“I think I can, I think I can… be the top movie at the box office,” says Sony’s original action movie that could.
The Brad Pitt vehicle “Bullet Train” should take No. 1 on domestic charts. The film earned $12.6 million from 4,357 locations on Friday and is projecting a $30 million debut. It’s a solid performance for an original film with no franchise ties or multiverse shenanigans, but the film will have to keep chugging through August to recoup its $90 million production budget.
The film’s all-star cast should help with that. Along with Pitt, the ensemble also includes names like Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon and Benito A. Martínez Ocasio, aka Latin music superstar Bad Bunny.
“Bullet Train” is seen as somewhat of a check-in on the type of film that audiences will mobilize to theaters for. The R-rated action flick will skew towards adult men — the most reliable demographic in terms of consistent theater attendance since COVID-19 lockdowns eased. However, with a marketing campaign that touts a colorful cast of characters instead of any known intellectual property, “Bullet Train” isn’t a surefire hit.
“Bullet Train” has earned a lukewarm response from critics, landing a 41% approval rating from top critics on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. Variety chief film critic Peter Debruge was mixed on the film, writing that it is “trying [its] darnedest to channel the likes of Tarantino and Ritchie, even if the dialogue and mock-British accents aren’t nearly strong enough to earn such comparisons.”
Audiences have been more receptive to “Bullet Train.” The filmed earned a “B+” grade through research firm Cinema Score, indicating solid approval among general moviegoers. With August’s slate looking pretty light on high-profile releases, “Bullet Train” should be able to take advantage of a quiet theatrical landscape in the weeks ahead. Paramount’s “The Lost City,” which starred “Bullet Train” bit players Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum while featuring Pitt in a supporting role, also opened to $30 million earlier this spring before eventually crossing $100 million domestically, showing that the public will still roll out for a crowd pleaser without franchise ties.
Directed by Pitt’s former stunt double David Leitch, who has since helmed actioners like “Atomic Blonde” and “Deadpool 2,” the film features the star as a hitman who accepts a simple mission aboard a high-speed train in Japan. However, he soon discovers that a crop of killers on board have conflicting assignments of their own.
Meanwhile, Universal’s “Easter Sunday,” the weekend’s other new wide release, isn’t making much of an impression in its debut, grossing $2 million on Friday. The studio is projecting a muted $5 million debut from 3,175 locations for comedian Jo Koy’s comedy, which would land the film in eighth place on domestic charts.
“Easter Sunday” stars Koy as a struggling actor and father attending his dysfunctional Filipino American family’s Easter Sunday celebration. The comedy carries a modest price tag of $17 million before marketing and distribution costs, so Universal will cross its fingers for solid word-of-mouth and a month without competing releases to give the film some passable legs.
Warner Bros. release “DC League of Super-Pets” looks to take second. The film earned $3.35 million on Friday, marking a 64% drop from its opening day last week. The animated feature has been somewhat of an underperformer, especially for a film featuring iconography from DC Comics (even if it follows the Justice League’s furry friends). With the film’s current domestic gross standing at $38 million, “Super-Pets” still has a way to go to recoup a $90 million production budget.
Not helping things for “Super-Pets” is the continued success of Universal’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which has remained a big hit with audiences since its debut over the Fourth of July weekend. The “Despicable Me” spinoff looks to take fifth on domestic charts this weekend, dropping a slim 38% in its sixth weekend. The film’s domestic haul currently stands at an impressive $330 million.
Universal’s “Nope” looks to take bronze, projecting an $8 million haul for its third weekend. Jordan Peele’s sci-fi thriller should surpass a $100 million domestic gross sometime within the next week — a remarkable achievement for an original film primarily sold on its director’s name.
Disney’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” is eyeing fourth place, adding $2.2 million to its haul on Friday. The Marvel Cinematic Universe entry currently stands as the sixth-biggest domestic release of the year, pushing its domestic gross past $315 million this weekend.
Finally, it seems that “Top Gun: Maverick” may finally exit the domestic box office’s top five for the first time this weekend, although it’s in a close race for fifth with “The Rise of Gru.” Paramount’s runaway success is projecting another slim fall — only 21% down — in its eleventh weekend at the box office. With $657 million in the bank from North America, the Tom Cruise sequel will likely surpass the $659 million gross of “Titanic” today to become the seventh biggest film ever in the history of the domestic box office.