, it was "Morbius" that suffered the biggest tumble, and it was one for the ages as far as mainstream blockbusters go. Entering its second weekend, Sony's latest Marvel Comics adaptation barely managed to secure the number two spot with a paltry $10.2 million sum. That represents a huge 73.9% drop from week to week, with Jared Leto's superhero flick winning out last weekend despite terrible reviews and not-so-great word of mouth. It appears this was a one-and-done with audiences, and it is going to fade very fast.

The film has now collected $126.3 million globally against a reported budget of $75 million. Granted, that doesn't take into account the expense of having the movie delayed for more than two years, nor does it likely give Sony a lot of hope that characters other than "Venom" can transcend bad reviews to become huge hits. What this means for "Kraven the Hunter," "Madame Web," or other movies the studio is planning within the "Spider-Man" franchise remains to be seen.

Michael's Bay's Ambulance failure is bad news for theaters

In kind of terrible news for the industry at large (and for those who value the theatrical experience beyond tentpole blockbusters), "Ambulance" debuted to a pretty lousy $8.7 million, landing at number four. This is brutal as Bay had a great cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza Gonzales, as well as pretty decent reviews to hang its hat on, not to mention a very reasonable $40 million budget. Unfortunately, the weekend proved to be too crowded to allow room for both. That's not to say this would have been a guaranteed hit if it had been the only wide release on a given weekend, but it certainly might have had a better shot.

To illustrate how rough this is for Universal Pictures, "The Lost City" managed to best it in the number three spot with $9.1 million in its third weekend. The core issue here is that this is a blow for anyone who wants to see diverse programming in theaters because if Michael Bay with an A-list cast and a reasonable budget can't generate an adult-skewing hit (even a modest one), we're in bad shape.

And the rest...

In better news, A24 and directing duo Daniels' much-acclaimed "Everything Everywhere All At Once" expanded into 1,250 screens this weekend and did quite well, taking in just over $6 million, giving it a solid per-screen average of a little over $4,800. It came in just behind "The Batman," which nabbed another $6.5 million putting it in the number five spot, setting its global total at $735 million. Even if it did lose to Battinson, this is a very promising start for the $25 million budgeted sci-fi flick, which features Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. If word of mouth is good and it can hold in the coming weeks, this could be a big win for original content in the marketplace.

"Sing 2" in its (checks notes) 16th weekend finally managed to cross a pretty big milestone, as it now sits at $401 million worldwide. Given that the animated sequel also seemingly did quite well on VOD, Universal can safely put this one in the win column and a third entry would probably not be out of the question. In one last bit of kind of bad news, A24's horror flick "X" fell out of the top ten to the number 11 spot with just $115,000, putting its total at $11.7 million. It has some international release dates locked up, but this is a kind of disappointing result for such a well-reviewed, original horror flick.

Looking ahead, this weekend sees "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" bringing some more big franchise fare to theaters, and we'll see if it can recapture the magic after "The Crimes of Grindelwald" left a bad taste in the mouths of many Wizarding World fans.