Both Elvis And The Black Phone Won Big At The Box Office

We are very firmly in the midst of the summer box office and while last year welcomed moviegoers back to theaters in a meaningful way, things were still on uncertain ground. This weekend, with the release of Warner Bros.' "Elvis" and Universal's "The Black Phone," it has become clear that we are in a much better place in terms of the theatrical distribution side of the movie business than we were a year ago.

To that end, both of these very different movies managed to pull in big bucks while dealing with intense competition from the likes of "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Jurassic World Dominion." Neither of which are franchise films, and both of which found their audiences.

Elivs is the king

Coming in very close to a tie for number one at the box office, "Elivs" pulled in an estimated $31.1 million this weekend, per The Hollywood Reporter, with "Top Gun: Maverick" ($29.6 million) narrowly missing out on reclaiming the top spot. Near-tie aside, director Baz Luhrman's take on the King did especially well despite the fact that movies like this had seemingly been most at risk of going extinct theatrically in the streaming age. Still, good word of mouth and Austin Butler's performance as Mr. Presley put butts in seats.

The film also took in a solid $20 million overseas to start which puts it at $50.5 million against a pretty hefty reported $85 million production budget. But if it can hold in the weeks to come and even somehow stay in the conversation come time for awards season, this will be an absolute win for Warner Bros. It's an adult-skewing music biopic that (essentially) topped the charts against major blockbuster competition. That's what the box office has been missing.

The Black Phone scares up a big crowd

In other very good news, director Scott Derrickson's horrifying Joe Hill adaptation "The Black Phone" came in at number four with $23.3 million against a far more modest $18 million budget. While it's more than what Blumhouse Productions typically spend, the studio is still the best in the game at turning minimal investments into big hits. The crowd-pleasing horror flick narrowly lost out to "Jurassic World Dominion ($26.4 million) in its third weekend but, ultimately, it's all good for Universal as they are distributing both films.

"The Black Phone," which has done quite well with critics up to this point, kicked off its international run with $12.4 million, giving the lower-mid-budget flick, which stars Ethan Hawke, a $35.8 million start. It's a big win for original horror as, yes, movies like "Scream" have done well in the pandemic era but anything not connected to a pre-existing franchise struggles mightily. Yes, this is based on a Joe Hill short story but still, it hadn't been adapted previously and isn't part of some cinematic universe. As far as audiences are concerned, this was just something they wanted to see.

Everyone wins

The big, overarching takeaway here is that everyone wins. Warner Bros. gets a buzzy theatrical hit outside of a franchise that might be able to get them in the awards season conversation. Plus, they get to say they topped the box office at least for one weekend in the heat of the biggest summer moviegoing season in three years. Meanwhile, Blumhouse and Universal get to keep original horror on the tracks as a very viable form of theatrical entertainment, meaning that the genre can exist far beyond reboots of classic slashers, or things of that nature.

More than anything, we had a music biopic, a horror film, a dinosaur-filled blockbuster, and an action-packed sequel to an '80s classic all make a big chunk of dough this weekend. "Lightyear" fell all the way to number five and had a big drop but still pulled in $17 million. All of this to say, there are a handful of movies of all sorts that people are actually leaving the house to see right now, and this is what true recovery at the box office looks like. This is what we've been waiting for.