Warner Bros. and DC Studios’ “Blue Beetle” has finally dethroned Warner Bros. and Mattel’s “Barbie,” ending the quirky blockbuster’s four-week reign at the top domestic box office.
According to estimates by the measurement company Comscore, the Latin American superhero film opened this weekend in the United States and Canada for 25.4 million US dollars. “Barbie” slipped to second place and grossed $21.5 million in the fifth picture, for a North American total of $567.3 million.
“Blue Beetle” hit the low end of initial estimates, which ranged from $25 million to $32 million. It’s the latest domestic box office disappointment for DC, which has been struggling to garner viewership due to cuts, a creative overhaul and a change in leadership. However, “Blue Beetle” faced an additional challenge that previous DC titles didn’t have – a scaled back marketing campaign marred by the actors’ strike.
Rounding out this week’s top five were Universal Pictures’ “Oppenheimer,” which grossed $10.6 million in its fifth week, translating to North American sales of $285.2 million; Paramount Pictures’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which grossed $8.4 million in the third installment for a North American total of $88.1 million; and Universal’s “Strays,” which started at $8.3 million, which is low for a talking dog movie but is no doubt due in part to the R rating.
Directed by Angel Manuel Soto, Xolo Maridueña plays a college graduate whose life is turned upside down when he suddenly transforms into an alien symbiote. The cast includes Bruna Marquezine, Adriana Barraza, Damían Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Raoul Max Trujillo, Susan Sarandon and George Lopez.
The historic title — DC’s first Latino-led superhero film — received much better critical acclaim than the studio’s last two box office hits, The Flash and Shazam! A respectable freshness rating of 76% on review collection site Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a B-Plus rating from viewers polled by CinemaScore.
“‘Blue Beetle’ is a good old-fashioned origin story, a standalone film that doesn’t let itself be constrained by crossovers and cameos,” writes film critic Katie Walsh in the Times review.
“As a tough restart for the troubled DCEU, despite adhering to the formula, it is refreshing. Soto and Dunnet-Alcocer bring a welcome dose of tropical Latin flair, new values and a good dose of humor to the film; It can be a bit goofy at times, but that proves a powerful antidote to the otherwise grumpy tone that DC movies have faltered of late.”
It’s also worth noting that during the ongoing actors’ strike, the cast of “Blue Beetle” was unable to promote the film. That means there are no late-night or daytime television appearances, no premiere sound bits, no junket interviews, and no social media posts from the film’s stars in the weeks leading up to its debut. The Flash and Shazam 2 didn’t experience this setback, though in the former case, star Ezra Miller’s notoriety was kept to a minimum due to the actor’s off-screen troubles.
At the Los Angeles premiere of Blue Beetle, Soto wore a cardboard cutout of Maridueña’s face and called the performers heroes for “sacrificing this great opportunity” in solidarity with other striking actors.
“I’ll do anything for her,” Soto told De Los.
“I’ll wear your shirts. I will represent her everywhere. They earn it. You deserve all the flowers. I wish they were here to see and listen to how people react to their work, to see all the love and passion they put into this project. At the same time, I’m so proud of them… for fighting for better pay and a better future. … Your protest is necessary and you have my full support.”
To offset the unusual circumstances surrounding the release of “Blue Beetle,” local fans and organizations around the groundbreaking image have banded together to support the community. For example, the Food Hall and Cultural Center BLVD MRKT held an event celebrating the film in downtown Montebello on Saturday.
During a recent Blue Beetle-themed demonstration led by the Latinx Writers Committee and the SAG-AFTRA National Latino Committee outside the Warner Bros. compound in Burbank, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA national executive, said he asked the studio giant to postpone the release of the film until the actors’ and writers’ strikes were over.
“Of course they didn’t choose to, and I find that unfortunate,” Crabtree-Ireland told the Times, “but we’re going to lift up these performers and really recognize them for their unity and solidarity.”
Also new in theaters this week was Strays. Directed by Josh Greenbaum, the doggy comedy stars Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx as a pair of puppies who form an unlikely friendship and join forces to get revenge on a particularly horrible pet owner (Will Forte). The all-star cast also includes Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Josh Gad, Harvey Guillén and Sofia Vergara.
The R-rated film received a moderate 54% on Rotten Tomatoes and a B+ in a CinemaScore audience poll.
“Take out the sweeping F-bombs, the boundless scatological humor, and the often gross and, in one important case, deeply disturbing imagery, and you’re left with basically an amusing if memorized story about well-meaning animals learning lessons along the way,” writes film critic Gary Goldstein for The Times.
“Think of ‘Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey’ or the more recent ‘A Dog’s Way Home,’ but with the furry main characters romping around on sofas and garden art, tripping over magic mushrooms and spouting poop and penis jokes.”
Sony Pictures’ ‘Gran Turismo’, Briarcliff Entertainment’s ‘The Hill’ and Bleecker Street’s ‘Golda’ are all getting big releases next weekend.