Freddie Mercury biopic is the champion of the world (for now)NEW YORK - The Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and 20th Century Fox are - for now, at least - champions of the world.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” starring Rami Malek as the late Queen frontman, shrugged off production troubles and mediocre reviews with its debut of $50 million in weekend ticket sales across the United States and Canada, and another $72.5 million internationally, according to studio estimates Sunday. These were well beyond expectations, which had estimated the film’s opening weekend closer to $35-40 million.
Despite this, audiences rushed to theaters to see Malek’s widely praised performance and to hear such foot-stomping anthems as “We are the Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and the operatic title song. The movie has, at times, an almost concert-like quality.
“It really is a celebration of Queen and their music, and I think we did a really good job of letting people know that that’s what this is,” said Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Fox.
In claiming the top spot at the box office, Fox, which is poised to own Disney, trounced the latter’s latest release. Despite a production budget of $125 million, Walt Disney’s lavish, big-budget “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” opened with only $20 million.
“We were hoping for a stronger start, but we do think it’s a film that people will find as we head into the holidays,” said Cathleen Taff, head of theatrical distribution for Disney.
Though Disney’s record of success is the envy of Hollywood, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” marks the studio’s third misfire this year following “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Solo.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” made for $52 million, was largely dismissed by critics as an overly conventional rock biopic (60 percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes). But the film proved more popular with moviegoers, who gave the PG-13 release, produced by Graham King, an A CinemaScore and four and a half stars out of five on Comscore’s PostTrak audience survey.
“Even in the negativity that came out of critics, there was always a ‘but,’ almost universally: ‘But Rami is great,”’ noted Aronson.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, praised Fox’s rollout of the film as “pitch perfect.” Dergarabedian also cited Malek’s breakout big-screen performance and the sustained interest in all things musical at the box office. Musically focused films have recently been major draws in theaters, from Fox’s own “The Greatest Showman” earlier in the year to Warner Bros.’ Oscar favorite “A Star Is Born,” which collected another $11.1 million in its fifth weekend.
“It seems that audiences can’t get enough of movies that have music baked into their DNA,” Dergarabedian said. “That’s proving to be a very successful formula.”
“Nobody’s Fool,” which paired Haddish with writer-director-producer and box office force Tyler Perry, opened third with a so-so $14 million. While far from disastrous for a movie that cost $19 million to make, the muted performance of “Nobody’s Fool” was likely a result of oversaturation. Two films starring Haddish - “Night School” and “The Oath”- have opened in the past six weeks, with “Night School” still No. 12 at the box office.