The animated film “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” crossed the $1 billion box-office threshold on Sunday, making it the fifth movie to do so since the start of the pandemic and the surest sign yet that the theatrical movie business is on the rebound after a prolonged downturn.
Despite middling reviews, the Universal Pictures film, which features Chris Pratt as the voice of the beloved video game character Mario, has been in theaters for only 26 days and is now the seventh biggest film in Universal’s history, passing both “Jurassic World Dominion” and the animated “Despicable Me” in worldwide box office grosses.
Of the five films to cross the $1 billion mark since the pandemic began, “Super Mario” is the first animated one. Geared to families with young children — and fans of the uber-popular Nintendo video game — the movie provided a welcome reprieve to theater owners who had been concerned that the family film business was at risk of not returning to prepandemic levels. In fact, “Super Mario” helped push the April domestic box office up 11.5 percent compared with prepandemic levels, according to the box office analyst David A. Gross.
Mr. Gross called the stat “a breakthrough” since it marks the first month that has surpassed its prepandemic average. The 2023 year-to-date box office deficit is now down 21.8 percent compared with that average.
But not everything is coming up roses at the multiplex. The well-reviewed adaptation of Judy Blume’s beloved children’s novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” pulled in only $6.8 million during its opening weekend. The PG-13 rated film, which cost $30 million to make and focuses on the challenges of prepubescent adolescence, was primarily viewed by Lionsgate, the studio behind the film, as a nostalgia play, and it worked in attracting women over 45 who were fans of the 50-year-old novel from their childhood. The company was less successful luring in an audience of teenage girls, but there is hope among box office analysts that strong word-of-mouth will bring in more moviegoers as Mother’s Day weekend draws near.
Studios and their theater partners are optimistic about the summer season, which officially begins next weekend, when Disney will debut the third and final film in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy, directed by James Gunn. The 10th “Fast and Furious” movie will follow, and both movies are expected to be huge hits for May. Also buoying optimism is the array of family films headed to theaters this summer, including the live action adaptation of “Little Mermaid,” coming at the end of May, along with Sony Pictures’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” and Pixar’s “Elemental,” both headed to theaters in June.