‘Challengers’ Serves Biggest U.S. Opening To Luca Guadagnino At $15M; Best For Zendaya Live-Action Non-IP Pic – Sunday AM Update

SUNDAY AM WRITETHRU: Amazon MGM Studios’ Challengers is being called at a $15M opening, which is officially the biggest opening ever for Oscar-nominated filmmaker Luca Guadagnino. It’s also the best we’ve seen from Zendaya for a live-action, original, non-IP movie. Friday/previews are $6.2M, Saturday was $5M, -19% and the studio has the confidence that Sunday will come in at $3.78M.

Before this, the widest release for Guadagnino was his Timothée Chalamet cannibal romance, Bones and All, which went wide over Thanksgiving weekend with $2.2M over 3-days, $3.6M over 5-days, and finaled at $7.8M back in 2022.

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Not counting Spider-Mans or Dunes or anything animated, Challengers notches ahead of the $8.8M 2017 Christmas weekend opening of The Greatest Showman, which Zendaya starred in, but was largely sold off of Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, and Zac Efron.

What happens now in this cruel summer box office that might not hit $3 billion? This coming weekend, it’s Universal’s The Fall Guy, starring Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling. If it’s lucky after a SXSW world premiere over a month ago, it will hit $40M, and the expectation is that movie will hold and pull in women thanks to post-Barbie Gosling Ken.

Challengers gets a B+ CinemaScore, which isn’t shabby for this two-hour, 11-minute sexy romantic comedy. Imax and PLFs drove 37% of the gross, which is amazing on a nonaction/franchise title such as this. Imax alone did $1.2M.

Challengers also comes in $4.3M shy of the $19.3M opening of New Line’s Don’t Worry Darling. Why comp the title to that one? Well, it was a movie propped by an enormous pop icon, that being Harry Styles, and it was also female leaning. Both were also sold on their hardcore sex in the trailer. The difference almost comes down to previews in between both pics’ starts, as Don’t Worry Darling had $3.1M in the bag going into its first Friday. However, it had a big fall on Saturday against Friday/previews of -39%. That’s because the absurdist movie wasn’t ripe for Styles’ fans, hence the B- CinemaScore. Don’t Worry Darling had a 2.3x multiple, finaling at $45.3M domestic in what was still a recovering pandemic marketplace. Hopefully, Challengers goes a little farther here. Also, critics hated Don’t Worry Darling at 38% Rotten, while they embraced Challengers, now at 87% certified fresh.

Amazon MGM Studios owns international, and Warners is the partner to distribute abroad on this $50M+ Amy Pascal production. The pic is going wide overseas. It’s not just English-speaking territories, ala Amazon MGM’s Saltburn. Challengers opened in Australia/New Zealand last weekend with $765K, and it expands to 51 territories this weekend.

The win for Amazon MGM at the end of their day with the movie is how it resonates on Prime Video and its impact on the overall shopping site (even though there’s no merchandise connected with the film). Updated PostTrak exits are 4 stars and 77% positive, and a 59% definite recommend.

No surprise here, but 55% of PostTrak audiences said the main reason why they went to see the movie was Zendaya.

Zendaya as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Zendaya as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Some might snipe that for a movie of this budget to do this kind of number is meh, or harp on, “Oh, this is how much Zendaya is worth without a franchise.” However, the whole industry should just count its blessings in a funky marketplace, this weekend delivering some $66M, off 34% from the same weekend a year ago. Together with the re-release of Dune: Part Two in Imax at $1.98M, Zendaya movies are repping 26% of the weekend. Some studios would cheap out on the P&A spend, and open Challengers in the single digits to just get this title over the line and into a home entertainment window. Amazon does have the power to do that in flipping this promptly to Prime Video. But that’s not going on here, as they’re boosting the profile of the movie in the first window so that it carries on strong in subsequent ones.

On PostTrak, those who watched Challengers in theaters, 51% said that they were Prime Video subscribers, compared to 72% who have Netflix, 61% who have Hulu, and 48% who have Disney+.

Challengers is pulling in 58% women, with a huge 18-34 turnout at 76%. The biggest demo is 18-24 year olds at 41%. Diversity demos are 43% Caucasian, 27% Latino and Hispanic, 17% Black, 9% Asian, and 4% other.

