While Avatar: the way of the water continues to dominate the box office in a phenomenal run destined to hit the all-time charts, the other strong performer of this Martin Luthor King Day holiday weekend is director Gerard Johnstone’s sci-fi horror release M3GANwhich will be sneaking $85 million worldwide this weekend if it holds up as well as expected in its second weekend of release.
M3GAN is written by screenwriter and producer Aleka Cooper, whose other outstanding work includes Tron: Revolt, The 100, American horror story, Luke Kooiand Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Unfortunately I am not familiar with director Johnstone’s previous work, but that includes the widely acclaimed TV series The Diaries of Jaquie Brown and feature film Housebound.
With a modest budget of $12 million, M3GAN is already a bona fide hit and a sequel is on the way. At this point, every extra dollar is icing on the cake. And there will be many, many more extra dollars.
During the four-day MLK weekend M3GAN looks at $20 million domestically. Long-term, M3GAN currently has its sights somewhere close to a $125+/- million finish, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it manages smaller weekly drops and hits $130+ million.
But with Avatar: the way of the water gobbling up the cash register dollars and Ant Man: Quantumania, Titanic re-release in 4K HDR 3D, and Knock on the hut arriving in the coming weeks, I think it will probably be difficult for M3GAN to go much higher than that.
Not that $125+ million is anything to complain about. Blumhouse, Atomic Monster, Divide/Conquer and Universal can be very happy with how good M3GAN has already performed, and the final “10x production budget” result is further evidence that the horror genre is definitely gaining popularity at the box office, even amid the ongoing (and lately worsening) Covid pandemic crisis.
Indeed, M3GANs huge success is not only good news for horror filmmakers. It’s also another encouraging result for PG-13 horror, a much-maligned but often reliable tier that can boost box office returns if done right. Think of famous PG or PG-13 horror movies like Poltergeist, Tremors, Arachnaphobia, Clover field, The ring, Drag me to hell, The others, Lights out, Divide, Treacherousand the more recent blockbuster of A quiet place and its continuation.
So while it’s certainly true, a story can benefit or suffer from restraints and limitations when it comes to how much or how little “adult” or violent/gory content it contains. But overall, the idea that horror needs an R rating to be valid and live up to its full potential is just plain wrong. I mean, Poltergeist is perfect just the way it is, and remains the best haunted house movie of all time (though The shining, House on Ghost Hill, The hunt, event Horizon, Beetle juiceand Conjure it are all strong contenders as well).
M3GAN had a great marketing campaign, including viral videos and a constant sense of humor that elevates the movie and the whole environment surrounding its release. It’s the kind of movie you want to root for, so it’s all the more pleasing to see it perform well.
With word of a sequel confirmed, this already appears to be a long-lasting original horror franchise with great potential for many more sequels and spin-offs. It’s sure to open up all sorts of merchandising opportunities too – just wait until Halloween rolls around and you see armies of costumed M3GANs everywhere, young and old.
Towards the end of its run, M3GAN will inevitably be one of the highest-grossing horror films of the pandemic era A Quiet Place: Part II (2021) $296 million, Smile (2022) $216 million, The Conjuring: The Devil made me do it (2021) $200 million, no (2022) $171 million, The black telephone (2022) $161 million, The invisible man (2020) $139 million, scream (2022) $138.8 million, Halloween kills (2021) $130.8 million, and Halloween ends (2022) $105 million.
Where exactly M3GAN making it onto the list depends on how far it rises above $120 million and whether it hits the $130.8 million gross of Halloween kills. My guess is that it will fall below that film’s total and take the #10 spot on the pandemic-era horror list.
Check back soon for more box office updates and reviews, dear readers. And if you plan to go out and see M3GAN Be sure to wear a mask in theaters this weekend and protect not only yourself, but also those with weakened immune systems and others who may be at greater risk of severe impact or death from Covid.