KO box office: ‘Creed III’ debuts to $58.7 million

“ Creed III ” outperformed at the domestic box office in its first weekend in theaters. MGM’s release of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” debuted and far exceeded industry expectations and the opening weekends of the first two films in the franchise.

Playing in 4,007 locations in North America, “Creed III” earned about $58.7 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday. Going into the weekend, analysts expected the film to open in the $30 million range. The first “Creed” debuted to $29 million in 2015 and “Creed II” opened to $35 million in 2018.

Michael B. Jordan made his directorial debut with “Creed III,” which pits his character Adonis against a childhood friend, Dama, played by Jonathan Majors. This is the first of the Rocky/Creed films not to feature Sylvester Stallone, who chose not to return due to creative differences.

“This has exceeded all our expectations. And we knew we had something special – we tested the film and it tested great, but the public responded so brilliantly to it,” said Erik Lomis, MGM’s head of distribution. “Everything went right here starting with the film itself … It was our duty not to break it when they gave it to us and we didn’t.”

Strong reviews helped “Creed III,” currently at 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences gave it an A- CinemaScore. The audience was predominantly male (63%), diverse (36% Black, 28% Latino, 23% white and 13% Asian/other) and young (55% between 18 and 34) according to exit polls.

More than 80% of the general audience said it was “definitely recommended.” With Black viewers, that number increased to 89%.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and that’s rare air,” Lomis said. “People love the movie.”

It is also the most expensive “Creed” film, with a reported production budget of $75 million, compared to the others that cost $35 million and $50 million. Internationally, “Creed III” earned $41.8 million from 75 markets, bringing its global debut to $100.4 million.

It’s big time for Amazon, which acquired MGM for $8.5 billion last year, and could simply release “Creed III” on its streaming service with a limited theatrical run. But they chose theater, and it paid off.

“Amazon threw their weight behind this movie like they can,” Lomis said. “They supported the campaign with marketing across all their on- and off-platform verticals. That shows a commitment to Amazon and MGM’s theatrical business model, which I think should be exciting for everyone.”

The company’s next major theatrical release is the Ben Affleck-directed “Air,” starring Matt Damon, which comes out next month.

“Ant-Man 3” slipped to a distant second in its third weekend in theaters with $12.5 million from North America and $22 million internationally. The worldwide cume of the Marvel and Disney film now stands at $419.5 million.

Universal’s “Cocaine Bear,” which added $11 million in its second weekend in theaters to bring its domestic total to $41.3 million, took third place.

Crunchyroll’s “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To The Swordsmith Village” is fourth with $10.1 million. The series is based on Koyoharu Gotoge’s manga about a boy avenging his family.

Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company’s “Jesus Revolution” rounded out the top five with $8.7 million. The film starring Kelsey Grammer as a 1970s priest has made $30.5 million in two weekends in theaters against a $15 million production budget.

Opening outside the top five was Guy Ritchie’s “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” an espionage caper starring Jason Statham, Hugh Grant and Aubrey Plaza that took in $3.2 million from 2,168 locations this weekend. The film, originally an STX release, was in distribution limbo for a while. Lionsgate recently came on board to oversee the domestic rollout.

The success of “Creed III” bodes well for other upcoming releases in March, including “John Wick Chapter 4” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.”

“We’re going to have an incredible March,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “It’s going to be more like summer than spring with hits coming one after another that will create incredible momentum for the summer movie season.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore, and Wednesday through Sunday in parentheses. The final domestic figures will be released on Monday.

1. “Faith III,” $58.7 million. 2. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” $12.5 million. 3. “Cocaine Bear,” $11 million. 4. “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To The Swordsmith Village,” $10.1 million. 5. “Jesus Revolution,” $8.7 million. 6. “Avatar: Waterway,” $3.6 million. 7. “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” $3.2 million. 8. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” $2.7 million. 9. “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” $1.2 million. 10. “80 for Brad,” $845,000.

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr.

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