John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum began its box office blitz last night with a huge $5.9 million in Thursday previews. For reference, that’s the biggest Thursday launch ever for Lionsgate title outside of the last Twilight movie and the four Hunger Games flicks. That’s nearly triple the $2.2 million earned by John Wick: Chapter 2, a 2017 sequel that eventually made $30.4 million in its opening weekend. That Fri-Sun debut was more than double the $14 million launch of John Wick in late 2014. So, yes, Lionsgate and Summit’s almost accidental franchise (they acquired the movie just five weeks before its eventual domestic release) has continued to collect more gold coins as it goes along.
While that Thursday number doesn’t mean that it’ll triple the last film’s Fri-Sun frame, it does mean that interest is still there for the acclaimed and buzzy Keanu Reeves action series. Moreover, John Wick: Chapter 3 has one advantage over its predecessors, in that it’s the big movie of the weekend. John Wick opened in October of 2014, and it was a true underdog. Yes, it parlayed strong reviews, substantial buzz and a kind of generational coronation for Keanu Reeves into double its $7 million tracking, but it still placed number two against Universal/Comcast and Blumhouse’s Ouija. The seasonal horror flick opened with $19 million the weekend before Halloween weekend, and it eventually earned $50 million domestic.
John Wick did fine, making $43 million domestic and $86 million worldwide on a $30 million budget, with plenty of goodwill and post-theatrical discoveries setting up John Wick: Chapter 2 as a breakout sequel. And break out it did. But even with a boffo $30.4 million weekend, it still had to deal with the $55 million launch of The LEGO Batman movie and the $46 million debut of Fifty Shades Darker over a crowded pre-President’s Day weekend frame. The film legged it to $92 million (a rare sequel that was leggier than the original) and a $171 million global cume on a $40 million budget. The strong business, rave reviews and movie-ending cliffhanger made a third flick inevitable.
And now Lionsgate will release John Wick: Chapter 3 over the pre-Memorial Day weekend frame, which can be one of the better weekends of the year since a strong opening can then have its second-weekend drop buffeted by the holiday. To be fair, Alien: Covenant and Deadpool 2 haven’t exactly held steady in their second weekends in 2017 and 2018, and the geek-friendly likes of Brightburn over Memorial Day and Godzilla: King of the Monsters on May 31 make post-debut legs somewhat questionable. Nonetheless, for the first time, a John Wick movie is the top dog of its opening weekend, opening ironically against A Dog’s Journey (as well as the socially-topical romantic drama The Sun is Also A Star).
Yes, rank is irrelevant, but John Wick 3 has a shot at both topping the box office for the first time and being the answer to the “Which movie displaced Avengers: Endgame at the top of the weekend box office charts?” trivia question. The lack of demo-friendly competition could see something of a relative over performance. I don’t want to get too hyperbolic, but if we see a debut even higher than the $40 million being projected, well, it won’t be that much of a shock.
If John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum opens with as much of a jump as Mission: Impossible – Fallout ($62 million) from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($55 million) or from X2 ($85 million) to X-Men: The Last Stand ($102 million), it’s looking at a $35 million debut frame. If it jumps like The Bourne Ultimatum ($69 million) from The Bourne Supremacy ($52 million) or from Quantum of Solace ($67 million) to Skyfall ($88 million), we’re looking at a $40 million debut. But, yeah, after a $5.9 million Thursday preview, I may have to find some new comparisons (Winter Soldier to Civil War?) by tomorrow morning.
And after an ill-advised Hellboy reboot and an indifferently received Long Shot, Lionsgate needs their flagship Keanu Reeves franchise to save the day. With rave reviews that emphasize the worth of seeing this movie in a theater, a trusting fandom and Reeves’ ever-growing pop culture popularity, there’s little reason to be concerned. Speaking of which, Reeves would love to follow up his lowest wide release grosser ever (Replicas) with one of his very biggest.
Anything over the $30.5 million debut of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (way back in 1992) would give John Wick 3 Keanu Reeves’ biggest non-Matrix opening of his career and his third-biggest launch overall behind The Matrix Revolutions ($48 million in 2003) and The Matrix Reloaded ($91 million in 2003). That would also give John Wick 3 Reeves’ seventh-biggest inflation-adjusted debut.
It would be behind only The Day The Earth Stood Still ($30 million in 2008/$38 million adjusted), Constantine ($30 million in 2005/$41 million adjusted), The Matrix ($27 million in 1999/$48 million adjusted), Bram Stoker’s Dracula ($30 million in 1992/$64 million adjusted), Matrix Revolutions ($48 million in 2003/$70 million adjusted, or what it made in the first four days of its $84m Wed-Sun debut) and Matrix Revolutions ($91 million in 2003/$134 million adjusted, which is ironically what it earned in its Thurs-Sun debut back in 2003).
Is it possible that John Wick 3 could open as high as $48 million, putting it above the inflation-adjusted debut of The Matrix and the raw opening of Matrix Revolutions? After last night, yeah, I’m thinking that’s possible.
The critically-trashed Taken 2 opened with $49 million 6.5-years ago ($55 million adjusted), although fewer people go to the movies just to go to the movies than they did in 2012. Mission: Impossible Fallout opened last year to $61 million from a $6 million Thursday preview gross, while Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation earned $4m in Thursday previews three years ago on its way to a $55.5 million Fri-Sun frame. If John Wick: Chapter 3 plays like Mission: Impossible 6, we’re looking at a $59 million debut weekend. If it plays like Mission: Impossible 5, Jason Bourne (a $59 million debut from a $4.3 million Thursday preview) or Spectre ($70 million/$5.3 million), it’ll open with around $80 million.
If those sound a bit high, well, it could play like a frontloaded blockbuster movie and earn around 12% of its weekend last night. But even that would be a whopping $49 million. Heck, a super-frontloaded 15% (think Hunger Games) would still put it just under $40 million. And, yeah, if it’s even remotely leggier than that over the weekend, we’re looking at a $50 million-plus opening for John Wick: Chapter 3. For reference, if it opens higher than $43 million, it’ll outearn the entire unadjusted domestic total of the first John Wick just in its opening weekend. To paraphrase an old friend, welcome back, Mr. Wick. We MISSED you…