Whoever said there is no such thing as bad press might’ve been onto something—unless they were also the same great thinker who suggested video game movies were a sucker’s racket. Indeed, opening about three months after its original release date, and with major post-production CGI surgery to its title character after online backlash, Sonic the Hedgehog zipped past all expectations Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day weekend to a stunning debut.
Grossing an estimated $57 million over the traditional three-day weekend frame and a total of $68 million over the four-day holiday weekend, Sonic the Hedgehog dominated the box office this weekend and defied even the rosiest projections. In fact, studio Paramount Pictures pegged their blue devil movie as opening at $50 million over the four-day weekend, and the biggest number I saw a competitor place it at was $55 million. But ol’ Sonic is zooming right past all projections as of Sunday night.
This makes Sonic the Hedgehog easily the biggest movie of the weekend, leaping over last weekend’s champ Birds of Prey, which is estimated to play at $19.6 million over four days, as well as Fantasy Island, which is bowing to a humbler $14 million over four days (that isn’t bad considering it has a C- CinemaScore).
To say these numbers should make Paramount happy is an understatement. Sonic the Hedgehog had one of the bumpiest rollouts in recent memory when both the film’s poster and its original trailer were met with near universal scorn and derision on social media. The original trailer, which the studio has since taken down (but you can still view here), dropped on April 30, 2019 and was known to upset many adults who grew up on a character. The film was then delayed from its intended November release to Valentine’s Day weekend. The move appeared more than prudent.
It also suggests the popularity of Sonic the Hedgehog, a perennial icon of ‘90s entertainment and the Sega Genesis generation, was greater than anticipated. One might even speculate that the boom of ‘90s nostalgia is finally upon us. While more teen-oriented franchises like Scream and American Pie were resurrected in the previous decade, they were both calling on an older and some might say grosser memories than bringing back one of the ‘90s kid friendly icons. (They also ignored what some call the 30-year rule for nostalgia.) Sonic, meanwhile, never fully left us with Sega continuing to produce video games with the character, even if his popularity as being able to rival Mario dimmed in the ensuing years.
Still, some younger children today are growing up with him and, maybe more importantly, the earliest children to love Sonic are now having kids of their own—kids they can take to the theater in order to share both the character and Jim Carrey at his zaniest.
For this is also a major win for Carrey, whose most recent film, 2018 drama Dark Crimes, went straight to VOD and DVD in most markets, and his film before that was the nostalgia-flopping Dumb and Dumber To (2014). Yet Sonic the Hedgehog saw him back in his element of high concept, family friendly entertainment where he is allowed to dial it up to 11 and then well past that. It’s what made him a star in movies like 1994’s Ace Ventura and The Mask, and then what let him go supernova after 1995’s Batman Forever. Nostalgia for that performance among young parents who remember it as kids clearly should not be undervalued.
And given that Sonic the Hedgehog has a CinemaScore of “A,” this thing likely has legs that’ll allow it to run high all February and into March. After years and years of ‘80s-gazing films and TV Shows, it may be safe to say that the ‘90s are coming back too…
David Crow is the Film Section Editor at Den of Geek. He’s also a member of both the Critics Choice Association and the Online Film Critics Society. Read more of his work here. You can follow him on Twitter @DCrowsNest.