Box office preview: Michael B. Jordan’s ‘Creed III’ competes against ‘Demon Slayer,’ ‘Operation Fortune’

The 2023 box office hasn’t been doing so bad over the first two months of the year with a number of breakout hits, and the likes of James Cameron‘s “Avatar: The Way of Water” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” holding onto business since their pre-Christmas releases. Read on for Gold Derby’s box office preview.

In theory, March is going to be one of the best months outside the coming summer with four back-to-back franchise sequels, starting off with this week’s “Creed III.” The MGM spin-off sequel to Sylvester Stallone‘s long-running “Rocky” franchise introduced Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (son of Apollo Creed) back in 2015 for the Ryan Coogler-directed “Creed.” Eight years later, Jordan is trying his hand at directing by making “Creed III” his directorial debut.

Although Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad are also returning as Adonis’ wife and mother, respectively, this third installment is all about the introduction of Jonathan Majors‘ Damien “Dame” Anderson, a former friend of Adonis’ who has been in prison for 18 years. Majors is coming off of the most recent Marvel movie, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” where critics generally have lavished praise on Majors’ performance. Majors also gave an amazing performance in the Sundance movie, “Magazine Dreams,” which Searchlight picked up for release, presumably since Majors might get some awards attention for it.

The good news for “Creed III” is that it’s being released into 4,007 theaters this Friday after two previous movies that both did very well, albeit still starring Sylvester Stallone, whose character isn’t even mentioned in the third movie. Both previous movies opened over Thanksgiving in 2015 and 2018 with $42.1 million and $56 million, respectively, both in five days. Both also made more than $100 million, and though it’s been five years since the prevous installment, holding off release until things normalized post-COVID is likely to be a smart move.

All the previous “Creed” movies have been received quite well by critics, and “Creed III” is no exception, with it currently at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, possibly the best reviews for a studio movie this year. Not that it matters, because the franchise and boxing in general are still hugely popular, and with the addition of Jordan shooting the movie for IMAX screens, those higher ticket prices will also certainly help. Because of that, there’s little reason why “Creed III” can’t open with more than $40 million, considering the popularity of the franchise and the bump from Majors’ own current popularity.

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“Demon Slayer: To the Swordsmith Village” is the latest anime from Crunchyroll, being released into roughly 1,700 theaters and hoping to find the success of 2021’s “Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train,” which opened with $22.8 million in 1,605 theaters in April 2020, just as movie theaters were reopening during the pandemic. It even beat the “Mortal Kombat” movie in twice as many theaters that weekend.

Although one would presume “Swordsmith Village” to do just as well, it’s opening with far stronger movies in theaters, although the very specific audience of anime fans and Crunchyroll subscribers should help it score $10 million or more to vie for fourth place against last weekend’s hits, “Cocaine Bear” and “Jesus Revolution.”

Also being released wide into roughly 2,000 theaters is Guy Ritchie‘s long-delayed action-comedy “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” starring Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Hugh Grant, Cary Elwes and Josh Hartnett. In the film, Statham plays Special Agent Orson Fortune, who recruits one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars (played by Hartnett) for an undercover mission to stop the sale of deadly weapons technology. If that sounds a bit like last year’s Nicolas Cage/Pedro Pascal comedy, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” it’s just a coincidence, since this was originally supposed to come out last year, too.

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At this point, Ritchie has created quite a brand for himself going all the way back to his first film, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” and while his output has been hit (Disney’s “Aladdin” in 2019) or miss (“King Arthur” two years earlier), he’s begun to level off with more recent movies, “The Gentleman” in January 2020 ($10.7 million opening) and 2021′ “Wrath of Man,” also starring Statham and Hartnett, which opened with $8.3 million a few short weeks after the aforementioned 2021 “Demon Slayer” movie.

There are quite a few reasons why “Operation Fortune” might not fare as well Ritchie’s last few movies, the first one being that it’s being released into this weekend  – “dumped” if you will – with so little fanfare and promotion after being released in dozens of other countries earlier this year. That’s partially due to the film’s original studio, STXfilms, dealing with financial issues that had it selling off many of its movies to streamers and other studios, like Lionsgate, who also distributed that Nicolas Cage comedy mentioned above. Honestly, this one will probably be lucky if it’s able to bring in $4 to 5 million this weekend, which would put it outside the top five.

Check back on Sunday to see how all of the above fared. In case you missed it, you can read Gold Derby’s March box office preview to see what else is to come.

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