Deep-diving into the demos, no doubt Challengers was a date movie, drawing 31% who came with either their spouse, partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Funny enough, young guys love this movie more than girls, with men under 25 giving it a 83% score (16% turnout). This was followed by women under 25 giving it an 80% (27% turnout), followed by men over 25 at 76% (26%) and the pic’s majority of women over 25 at 31% only grading it 72%. The movie has a divisive ending, and will leave audiences arguing over who to champion.

The Guadagnino movie is playing on the coasts, where 52% of the grossing is coming from, compared to 43% for all other pics in the marketplace. So far, AMC Lincoln Square in NYC is the top-grossing multiplex in the nation, with $114K through Saturday.

Among marketing highlights for Challengers, there was a drone show in Coachella on the first night, with 500 flying devices spanning three football fields and over three miles of visibility. This was set to 28 minutes DJ mix of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score.

As we told you, the first trailer dropped last June timed to CineEurope. Zendaya splashed it on her Instagram to 184M followers, and it yielded 160M global video views and 325K domestic conversations. That’s the most social conversation volume and online video views for a feature drama ever in its first 24 hours. In terms of 24-hour video views, Challengers was the largest trailer launch in MGM history, edging out Creed III and No Time to Die.

On Jan 1, Zendaya relaunched the campaign by unveiling the poster on her social channels. The original trailer was revived on in-theater targets like Anyone But You and Mean Girls, reinvigorating tracking. In February, trailer 2 was launched with a huge 195M video views. The second trailer for Challengers surpassed the first launch’s view totals by 30%, to go along with 200K+ mentions across social platforms.

Other cool stuff included a dynamic AR Lens of Zendaya’s character Tashi’s sunglasses, with film footage and custom taglines (Her Game. Her Rules.) reflected in the lenses for users to share across Snapchat, TikTok, and Meta. There were also long-form YouTube music visualizers set to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s single and score tracks from the film and posted to the MGM YouTube page on launch weekend/week after release. A ten-chapter BTS Video Diary series was launched in collaboration with photographer/videographer Anthony Prince Leslie, which gave fans an intimate look inside the making of the film, from production all the way through the global press tour.

Trailer placement in theaters began with Barbie and continued with Dune: Part Two, Anyone But You, Mean Girls, Beekeeper, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire and Godzilla x Kong.

Ispot shows a TV spend for Challengers of $4.3M, which pulled in 262M ad impressions, with spots airing on ABC, Bravo, NBC, FX, and TBS, and across such shows as The Oscars (5.7%), Women’s College Basketball (4.6%), SNL (3.3%), Below Deck (3.2%) and Jimmy Kimmel Live (2.9%). The main campaign kicked off with The Bachelor Finale with ads also airing during The Voice, Masked Singer, Abbot Elementary, Grey’s Anatomy, in-season tennis tournaments, and NBA Playoffs, Vanderpump Rules, The Real Housewives of Potomac Finale, and The American Horror Story finale.

In PostTrak exits, moviegoers said social media ads at 27% were the most influential for this movie, followed by in-theater ads (16%).

Lionsgate’s faith-based Unsung Hero gets a big kiss from CinemaScore, with an A+ and great PostTrak at 96%/90% definite recommend, which isn’t shocking for a Bible Belt title. Unsung Hero settles for $7.75M for the weekend. On its $3.65M Friday (including previews), the movie continues to pull in mostly women at 69%. But it’s older- skewing, with 79% of ticketholders over 35 and the biggest quad being the 55+ demo at 51%. Diversity demos are 68% Caucasian, 18% Hispanic and Latino, 4% Black, 5% Asian, & 5% NatAm/Other. Best territories are South, South Central, and Midwest, with the AMC Dine-in Thoroughbred in Franklin, Tennessee, the highest-grossing cinema in the nation, with $70K so far.

Roadside Attractions’ Boy Kills World lands with a B- and PostTrak of 71%/50% definite recommend. The Bill Skarsgard movie will land outside the top 10, with around $1.6M. No surprise here, with 70% guys buying tickets and 60% of the audience between 18-34. Biggest demo is 25-34 at 34%. Diversity pull was 52% Caucasian, 22% Latino and Hispanic, 13% Black, 9% Asian, and 3% other. The Moritz Mohr-directed movie is playing best in the East, South, and West, with the AMC Burbank the title’s highest- grossing venue, with $10K so far. The movie is a distribution deal for Lionsgate, with P&A with Hammerstone Studios taking on the responsibility of P&A, which was financed by Nthibah Pictures.

