The box office will likely belong to “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” once again. Despite the introduction of two new movies this weekend, Universal and Illumination’s animated adaptation of the iconic Nintendo video game appears to loom large in its second weekend of release. These movies are the goofy Dracula horror-comedy “Renfield” from Universal and the R-rated demonic thriller “The Pope’s Exorcist” from Sony.
The $146 million opening weekend for “Mario” is expected to drop to $58 million to $66 million over the weekend. Since its release last Wednesday, the PG movie, which cost $100 million and brought back the crucial demographic of family audiences, has earned $204.6 million in North America and $375 million worldwide. After “Minions: The Rise of Gru” ($939 million), “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” ($480 million), and “Sing 2” ($408 million), it has quickly become the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Among the newbies, “Renfield” has the highest projected North American box office earnings at $10 million from 3,300 theaters. That’s not a good sign for a movie whose budget is $65 million. The budget for “The Pope’s Exorcist” was under $18 million, therefore a $10 million North American gross is a more reasonable goal.
In “Renfield,” Chris McKay, director of “The Tomorrow War” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” gives us a fresh take on the legend of Dracula’s faithful servant. Actor Nicholas Hoult (from “The Menu”) plays Renfield, the tortured servant of Nicolas Cage’s infamous narcissistic vampire who strives to break free from their centuries-long dependency on one another.
In general, reviewers have been kind to “Renfield,” which is why the film has an 80% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Owen Gleiberman of Variety wasn’t as enthusiastic with the film (because “there’s nothing much at stake”), but he appreciated Cage’s humorous portrayal of The Count (because “it’s a witty and luscious performance, unhinged but never out of control“).
After the triumph of the low-budget film “The Invisible Man,” starring Elisabeth Moss in 2020, Universal has decided to continue the reimagining of their monster verse with the release of the film “Renfield.” After the economic failure of Tom Cruise’s version of “The Mummy,” the company was obliged to retool its so-called Dark Universe, based on figures from their huge vault of legendary monsters.
In “The Pope’s Exorcist,” starring Russell Crowe, the true story of the Vatican’s senior exorcist serves as the film’s inspiration. Directed by Julius Avery, the film follows Father Gabriele Amorth as he investigates the terrible possession of a young kid and stumbles onto a centuries-old plot that the Holy See has been trying to bury.
“The Pope’s Exorcist” has received mixed reviews from critics, with Variety’s Guy Lodge calling the possession thriller “thin” and “by the numbers.” The film now has a 64% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Thus, it’s encouraging that negative reviews rarely hinder a horror film’s first-weekend earnings. Weekends after that are a different story. While “The Pope’s Exorcist” is more expensive than the typical low-budget thriller, its $18 million budget reflects the recent success of the genre in theaters.
The latest anxiety-inducing film from director Ari Aster, “Beau Is Afraid,” will have a limited release at four theaters: New York’s AMC Lincoln Square and Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse, as well as Los Angeles’ AMC Century City and Burbank. The Joaquin Phoenix-led picture, which has been called a “three-hour-long panic attack,” depicts the journey of a troubled man trying to return home after a tragic event in his family.
Aster, the filmmaker of “Midsommar” and “Hereditary,” certainly meant for viewers to have difficulty deciphering his latest film, “Beau Is Afraid.” As David Fear, film critic for Rolling Stone, put it: “It’s either the most terrifying comedy or the funniest horror film of 2023.”