Box Office: Zendaya’s ‘Challengers’ Hits Target With $15M Opening for No. 1 Finish (2024)

Zendaya‘s romance-tennis drama Challengers easily won the weekend box office match with a $15 million opening from 3,477 theaters, in line with expectations and marking the second-best start for an original R-rated drama since the pandemic behind Don’t Worry Darling.

It was a bold move for MGM Amazon Studios to open Luca Guadagnino‘s sexy adult drama nationwide, versus giving it a platform release, considering it’s more of an arthouse movie than a commercial play. The studio did so in part to raise awareness among those who might choose to wait to watch the movie on Amazon’s streaming service, Prime — including Zendaya fans who aren’t yet subscribers. High-profile titles also keep existing subs satisfied, or at least that’s the hope.

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And by midweek, Challengers will easily become Luca Guadagnino’s highest-grossing film domestically after passing up Call Me By Your Name, which grossed roughly $18 million.

The film also impressed overseas, grossing $9 million from 52 markets for a global score of $25 million (it earned $1 million last weekend in Australia and New Zealand). Not surprisingly, it is doing well in Europe and Australia. The U.K. led all markets this weekend with $1.8 million to place No. 1 and come in on par with Oscar contender Poor Things and well ahead of Ben Affleck‘s sports drama Air. Warner Bros. International is handling the film offshore for MGM.

Audiences aren’t embracing the R-rated film quite to the degree that reviewers did, giving it a B+ CinemaScore. Female moviegoers made up 58 percent the Friday’s audience, while a whopping 76 percent of ticket buyers were between ages 18 and 34. Challengers is performing best on the two coasts and benefiting from playing to an ethnically diverse audience. White moviegoers made up 43 percent of Friday ticket buyers, followed by Latino moviegoers (27 percent), Black moviegoers (17 percent), Asian moviegoers (9 percent) and Native American/others (4 percent).

Challengers, co-starring Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor, features Zendaya as a tennis player torn between two loves.

A substantial chunk of the opening weekend gross, or 37 percent, came from Imax and other premium-format screens.

Challengers was supposed to open last year in time for awards season, but those plans were scuttled because of the SAG-AFTRA strike and the ban on talent doing press. Zendaya, in particular, has a huge social reach needed for the film. Exhibitors have praised Amazon for embracing the theatrical model instead of sending a movie such as Challengers straight to streaming.

Coming in No. 2 at the domestic box office is Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company’s Unsung Hero, which landed ahead of expectations after earning a coveted A+ CinemaScore. The faith-based film opened to an estimated $7.8 million (tracking had suggested $5 million to $6 million).

Unsung Hero is skewing heavily female (91 percent) and is performing best in the middle of the country. It also skewed notably older, with 55 percent of the audience over the age of 55.

Based on a true story, the $6 million film follows David Smallbone as he moves his family from Australia to the U.S. searching for a brighter future after his successful music company collapses. Along the way, he and his wife begin to realize the musical talent of their seven children; three of whom would become two successful acts — KING + COUNTRY and Rebecca St. James.

Godzilla x Kong and Dune: Part Two — both from Warner Bros. and Legendary — celebrated major milestones this weekend in crossing $500 million and $700 million, respectively, at the global box office. They are the two biggest films of the year to date at the worldwide box office.

Coming in No. 3 domestically, Godzilla earned $7.2 million to finish Sunday with a domestic tally of $519.3 million globally, including $181.7 million in North America and $337.7 million overseas. For its part, the Dune sequel finished Sunday with a domestic cume of $279.7 million domestically and $424.5 million overseas for $704.5 million worldwide.

DreamWorks Animation and Universal also had reason to cheer as Kung Fu Panda 4 crossed the $500 million mark globally, including $185 million domestically, where it is the No. 2 film of the year, and $318.5 million overseas. And the Kung Fu Panda series has now passed Madagascar to become the second biggest DreamWorks Animation franchise behind Shrek, with a combined $2.3 billion in ticket sales.

Also making news was 20th Century and Disney’s rerelease of Ridley Scott’s 1979 feature Alien, which placed No. 11 domestically with $1.6 million and drew glowing exit scores. The rerelease is a promotion for the upcoming Alien: Romulus, which opens in August, and includes a nine-minute interview between Scott and Romulus director Fede Álvarez that includes footage from new Romulus.

Back in the top five, A24’s Civil War held in well with $7 million to come in No. 4, boasting a domestic total of $56.2 million through Sunday.

Universal’s horror pic Abigail rounded out the top five with $5 million in its second weekend for a 10-day domestic total of $18.5 million.

With domestic revenue running behind last year by more than 20 percent, Hollywood and theater operators are looking forward to next weekend when the summer box office kicks off The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling. The pic opened early in 38 overseas markets this weekend, earning $8.7 million. Among the handful of major territories where it rolled out, Australia, where the film is set, led with a strong $2.9 million.

April 28, 7:15 a.m. Updated with Sunday estimates.

This story was originally published April 27 at 8:42 am.

Box Office: Zendaya’s ‘Challengers’ Hits Target With $15M Opening for No. 1 Finish (2024)
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