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John Krasinski’s ‘IF’ hits a box office nerve with $35-million debut

Cailey Fleming and John Krasinski with the furry character Blue.
Cailey Fleming and John Krasinski pose with the character Blue at the premiere of Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”
(Evan Agostini / Invision/AP)
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John Krasinski’s imaginary friends movie “IF” claimed the top spot at the box office this weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. Its $35-million North American debut was also a bit lower than some projections.

Is that a disappointment? An ominous sign of the box office times? Or is the final story on “ IF “ yet to be written? It’s not just your imagination: In these bumpy early weeks of the 2024 summer box office season, in which nothing has been a runaway hit and every new movie has more and more pressure to succeed, “IF” hit a nerve.

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming and an army of A-list voices including Steve Carell, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Louis Gossett Jr., Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Maya Rudolph, “IF” was an original idea from Krasinski, who wrote, directed and co-stars.

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Paramount debuted the film, which cost a reported $110 million to produce, in 4,041 locations in North America. Internationally, it earned an estimated $20 million from 56 markets, adding up to a $55-million global debut.

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“Families came out in force and they loved the film,” said Chris Aronson, who heads Paramount’s domestic distribution.

There are several somewhat contradictory narratives swirling around its performance as well. With its PG rating, “IF” was the first major family-friendly film to open in theaters in weeks. And unlike a front-loaded superhero or horror movie, family pics are often running a marathon, not a sprint. Last June, Pixar’s “Elemental” was assumed to be dead on arrival when it opened with $29.5 million domestically. But it continued earning throughout the summer and ultimately made nearly $500 million globally.

“IF” got middling reviews from critics (it’s currently sitting at a “rotten” 49% on Rotten Tomatoes), but, as with “Elemental,” audiences gave it a solid A CinemaScore this weekend. The studio considers it a successful debut and is optimistic about its longevity as summer actually begins for school-age children.

“I think it bodes well for moviegoing in general as we move into the summer movie season,” Aronson said. “Kids are out of school starting this coming week and I couldn’t think of a better film to be in the marketplace than this one: It’s new, it’s fresh, its original, and it’s such a heartwarming film.”

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” continues to be a bright spot. In just 10 days, it surpassed $100 million domestically and $237 million globally. It came in second place in its second weekend with $26 million (down a respectable 55%).

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But there hasn’t been a major movie moment akin to last year’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer” in quite some time. Last year on this weekend, “Fast X” opened to over $60 million.

“This is a very unusual summer. It got off to an unusual start without a Marvel movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “The box office has been in a holding pattern 20% down from last year.”

“IF” wasn’t the only new film to open this weekend either. Lionsgate’s horror “The Strangers - Chapter 1” overperformed with a $12-million debut from 2,856 locations. The innovative marketing campaign staged some viral moments by bringing the “strangers” to major events, from former President Trump‘s hush money trial to Coachella.

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The Amy Winehouse biopic “Back to Black,” starring Marisa Abela, opened in North America to an estimated $2.85 million from 2,010 screens.

The filmed-for-IMAX documentary “The Blue Angels ” also made $1.3 million this weekend from 227 screens. It’s playing on the premium large format screens through Wednesday before flying to Prime Video on Thursday.

The summer, which for Hollywood begins the first weekend in May, could rev up next weekend with the infusion of “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and “The Garfield Movie.”

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Dergarabedian noted that Memorial Day weekend is a time when moviegoers play can play catch up with films they’ve missed and heard about. For a film like “IF,” which picked up over the weekend with word of mouth buzz, that could bode well. Still, there is no sugarcoating the reality that the 2024 box office is not going to build on 2023.

“On almost every level this is a non-traditional summer in the lineup of films and the trajectory of the box office,” Dergarbedian said. “But collectively these films should have a solid Memorial weekend.”

Below are estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “IF,” $35 million.

2. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” $26 million.

3. “The Strangers - Chapter 1,” $12 million.

4. “The Fall Guy,” $8.5 million.

5. “Challengers,” $2.94 million.

6. “Back to Black,” $2.85 million.

7. “Tarot,” 2 million.

8. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” $1.7 million.

9. “The Blue Angels,” $1.3 million.

10. “Unsung Hero,” $1.1 million.

Bahr writes for the Associated Press.

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