‘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

STARS transports man with gunshot wound

Reports of man involved in hunting incident air lifted out of Fairmont Hot Springs airport

When it’s all fun and games… and a little dust

An inside look at how Mainstreet Fun and Games chooses inventory

Accordion “still always big in demand”

Franz Grasegger invited to play on summer music tour with accordion

Hop downtown to hug the Easter Bunny

Easter activities across the Valley

Support through grief at hospice society

7th annual Butterfly Gala raises funds for Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

Easter bombings a response to New Zealand attacks, says Sri Lanka minister

The Islamic State group asserted it was responsible for the nine bombings

PHOTOS: New commemorative loonie marks progress’ for LGBTQ2 people

But advocates say it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved largely as a result of government actions

Man charged in fatal Salmon Arm church shooting to appear in court

Matrix Savage Gathergood charged with first degree murder, aggravated assault

RCMP looking to retrace steps of woman found dead on Kelowna beach

Caitlin Midori Bradley, a 29-year-old dancer at a Kelowna bar, was originally from Surrey

Two back-to-back earthquakes strike off Vancouver Island

The first earthquake happened at 1:27 p.m., the second at 2:44 p.m.

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

PHOTOS: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says ‘I do’ on Earth Day

May and John Kidder got married Monday morning in Victoria

Most Read