Disney re-released the original Ridley Scott- directed Alien this weekend, which is now 45 years old. It did $606K on Friday for what’s shaping up to be a $1.78M Fri-Sun result toward the bottom of the top 10 chart. That gets the sci-fi horror pic’s lifetime cume to $83.8M, unadjusted for inflation. This re-release is occurring far in advance of the next reboot, Alien: Romulus, which is from filmmaker Fede Alvarez and opening on Aug. 16. Why now? 4/26 is Alien day for fans, that figure being the number of the ship the Nostromo.

Universal re-released 1999’s The Mummy this weekend, that pic now being 25 years old, in 1,236 theaters. It did $1M. Lifetime cume is at $156.4M.

Updated Sunday chart includes Saturday and Sunday….

1.) Challengers (AMZ MGM) 3,477 theaters, Fri $6.2M, Sat $5M Sun $3.78M 3-day $15M/Wk 1

2.) Unsung Hero (LG) 2,832 theaters,Fri $3.65M Sat $2.35M Sun $1.75M 3-day $7.75M/Wk 1

3.) Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Leg/WB) 3,312 theaters (-346), Fri $1.76M (-25%) Sat $3.3M Sun $2.1M 3-day $7.2M (-25%)/Total $181.68M/ Wk 5

4.) Civil War (A24) 3,518 (-411) theaters, Fri $1.9M (-41%) Sat $3M Sun $2M 3-day $7M (-39%), Total $56.1M/Wk 3
The Alex Garland directed dystopian political thriller is the second highest grossing movie stateside for A24, behind multi-Oscar winner Everything Everywhere All at Once which stands at $77.1M. Given that latter pic’s platform release, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. All there is to say is that the Daniels directed martial arts fantasy hit $56M in its tenth weekend and went on to gross another $21.1M. Odds are given its division, Civil War doesn’t get to that threshold.

5.) Abigail (Uni) 3,393 (+9) theatres, Fri $1.49M (-63%) Sat $2.2M Sun $1.48M, 3-day $5.25M (-49%)/Total $18.7M/Wk 2

6.) Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (LG) 2,845 theaters, Fri $1.1M (-70%) Sat $1.67M Sun $1.09M 3-day $3.86M (-57%), Total $15.4M/Wk 2

7.) Kung Fu Panda 4 (Uni) 2,767 (-188) theaters, Fri $830K (-28%) Sat $1.65M Sun $1.07M 3-day $3.55M (-24%), Total $185M/Wk 8

8.) Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Sony) 2,627 (-482) theaters, Fri $780K (-26%) Sat $1.5M Sun $945K 3-day $3.25M (-27%), Total $107.38M/Wk 6

9.) Dune: Part Two (Leg/WB) 1,334 (-680) theaters, Fri $525K (-35%) Sat $885K Sunday $575K 3-day $1.98M (-33%), Total $279.7M/Wk 9

10.) Alien (re) 1,750 theaters, Fri $606K Sat $551K Sun $406K 3-day $1.56M/Total $83.6M lifetime/Wk 1 re-release

11.) Boy Kills World (RSA) 1,993 theaters, Fri $819K, 3-day $1.6M/Wk 1

Spy x Family Code: White (Crunch) 2,009 (-31) theaters, Fri $285K Sat $480K Sun $335K 3-day $1.1M (-77%)/Total $7.08M/Wk 2

UPDATED, Friday midday: Amazon MGM Studios’ Challengers is looking at $6.2 million Friday (that includes the near $2M previews), which will get the movie to $15M at 3,477 theaters. How is that? An influx of 18- to 34-year-olds is expected tonight, with a solid hold for Sunday.

On Thursday night, that demo range repped 76% of the pic’s ticketholders, according to Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak. Hands down, this is the biggest opening ever, and widest, for Oscar-nominated Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino. Remember, this tennis movie has Imax and some PLFs, essentially all the AMC Dolbys.

RelishMix reports that Challengers now has a social media universe across TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and X at 278.5M, 60% ahead of romantic movie genre norms. That pic’s social media universe is pacing ahead of Mean Girls (264.1M), Anyone But You (98.8M) and Saltburn (213.9M). Zendaya has a devoted story spot on her Instagram devoted to Challengers, and she reminded her fans today about the movie:

Challengers (watch the trailer below) cost $50M+, and was bought by Amazon MGM as a combo with Guadagnino’s Timothée Chalamet cannibal love story Bones and All. Guadagnino already has another movie lined up at Amazon MGM, the Julia Roberts dramatic thriller After the Hunt, slated for release next year.

