Box Office: 'Shazam!' grows to $53 million debut

LOS ANGELES ( – The magic word at the box office this weekend was “Shazam!” Warner Bros.’ latest superhero adventure easily topped charts in North America, pocketing $53 million when it debuted in 4,217 venues.

Buoyed by positive reviews, “Shazam!” arrived ahead of expectations, which anticipated a start around $40 million to $45 million. The film also earned $3 million in advanced screenings for a domestic haul of $56 million.

While “Shazam!’s” opening weekend is on the lower side for a traditional comic-book movie, it was less expensive to make compared to other superhero films. That means it doesn’t have to reach the same heights as entries like “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman” to turn a profit. Warner Bros. and New Line spent $80 million to produce “Shazam!,” proving that studios can crank out a solid superhero installment without breaking the bank.

“Shazam!” — described as “Big” set in the comic-book world — centers on Billy Baston (Asher Angel), a teenager who transforms into a bubble-gum-snapping superhero (Zachary Levi) when someone says the magic word. Both critics and fans praised the movie for its lighter take on the genre, compared to the apocalyptic storylines in comic-book adaptations. Males accounted for 57 percent of opening weekend audiences, while 45 percent of crowds were under the age of 25.

Though “Shazam!” led the way in North America, Paramount’s horror remake “Pet Sematary” also had a strong start, scaring up $25 million when it debuted in 3,585 locations. The supernatural thriller, based on Stephen King’s novel, cost $21 million to produce.

The final newcomer this weekend was STX’s “Best of Enemies.” It pulled in an underwhelming $4.5 million from 1,705 screens. Older moviegoers aren’t generally a demographic that rushes out to see a movie on opening weekend, so the studio anticipates that word-of-mouth about the feel-good drama will grow in the coming weeks, leading to a long life in theaters. Nearly 80 percent of moviegoers were over the age of 25, and 63 percent were female.

A number of holdovers filled out North American box office charts. In third place, Disney’s re-imagining of “Dumbo” earned $18 million in its sophomore outing, marking a steep 60 percent drop from its debut. It has generated $76 million to date.

Jordan Peele’s “Us,” now in its third weekend of release, amassed another $13 million for a domestic haul of $152 million.

Rounding out the top five is Disney’s “Captain Marvel,” adding $12 million. Starring Brie Larson, the superhero tentpole has crossed $1 billion in ticket sales, with $373 million of that bounty coming from North American theaters.

Among specialty releases, Neon’s Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace” made $57,353 from three theaters, averaging $19,118 per location. The non-fiction film, which was 46 years in the making, captures the Queen of Soul as she records her wildly successful album in a Baptist church.

Elsewhere, Amazon Studio’s released “Peterloo,” a historical drama about the deadly 1819 massacre in Manchester, in three locations. It pocketed $30,426 for a per-screen-average of $10,142.

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