Box Office: Will Smith’s ‘King Richard’ Disappoints With $5.7 Million Weekend

King Richard became the latest “What we say we want but don’t show up” box office disappointment for Warner Bros. Blame HBO Max, but they’ve had a slew of old-school studio programmers (The Kitchen, Blinded By the Light, The Way Back, Cry Macho, etc.) going back to late 2019 that have struggled to top even $6 million on opening weekend. Maybe Samba TV will report tomorrow that a large number of households (say, over three million) watched the terrific Will Smith-led tennis biopic on HBO Max over the weekend, but recent history shows that the films which do good-to-great on HBO Max (Godzilla Vs. Kong, Dune, The Conjuring 3, etc.) are the ones that do at least decently at the box office as well. Maybe Malignant was “found” over its 31-day HBO Max window, but that’s an assumption.

Mortal Kombat ($85 million worldwide on a $55 million budget) and The Suicide Squad ($160 million but on a $180 million budget) are weird exceptions, but it’s not like everyone flocked to In the Heights on opening weekend on HBO Max. The Many Saints of Newark juiced interest in The Sopranos and was arguably a down payment on David Chase making a Sopranos prequel show, but not every studio programmer is playing such a long game. You can argue that something is amiss in terms of WB marketing these films, but they are also arguably the only studio still releasing movies like Reminiscence or Those Who Wish Me Dead on the regular in wide theatrical release. If they build it but you don’t come, eventually they will stop building it because they aren’t a charity.

Despite strong reviews (92% and 7.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes), plenty of free media (most of it positive) and the presence of Will Smith *as* Richard Williams (the father of Tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams), King Richard stumbled this weekend with $5.7 million. The film earned an A from Cinemascore (including an A- from under-25 audiences) and will hopefully stick around through Thanksgiving and into Christmas, but legs can only do so much when you open below $6 million. WB sold the hell out of this one, just like they sold the hell out of Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights, but audiences didn’t care. This may not derail Smith’s Oscar hopes, but a robust box office sure as hell would have pushed the $50 million-budgeted King Richard to the front of the Best Picture race.

King Richard opened in line with Collateral Beauty ($7.1 million) but below the likes of Focus ($14.5 million) and Concussion ($10 million). As always, remember this next time you read some blog post arguing that Smith needs a new agent because he signed on for Aladdin 2, Independence Day 3, Bright 2, Men in Black 5, Bad Boys 4Ever or Deadshot. Smith has been making non-franchise films for the last decade (including Ang Lee’s over budgeted but ambitious Gemini Man). However, the new normal sees audiences barely seeing anything outside of the nostalgia franchise comfort zone. Smith is a guy who pushed a true-life drama about economic mobility (The Pursuit of Happyness) to $300 million worldwide back in 2006. That he couldn’t open King Richard to $10 million is clearly more about the marketplace than the movie star.

A24 released Mike Mills’ black-and-white family melodrama C’mon C’mon into six theaters this weekend. The well-reviewed (92% and 8.2/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) flick, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a journalist entrusted with the care of his young nephew (Woody Norman) during a cross-country trip, earned $134,447 this weekend, giving it a robust $26,889 per-theater average. That’s the biggest per-theater average of the so-called pandemic era, ahead of even the $1.3 million debut in 52 theaters for The French Dispatch. That Wes Anderson charmer has stuck around, with a current cume of $13 million domestic and $32 million worldwide. Among other Oscar contenders, Kristen Stewart’s Spencer has earned $6.1 million in 17 days, while Belfast has earned $3.5 million in ten days. All hopes rest with Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci as the Lady Gaga/Adam Driver melodrama opens over Thanksgiving.

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Box Office: Will Smith’s ‘King Richard’ Disappoints With $5.7 Million Weekend

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