“Bob Marley” tops the box office while “Madame Web” fails

Paramount Pictures’ Bob Marley biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” exceeded expectations by debuting at No. 1 at the box office with an opening weekend of $27.7 million, while Sony’s “Madame Web” flopped with a of the lowest debuts for a film centered on a Marvel character.

Both films hit theaters Tuesday to enchant Valentine’s Day moviegoers. But on a weekend where “Madame Web” was once expected to go, “One Love” emerged as the far-out favorite option in theaters, despite largely negative reviews.

Instead, “One Love,” starring Kingsley Ben-Adir and produced with the involvement of the Marley family, performed more or less on par with previous successful musical biopics such as “Rocketman” and “Elvis.” Paramount expects “One Love” to gross $51 million in its first six days, including estimates for President’s Day on Monday. It added $29 million from 47 international territories.

Chris Aronson, Paramount’s head of distribution, noted that pre-release projections are calling for a six-day total close to $30 million for “One Love.” But all sorts of spectators showed up for the first big-screen biopic of the Rastafarian legend.

“It’s been through all the generations. It wasn’t just a film for an older audience that grew up on Bob Marley’s music,” Aronson said. “Our highest dial was (age) between 18 and 24. A third of the audience was under 25. That, to me, says a lot.”

Produced for around $70 million, “One Love,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, tells Marley’s story during the making of the 1977 album “Exodus” as it precedes a milestone concert in his native Jamaica. Among the film’s producers are Marley’s children, Ziggy and Cedella, and his wife Rita.

Ziggy Marley, in a statement Sunday, said: “We thank the people for accepting this film and in doing so helping to highlight the message of one love.”

Although critics criticized the film (43% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes) for relying on biopic conventions, audiences gave it a much higher grade, with an “A” CinemaScore. This type of audience response, in addition to the strong opening, should bode well for the film’s run.

“Madame Web”, however, was dead on arrival. Over six days, Sony estimates a $15.2 million weekend and a $25.8 million six-day haul. Audiences (a “C+” CinemaScore) agree with critics (13% “fresh”).

Such launches were once unfathomable for independent superhero films. But the film, an extension of Sony’s Spider-Man film universe, has struggled to dispel the ugly buzz surrounding the $80 million project. In it, Dakota Johnson plays a New York paramedic with clairvoyant powers.

“The whole superhero genre has had a really tough time over the last year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for the data firm Comscore. “Some things are no longer a sure bet. Except perhaps now, the musical biopic has become the genre of choice. It just shows how tastes can change.

Sony’s Spider-Man spinoffs have been mostly hit and miss. His two “Venom” films have collectively surpassed $1.3 billion worldwide. But 2022’s poorly received “Morbius” raised just $167.4 million globally. “Madame Web” still hasn’t come close to matching the $39 million domestic opening weekend for “Morbius.” In 61 overseas markets, “Madame Web” added $25.7 million.

The best news for Sony’s Spider-verse came Saturday night at the 51st Annual Annie Awards, where “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” won best feature film and picked up seven awards in total. “Across the Spider-Verse” is nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards – and the Annie Awards can often be a good predictor of the winner.

The 2024 box office is off to a disappointing start for Hollywood, and “Madame Web”’s disappointing showing won’t help. Movie-going has slowed in recent weeks, while the 2023 strikes have affected this year’s release schedules. Even with the strong opening of “One Love,” ticket sales fell 15% over the weekend compared to 2023, according to ComScore.

Expectations are high for “Dune: Part Two,” which releases March 1. Until then, “Bob Marley: One Love” will be on the air.

Estimated ticket sales Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. The final national data will be published on Monday.

1. “Bob Marley: One Love,” $27.7 million.

2. “Madame Web,” $15.2 million.

3. “Argylle,” $4.7 million.

4. “Migration,” $3.8 million.

5. “The Chosen,” episodes 4-6, $3.4 million.

6. “Wonka,” $3.4 million.

7. “The Beekeeper,” $3.3 million.

8. “Anyone But You,” $2.4 million.

9. “Lisa Frankenstein,” $2 million.

10. “Land of Bad,” $1.8 million.

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