Bullet Train Tops The Box Office Again, But Universal's Hot Streak Is The Real Story

All things considered, it was a pretty darn quiet weekend at the box office — especially considering how robust the summer has been overall. 

Yet, Hollywood still seems to have cold feet on some level and left August largely bare in terms of big new releases. Sony was given a path to win the weekend once again with "Bullet Train," while new releases such as "Fall" and "Mack & Rita" were left to pick up scraps. But there are certainly some interesting things to discuss, as Universal Pictures crossed a gigantic milestone for the year, "Top Gun: Maverick" continues to defy the odds, and "Nope" may have lost out on a bunch of money for no good reason. 

Let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

Bullet Train wins again, but it's not winning big enough

Director Davide Leitch's ensemble action flick "Bullet Train" won its second weekend in a row with a $13.4 million take, per Box Office Mojo. That makes for a pretty steep 55.4% drop, which is worth focusing on. Yes, it's good that the movie topped the charts two weeks in a row, but it carries a $90 million budget. So, even at $114.4 million worldwide as of right now, it still has a long way to go to reach profit. I would still wager this is a good signal for non-franchise cinema, it's just that the budgets need to be reined in a bit.

This week's number two finisher, "DC League of Super-Pets," is fighting a similar uphill battle. The animated flick also carried a $90 million budget and added a mere $7.1 million in its third week of release. It now stands at $109.7 million worldwide. Even with the superhero stuff to give moviegoers a way in, this one just isn't finding the audience it needs theatrically. One assumed it will do quite well on premium VOD and, eventually, on HBO Max. Still, this isn't what Warner Bros. had in mind when the words "Dwayne Johnson as Krypto the Superdog" were first uttered.

Universal Pictures passes a major milestone

The biggest of the big stories of the weekend was the fact that Universal Pictures has officially passed $3 billion for the year, making them the first studio to cross that big number since Disney did it in 2019. The studio has had a string of big hits including "Minions: The Rise of Gru," which finished at number six this weekend with $4.9 million (currently at $790.4 million worldwide), as well as "Jurassic World Dominion" ($974.5 million), and "The Black Phone" ($152.7 million). Overall, this is a big signal to the industry at large that the box office recovery is here and it is only going to get better. And it can get better! Again, we're looking at a very bare August month that could have easily justified a big release or two, as evidenced by this weekend's numbers.

Another one of Universal's releases, Jordan Peele's "Nope," finished at number five this weekend with $5.3 million. It sits at a healthy $107.5 million domestically. However, it finally rolled out in 19 markets overseas this weekend and made a mere $6.3 million. That is seemingly a result of delaying the international rollout by weeks for seemingly no reason. So, while this counts towards the studio's impressive figure for the year, the distribution strategy seemed to be off the mark in this case. Still, Universal gets to be the top dog unless someone can take the crown away from them before year's end.

A rough week for new releases

As far as the weekend's new releases go, there isn't much exciting to report. "Fall," which is distributed by Lionsgate, placed tenth on the charts with $2.5 million. The good news, though, is that the thriller about a pair of girls being trapped on a 2,000 foot radio tower had a budget of just $3 million. So, given that it's already available to rent on premium VOD, this one should do just fine in the long run. Clearly, this was never about making a ton of money in theaters. With a budget that low, the budget can be recouped in a variety of ways.

Meanwhile, Gravitas floundered badly with "Mack & Rita," which earned just $1 million and debuted at 13 on the charts. It scarcely made more than "E.T.," which was re-released on IMAX and made nearly as much on less than 400 screens. Roadside Attractions also got in the game with "Emily the Criminal," which made a mere $669,000 in limited release on less than 500 screens. We'll see how Aubrey Plaza's latest does once it hits VOD.

And the rest...

In what remains the story of the year, "Top Gun: Maverick" actually increased by nearly 2% this weekend with $7.15 million, narrowly missing out on the number two spot in its 12th week of release. It simply cannot be emphasized enough how much this kind of thing just does not happen. $1.37 billion worldwide and counting. Expect Paramount to beg Tom Cruise to come back for "Top Gun 3" sooner rather than later.

"Where the Crawdads Sing" finished at number seven again this weekend with just shy of $4 million. At $72.1 million domestic, it's going to pass "Morbius" ($73.8 million) any day now in a kind of hilarious bit of irony for Sony. A modest book adaptation is going to make more domestically than its big, flashy superhero film. Make of that what you will.

A24 expanded the horror flick "Bodies Bodies Bodies" to nearly 1,300 screens and it earned $3.2 million, good enough for the number eight spot just ahead of "Elvis," which continued its amazing run with $2.5 million in the ninth spot. Budget figures for "Bodies Bodies Bodies" aren't available currently, but it doesn't look to be overly expensive, so this could be one that turns a modest profit over time.

Looking ahead to this weekend, we get Idris Elba fighting a big lion in "Beast" from Universal Pictures. That could be a dark horse and take the top spot away from "Bullet Train," but it's number should be somewhat modest either way.