Zendaya Fueling Weekend Box Office with ‘Challengers,’ ‘Dune: Part Two’

Film News

Who loves Zendaya? Show of hands? Well if you do, and Amazon MGM Studios is betting that plenty of 18-24 olds do, you can watch the Euphoria Emmy winner in Imax in Amazon MGM Studio’s Challengers this weekend, then sit around and watch her again in Legendary/Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two.

The R-rated ménage à trois tennis romantic comedy, Challengers, finally steps on the court this weekend after being pushed from its Sept. 15 release date due to the actors strike, with an eye at a $15M domestic opening at 3,400 locations, give or take.

The pic will serve as a testament to Zendaya’s box office drawing power sans any attachments to major IP, read Dune or Spider-Man. Already working in the favor of the Luca Guadagnino directed, Amy Pascal produced movie are excellent reviews at 95% certified fresh. If this movie can truly breakout, it’s a win all around: Win for mid-sized budgeted movies ($50M+) at the box office, win for Zendaya, win for Guadagnino with a broad-appealing Hollywood fare (any way you can cut, Challengers is destined to be the best opening for the Oscar-nominated filmmaker, his 2022 Bones and All being his widest release with a $2.3M domestic start), and a win for tennis movies. That sports cinema genre has always been left of center at the B.O.; the 2004 Kirsten Dunst-Paul Bettany romance title arguably being the last best opening for the sub-genre and highest grossing overall ($7.1M domestic opening, $17M domestic, $41.6M).

Already in presales, Challengers is pacing ahead of the 73% female skewing, Harry Styles (another social media magnet like Zendaya)-starring Don’t Worry Darling ($19.3M opening) and Cocaine Bear ($23.2M).

Challengers, which was bought by MGM in a two-project combo with Guadagnino’s Bones and All during the previous Michael De Luca-Pam Abdy administration, was originally set to fire off the Venice Film Festival, but the studio moved it because no Zendaya to promote during the strike, meant no box office. The actress can promote to social media following of 200M-plus as she’s one of the top 25 most followed stars on Instagram worldwide. RelishMix weighs the social media universe for Challengers north of 225M “29% over sports dramas across TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, X, Facebook and Instagram combined.” More evidence that Amazon MGM Studios had to protect this asset at the box office stemmed from the first Challengers trailer racking up 150 million-plus global views and 320 million stateside conversations when it was dropped late last summer. At the time, Challengers was the most-viewed trailer for an original film in its first 24 hours (meaning it’s not a sequel, reboot or based on pre-existing IP). Challengers will share Imax screens with Dune: Part Two and A24’s Civil War, and the Guadagnino movie also has PLFs, including all the Dolby Cinemas. The tennis action scenes alone are worth watching in the most premium experience. Also, there’s a lot of kissing scenes.

Fan access screenings were held last night with Thursday previews beginning at 4PM.

ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Warner Bros.

Meanwhile, Dune: Part Two will be booked in 200 Imax auditoriums for a total of 1,300 theaters in its eighth week. The Denis Villeneuve adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel is already on PVOD. The sequel is closing in on $700M worldwide.

'Unsung Hero' release date

‘Unsung Hero’

Courtesy of Lionsgate

Also going wide this weekend is another Lionsgate release, this one from Kingdom Story, entitled Unsung Hero. Pic was made for roughly $6M before P&A and is looking to do about the same in its opening at 2,800 sites. The movie is based on the true story of David Smallbone as he moves his seven-kid family from Australia to the U.S. Together with his wife Helen and faith in their hearts, they turned into a 5x Grammy winning for King+Country and Rebecca St. James. Joel Smallbone and Richard L. Ramsey directed off a screenplay they wrote. Early access screenings are Wednesday with Thursday previews beginning at 6PM.

Bill Skarsgård in 'Boy Kills World'

Bill Skarsgård in ‘Boy Kills World’

Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s sister label Roadside Attractions has the Bill Skarsgard TIFF Midnight Madness movie they acquired, Boy Kills World, from German director Moritz Mohr. We first told you about the pick-up.

Also starring Michelle Dockery, Jessica Rothe, and Famke Janssen and produced by Sam Raimi and Roy Lee, Boy Kills World follows Skarsgård as Boy, a deaf-mute with a vivid imagination, who driven by his inner voice. It’s a voice that he’s co-opted from his favorite childhood video game, avows revenge after his family is murdered by Hilda Van Der Koy (Janssen), the deranged matriarch of a corrupt post-apocalyptic dynasty that left the boy orphaned, deafened, and voiceless. Boy trains with a mysterious shaman (Ruhian) to become an instrument of death and is set loose on the eve of the annual culling of dissidents. Bedlam ensues as Boy commits bloody martial arts mayhem, inciting a wrath of carnage and blood-letting. As he tries to get his bearings in this delirious realm, Boy soon falls in with a desperate resistance group, all the while bickering with the apparent ghost of his rebellious little sister. Pic is 73% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a low single digit debut expected in its wide release. Previews start Thursday at 7PM.

You can’t say that Lionsgate isn’t providing product to cinemas: Note that the opening for their Guy Ritchie movie, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare at $8.9M, was at the higher end of a Ritchie original movie (non franchise ala Sherlock Holmes, Aladdin and King Arthur). The movie did not have Canada as it was sold to Prime Video in the Great White North. If it did, chances are it would have gotten into the vicinity of his pre Covid release, The Gentlemen which opened to $10.6M.

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