The previous weekend proved to be another healthy, and therefore happy, three-day frame for genre fare. With each new year raising the specter of dread about theatergoing’s future, it’s always welcome news when studio wide releases perform at least as well as expected, and perhaps even more so when they don’t have to be quite so reliant on overextended budgets. Such was the case for Warner Brothers’ Shazam! and Paramount Pictures’ Pet Sematary remake, a respective superhero movie and Stephen King adaptation/remake that proved to be boffo goodness all-around.
Serendipitously timed to tail-end the week of CinemaCon, an event where studios, theater exhibitors, and the press look ahead to the future of the cinema experience, Shazam! offered a positive superhero opening weekend that didn’t need to be nine figures. Grossing $53.7 million over three days, including $5.9 million from the Thursday night previews, the latest effort from the DCEU certainly had more modest debut than last December’s Aquaman (which opened at about $68 million before overperforming to more than $1.1 billion worldwide), but it also had a more intimate perspective overseen by director David S. Sandberg.
Essentially marketed and produced as a family film derived from an ‘80s sensibility, Shazam! is the most clearly defined family movie in the superhero genre this side of Marvel’s Ant-Man movies. Additionally, with a budget of reportedly $100 million, it is decidedly less expensive than all the quarter-billion dollar superhero flicks produced by Disney and Warner Bros., with the aim of essentially being Big with a cape (as well as a notable dose of slightly edgy horror, reminiscent of other ‘80s kids touchstones like Ghostbusters and anything Amblin produced).
As such, Shazam! grossing more than half its production budget in its opening weekend is a promising sign for a film that, if other similar themed family films like 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle are any indication, should perform with solid legs at least until Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame opens at the end of the month. Operating in a different headspace from most superhero movies, the release strategy of Shazam! seems to slightly mirror 20th Century Fox’s X-Men-adjacent R-rated superhero films, including Deadpool and Logan, which are made for a different market than their bigger budgeted peers and can then theoretically succeed while earning less (although Deadpool proved to be an overperformer, grossing more than the traditional X-Men films and many Marvel Studios movies too).
Shazam! is a win for WB’s rebranding of the DC Extended Universe, as well as star Zachary Levi. Its success, however, should not overshadow Pet Sematary, which grossed an estimated $25 million over the weekend. This number might be slightly disappointing for anyone in the industry hoping for lightning to strike twice with another Stephen King remake grossing more than $120 million like WB’s It in 2017, however Pet Sematary has always been a less beloved novel and property.
Nevertheless, the King film, directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, respectably grossed more than any other King film not starring Bill Skarsgard���s version of a killer clown and it also posted a domestic total that is greater than its reported production budget of $21 million. On the road to being a horror hit, Pet Sematary continues the trend of horror movies and thrillers doing big business in 2019, including Jordan Peele’s fantastically received Us and even M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, which while earning less than Split still crossed more than $100 million in the U.S. on a budget of $20 million.
It is safe to say audiences still love capes and good scares, and given the superhero release schedule for the rest of the year, as well as the horror movie one, that is good news for genre enthusiasts.