In second at the domestic box office is Lionsgate/Kingdom Story’s Unsung Hero with $3.4M-$3.9M today, and $7M-$9M for the weekend at 2,832 theaters.

Legendary/Warner Bros.’ fifth weekend of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is in third at 3,312 locations with $1.7M today, and $7M for the 3-day, -27%, for a running total of $181.5M.

Bill Skarsgård in 'Boy Kills World'
Bill Skarsgård in ‘Boy Kills World’

Fourth is the third frame of A24’s Civil War at 3,518 sites with $1.8M today, and $6.2M, -44%, for a running cume by Sunday of $55.3M.

Fifth goes to Universal’s Radio Silence-directed horror movie Abigail in 3,393 theaters with a Friday of $1.35M, 3-day of $4.5M, -56%, and 10-day of $18M.

Roadside Attractions’ Boy Kills World is coming in at $900,000 today and $1.9M for the weekend at 1,993 theaters.

PREVIOUSLY, Friday AM: Amazon MGM Studios’ Challengers, starring Zendaya and directed by Luca Guadagnino, made $1.9 million in previews Thursday, a figure $100,000 shy of what Universal’s Cocaine Bear did. The sexy tennis rom-com is hoping to open to $15M for the weekend.

Critics love Challengers at 91% certified fresh, but last night’s audiences were so-so on it with three stars on Screen Engine/Comscore’s PostTrak at 3 1/2 stars, 75% positive and a 56% definite recommend. Women over 25 at 35% came out as well as women under 25 at 25%, but guys over 25 got pulled along as dates at 25%, with men under 25 at 14%. It wasn’t Zendaya’s girl fans who liked the movie the most, but men over 25 at 80%.

Overall best demo grades for Challengers came from the 25-34 bunch (80%, showed up at 37%) and 45-54 folks (82% grade, showed up at 4%). Originally the movie was scheduled to go in mid-September after a Venice Film Festival world premiere, but got pushed to this weekend due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. Whatever number this movie comes in at, it was a smart move as it’s had the global push of Zendaya to her 184M Instagram fans.

'Unsung Hero' release date
‘Unsung Hero’

Elsewhere, Lionsgate and Kingdom Story’s Unsung Hero made $1.67M in previews. It’s important to note that for both films not all their bread was made last night from previews, but includes early advance-screening money.

The faith-based Unsung Hero grossed $470K yesterday. The movie directed by Joel Smallbone & Richard L. Ramsey, which expands to 2,832 sites today, was made for $6M before P&A and will earn about that much at the B.O. Unsung Hero follows David Smallbone, who moves from Australia to U.S. with seven kids and his wife and turns into a five-time Grammy-winning artist of For King + Country, and Rebecca St. James. In early Thursday PostTrak exits, Unsung Hero notched five stars, 96% positive and an 86% definite recommend. Last night’s audience drew 66% female, 48% over 55. RT reviews for Unsung Hero are at 60% fresh with audiences at 100%.

Early industry estimates for previews on Roadside Attractions’ Boy Kills World movie is around $500K. The Lionsgate’s sister label uber-action movie that was acquired out of TIFF Midnight is looking at a single-digit opening. RT reviews are at 63% fresh, audiences are at 60%. PostTrak moviegoers were hard on the film at 3 stars, 66% positive and a 67% guy turnout.

The rest of Thursday and the week is as follows:

1.) Civil War (A24) 3,929 theaters, Thurs $874K (-8% from Wed), Wk $15M, Total $48.8M/Wk 2

2.) Abigail (Uni) 3,384 theaters, Thurs $646K (-11%), Wk $13.5M, Wk 1

3.) Godzilla x King (Leg/WB) 3,658 theaters Thurs $615K (-3%), Wk $12.3M, Total $174.4M/Wk 4

4.) Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (LG) 2,845 theaters, Thurs $500K (-19%), Wk $11.5M/Wk 1

5.) Kung Fu Panda 4 (Uni) 2,955 theaters, Thurs $317K (-6%), Wk $6M, Total $181.4M/Wk 7

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