Paramount Pictures and Sega's "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" zoomed to the top of the domestic box office last weekend, premiering with $71 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore. The animated film has shattered early box office projections, which maxed out around $60 million.
In "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," the titular furry blue protagonist (voiced by Ben Schwartz) faces an equally fluffy new threat, Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba), who has joined Dr. Robotnik's (Jim Carrey) ongoing quest to conquer Earth. The family adventure also stars James Marsden, Colleen O'Shaughnessey and Tika Sumpter.
Directed by Jeff Fowler, the cartoon sequel fared significantly better than its predecessor, which debuted at $58 million domestically in February 2020. On review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, the second "Sonic" earned a middling 67% rating, but scored a glowing A grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.
"The normal pattern domestically is that sequels slide a little bit," said Chris Aronson, the president of domestic distribution for Paramount. "But we certainly bucked that trend."
For a sequel to open 22% above the first, Aronson added, is "quite remarkable."
"The filmmakers did a great job of being in service of not only the general audience but Sonic fans themselves," Aronson said. "Many feel it's a bigger, better film than the first one."
It was an important weekend not just for the "Sonic" franchise, but for PG-rated family films too. Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said that one of the big questions of the pandemic was whether families would return to movie theaters with seemingly limitless viewing options available at home. According to exit polls, families made up 58% of the "Sonic 2" audience.
"There's been some indication that they wanted to go back with movies like 'Sing 2,' but it has moved in fits and starts," Dergarabedian said. "This says once and for all that families want to go back. It's a really good indicator of things to come for family films in 2022 with 'Lightyear' and the next 'Minions' movie."
"A lot of credit goes to our marketing and distribution teams," Aronson said. "We've been judicious about picking our dates and knowing who our audience was for each."
And their next release could be their biggest yet. "Top Gun: Maverick" debuts May 27.
Demoted to second place was Sony/Columbia/Marvel's "Morbius," which suffered a steep 74% drop in its second weekend, adding $10.2 million for a North American cumulative of $57.1 million. Arriving in fourth place was Universal Pictures' "Ambulance," which opened to $8.8 million.
Helmed by Michael Bay, "Ambulance" is a remake of the 2005 Danish crime drama of the same name starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eiza Gonzalez. The action flick posted a mediocre 69% on Rotten Tomatoes but drew a decent A-minus from audiences polled by CinemaScore.
"This is a filmmaker who will be looked at as a blockbuster director, whether you like his movies or not. The bar is always raised for someone like that," Dergarabedian said. "But this is a different kind of movie and I think that's why we're seeing these numbers. It's not trying to be 'Transformers.' If Bay's name wasn't on it, expectations wouldn't be as high."
Expanding to wide release last weekend was A24's "Everything Everywhere All at Once," which finished in sixth place and grossed $6.1 million for a North American cumulative of $8.4 million. Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the zany sci-fi epic starring Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis notched an excellent 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
"A24 has done a spectacular job of rolling it out on a platform release and building buzz," Dergarabedian said.
The film will expand to more theaters in the coming weeks.
Rounding out the top five are Paramount's "The Lost City," which added $9.2 million in its third weekend for a North American cumulative of $68.9 million, and Warner Bros. and DC's "The Batman," which amassed $6.5 million in its sixth weekend for a North American cumulative of $359 million.
Opening wide this weekend is Warner Bros.' "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore," the latest installment in the "Harry Potter" spinoff franchise.