Box office: ‘Creed III’ knocks out the biggest three-day opening for the franchise with $58.7 million

March is already looking better at the box office than the last couple of months, at least in terms of new movies, as two new franchise sequels managed to open in the top five.

The biggest release of the weekend was “Creed III,” starring Michael B. Jordan (also making his directorial debut), Jonathan Majors, and Tessa Thompson, which MGM released into 4,007 theaters on Friday with earlier previews on Wednesday and Thursday. Those previews added up to $5.5 million before being compiled into Friday numbers for a $22 million opening day. MGM estimates the movie to have made $58.7 million over the weekend, claiming it to be the highest-opening sports movie. It’s actually so close to the opening of Sony’s 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid” that they might want to wait until Sunday actuals come in first.

The third movie in the spin-off series from Sylvester Stallone‘s “Rocky” franchise came into the weekend with solid reviews, with 87% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and a 96% approval rating from audiences, the  latter being confirmed by the movie’s “A-” CinemaScore from its own audience polling.

“Creed III” made another $41.8 million overseas this weekend, for a first-weekend global total of $100.4 million. As of this writing, there is no word on whether MGM might want to continue the franchise based on “Creed III’s” success, but this is definitely a feather in the cap of the division of Amazon, that hasn’t had many non-Bond hits since MGM was bought by the streaming giant.

Majors also co-starred in the weekend’s number-two movie, Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which took another major tumble, down 61% to second place with just $12.4 million in its third weekend. Still, it’s grossed $186.7 million in North America alone, and it has passed the $400 million mark globally with another $22 million grossed overseas this weekend.

Last week’s surprise hit, Universal’s horror-comedy “Cocaine Bear,” dropped to third place with $11 million, down 53% with a $41.3 million running total in North America. Universal is already exploring potential sequels for that one.

Crunchyroll released “Demon Slayer: To the Swordsmith Village,” a combination of episodes of the popular anime series, into 1,780 theaters on Friday (with no Thursday previews) where it made $4.2 million with $10.1 million estimated for its opening weekend. Despite some of the material already being available via Crunchyroll’s streaming site, audiences still gave “To the Swordsmith Village” a respectable “B+” CinemaScore.

The faith-based “Jesus Revolution” from Lionsgate took fifth place with an estimated $8.7 million, down 46% from its opening weekend with $30.6 million grossed so far.

Lionsgate picked up the Guy Ritchie-directed “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” from Miramax after STXfilms fell apart, but the release of the action-comedy starring Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Hugh Grant, and Josh Hartnett was only announced a few weeks back. Because of that, it only made a million dollars on Friday in 2,168 theaters with $220,000 of that from Thursday previews, which brought its weekend estimate to $3.2 million or $1,458 per theater. Surprisingly, the movie also received a “B+” CinemaScore from audiences, who clearly liked the movie better than critics did.

For the first time since they both opened, James Cameron‘s “Avatar: The Way of Water” and the animated sequel “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” were knocked out of the top five. Both had been holding steady there for over 11 weeks, but this week they took sixth and eighth place, respectively, with $3.6 million (-27%) and $2.7 million (-34%). “Avatar” is just a few million behind passing “Titanic’s” lifetime gross with $670.6 million grossed domestically so far. “Puss in Boots” has grossed $177.1 million in North America and another $276.4 million overseas, for a global total of $453.5 million.

The majority of players in Gold Derby’s box office prediction game had “Creed III” winning the weekend, but more players went with the $25 to 50 million range, not expecting it to do as well as it did. Only 37 players had “Demon Slayer” taking fourth place and 169 players still believed “Avatar” and “Puss in Boots” would remain in the top five, rather than “Jesus Revolution.”

Many players went six-for-six in the February 24 box office game, but major props need to go to “Kraju” for his 111,785 points and to “DanC” for taking second place with over 102,000 points.

On Friday, another big sequel hits theaters, as Paramount’s “Scream VI” hopes to capitalize on the ongoing success of the franchise and horror in general. Sony is releasing the sci-fi thriller “65,” starring Adam Driver, and Focus has “Champions,” starring Woody Harrelson. Check back on Wednesday for the weekend preview on how we think these new entries might fare.

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