‘Shazam!’ debuts with $53.5M, handing DC Comics another win

One of the oldest characters in DC’s superhero stable, “Shazam!” doesn’t boast the name-recognition

This image released by Warner Bros. shows Zachary Levi, left, and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from “Shazam!” (Steve Wilkie/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)

Seven films in, the DC Extended Universe is finally flying with some wind behind its back. The well-reviewed, relatively modestly budgeted “Shazam!” debuted with $53.5 million in ticket sales over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, handing DC its latest critical and box-office success.

Though one of the oldest characters in DC’s superhero stable, “Shazam!” doesn’t boast the name-recognition of Batman or Superman. But by scaling back to a $100 million budget and going for the lighter, comic tone, “Shazam!” steadily built up its word of mouth with stellar reviews. Warner Bros. also showed the film nationwide two weeks before opening, where it made $3 million in advance screenings.

READ MORE: Bat signal lights up Vancouver sky for ‘Batwoman’ TV series

“Shazam!” came out well ahead of the weekend’s other top draw, “Pet Sematary.” Paramount Pictures’ remake of the original 1989 Stephen King adaptation opened in a distant second with $25 million. It’s a solid start for “Pet Sematary,” though far from the haul that the last big-screen adaptation of King’s conjured up: “It” opened with $123.4 million in 2017.

Last week’s top film, “Dumbo,” slid steeply in its second week. Landing in third, the Disney live-action remake dropped 60% with $18.2 million.

Pitched as “‘Big’ meets Superman,’” “Shazam!” stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a teenage foster kid who transforms into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi).

Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief at Warner Bros., said the studio originally forecast a $40 million opening. “That was the right number for us,” Goldstein said. “That’s what we needed to make money on it.”

But expectations grew based on reviews (91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience reaction (an “A” Cinemascore). The PG-13-rated film attracted an especially young crowd; 45% were under 25.

The result further validated DC’s pivot following the disappointments of Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman” and David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.” Warner Bros. has since steered its comic book adaptions in a different direction, leaning more on stand-alone entries less predicated on the overall “universe” and more fluctuating in tone. Following “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman,” ”Shazam!” makes it three in a row for DC superhero standalones.

Earlier in the week, Warner Bros. also teased the DC release “Joker,” with Joaquin Phoenix, at CinemaCon. An even smaller-budgeted origin story with a similarly unique, albeit much darker, tone; it was one of the most talked-about movies at the Las Vegas event.

“‘Wonder Woman’ was really the start of changing the ship,” Goldstein said. “When you look at each of these properties, they’re all very different. Their approach is different. Their tone is different. But here’s the commonality: All good movies, all well done. I think that’s what you’ll see out of DC is very specific approaches for that property.”

Overseas, “Shazam!” grossed $102 million in 79 markets, including $30.9 million in China.

“DC has really found its groove,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “They’re really breaking out each character. Shazam and the Joker could not be two more different characters within the DC Universe. But I think that diversity of content is going to serve them well.”

Dergarabedian noted the two most dominant genres in movies right now — superheroes and horror — swamped theatres over the weekend, taking up four of the top five spots at the box office. The stiff competition in similar-styled holdovers could have slightly depressed results for both “Shazam!” and “Pet Sematary.” But right now, there’s scant room on the calendar between major comic book films and horror releases.

In fourth was Jordan Peele’s horror thriller “Us,” which added $13.8 million in its third week. Its cumulative global total stands at $216.6 million.

Marvel’s Brie Larson-led “Captain Marvel,” which recently crossed $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, took in $12.7 million domestically in its fifth weekend. Captain Marvel, ironically, was Shazam’s original name when the character was first crafted, as a Superman knockoff, in 1939. He was relaunched in 1973 as Shazam after decades of lawsuits and the debut of Marvel’s own Captain Marvel.

The weekend’s other wide-release newcomer was STX Entertainment’s “Best of Enemies,” starring Taraji P. Henson as a civil rights activist and Sam Rockwell as a Ku Klux Klan leader. It opened with $4.5 million.

In limited release, Claire Denis’ “High Life,” starring Robert Pattinson, opened with about $100,000 in four theatres for A24.

Neon’s Aretha Franklin documentary, “Amazing Grace,” debuted with $96,000 in eight locations. The film, shot over two days at the New Bethel Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1972, was lost for decades in part because its director, Sydney Pollack, failed to slate the images, leaving them not synced with the audio. Before her death last August, Franklin sued several times to prevent its release.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.

1. “Shazam!” $53.4 million ($102 million international).

2. “Pet Sematary,” $25 million ($17.3 million international).

3. “Dumbo,” $18.2 million ($39.6 million international).

4. “Us,” $13.8 million ($10.3 million international).

5. “Captain Marvel,” $12.7 million ($14.1 million international).

6. “The Best of Enemies,” $4.5 million.

7. “Five Feet Apart,” $3.7 million ($4.1 million international).

8. “Unplanned,” $3.2 million.

9. “Wonder Park,” $2 million ($3.3 million international).

10. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” $2 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.

1. “Shazam!” $102 million.

2. “Dumbo,” $39.6 million.

3. “P Storm,” $27.5 million.

4. “Pet Sematary,” $17.3 million.

5. “Captain Marvel,” $14.1 million.

6. “Us,” $10.3 million.

7. “Andhadhun,” $7.6 million.

8. “Song of Youth,” $4.5 million.

9. “Five Feet Apart,” $4.1 million.

10. “Cloud in the Wind,” $3.4 million.

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Catch The Real Sarahs as they help open The 39 Days of July

Rising stars in the Americana music scene, The Real Sarahs are making… Continue reading

Drivesmart column: Should I signal?

My stock answer would be along the lines of “Will it hurt?”

Get moving on those tickets or Sunfest might pass you by

If you’re looking to join the huge crowds at Sunfest for Jason… Continue reading

Duncan Tigers strike late, edge Longwood

Gicas brothers score both wins in 2-1 victory

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Coming up in Cowichan: Spend Father’s Day fishing, or head to the BC Forest Discovery Centre

Deadline coming to register for class reunion The Cowichan Secondary Class of… Continue reading

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Most Read