Box Office: Elvis Opening and Top Gun: Maverick Battling for No. 1, Black Phone Ringing Up $23 Million

It’s a 20th century showdown at the domestic box office this weekend, with the baby boomer epic “Elvis” contending against Gen X revamp “Top Gun: Maverick” for the top spot on domestic charts.

Director Baz Luhrmann’s biopic about the King of Rock and Roll is projected to draw $30 million from 3,906 theaters in its opening. It would be the second-strongest North American opening of the Aussie filmmaker’s career, coming in behind the $50 million debut of his 2013 adaptation “The Great Gatsby.” The film, which stars Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, could also mark the highest non-franchise domestic opening since the onset of COVID-19, potentially topping the $30.4 million debut of Paramount’s “The Lost City” earlier this spring.

It’s an adequate start for “Elvis.” The Warner Bros. release, has scored largely affectionate reviews from critics, with many highlighting star Butler’s breakout turn as Presley. Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote that the actor “has bedroom eyes and cherubic lips and nails the king’s electrostatic moves,” though “his resemblance to Elvis never quite hits you in the solar plexus.” “Elvis” has drawn a favorable 68% approval aggregate from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes; audiences also seem to be receptive, with the film scoring an “A-” grade from research firm CinemaScore.

Those are two strong signs for “Elvis,” which will need to show some staying power in order to recoup its production budget of $85 million from domestic theaters. The film clocks in with a hefty runtime of 159 minutes — though that’s only 12 minutes longer than last week’s box office victor “Jurassic World Dominion.” Plus, as it documents the life of a mid-20th century icon, the biopic is expected to skewer older than a franchise play, meaning there might be less urgency to see the film as soon as possible compared to the average studio release. 60% of the film’s audience has been reported to be older than 35 years old. Word-of-mouth becomes a key factor in determining the financial success of releases like “Elvis.”

Even with Luhrmann’s film drawing in a moderate opening, the biopic faces some steep competition for the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office, as “Jurassic World Dominion,” “Lightyear” and the summer box office’s tour de force, “Top Gun: Maverick,” all continue to draw audiences.

The horror film “The Black Phone” is also opening this weekend, after drawing in $3 million from previews on Thursday. Universal expects the Ethan Hawke vehicle to gross $23.25 million from 3,150 venues through Sunday.

“The Black Phone” has good chances of turning a profit with a budget of only $18 million before marketing and distribution — the abiding credo of Blumhouse Productions, the producer behind other “low-risk, high-reward” genre plays like “Get Out,” “Happy Death Day” and “Ma.”

More to come…

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