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‘John Wick 4’ gives Lionsgate a much-needed hit

by DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE PRESS SERVICES | March 31, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
A 58-year-old Keanu Reeves is a victorious John Wick in “John Wick: Chapter 4” which promises to be the final installment of the series. The film came in at No. 1 with an astounding $73.5 million is receipts.

A small Hollywood studio, one that has struggled to remain relevant in a fast-changing film business, delivered a master class in movie franchise management over the weekend.

The studio, Lionsgate, roared back to life at the box office with the blood-soaked “John Wick: Chapter 4,” which took in roughly $73.5 million at North American theaters, easily enough for first place. This comes as welcome news for Lionsgate after two of the four films they released in 2021 and 2022 were flops.

Film series almost always fall apart by their fourth installments, if they even make it that far. But the “John Wick” franchise, built around a weary assassin played by Keanu Reeves, has now shown dramatic growth with each consecutive sequel, something no action-thriller property has done before, according to analysts. (The “Fast and Furious” franchise stumbled with the third chapter, leading to a creative overhaul.) The “John Wick” series now outranks the “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon” franchises in terms of chapter-to-chapter growth. Both of those 1980s-era properties crescendoed over four films, with initial ticket sales for each new offering exceeding the last. But neither soared in popularity from sequel to sequel to the same degree as “John Wick.” The latest “Wick” entry scored a glowing 95% fresh rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and an A grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

“This is John Wick gone global; it’s ‘The Wick Ultimatum,’” Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang writes.

Regardless, the franchise is set to keep humming. A spinoff titled “Ballerina” starring Ana de Armas and co-starring Reeves has already been shot, and “The Continental,” a spinoff miniseries with Mel Gibson, is forthcoming on Peacock.

“Chad and Keanu have created this world and that world continues to expand. I don’t know what all the edges of that world are, still,” said Joe Drake, Lionsgate’s chairman.

“As best they can, they’ll continue to try to seduce Keanu to come back and do things. He gets beat up in these shows. He really does. And at the end he’s like, ‘I’m not doing it anymore.’ Then you watch him sit in the theater and feel that audience. So we’re going to continue to look for ways to meet that demand,” said Drake.

After its disappointing $30.5 million debut March 17, the superhero sequel “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” slumped to second place with $9.7 million in its second weekend. The Warner Bros. release dropped steeply, tumbling 68% from its launch.

“Scream VI” took third place with $8.4 million in its third weekend, bringing its total thus far to $90.4 million domestic and $139.3 million worldwide. “Creed III” followed in fourth with $8.4 million. Michael B. Jordan’s sequel is up to $140.9 million domestically.

Also new to theaters last weekend was IFC Films’ “The Lost King,” which grossed $575,000 in 753 locations at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates. Helmed by Stephen Frears, the comedy stars Sally Hawkins as a dogged historian on a quest to uncover the remains of King Richard III.

“The Lost King” garnered a solid 77% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has not yet received a grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

“Toward the end, ‘The Lost King’ reveals a distinctly British obsession with royalty and propriety that doesn’t always translate with the same reverence abroad,” writes film critic Katie Walsh for Tribune News Service.

“But the more important story being told is the one about discrimination and misinformation; that fact can be twisted into fiction that’s perpetrated for centuries.” Rounding out the weekend was Zach Braff’s “A Good Person,” starring Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman. The MGM release opened at 530 theaters and grossed $834,000.


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