Features and Columns · Movies

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Box Office is Up, Over, and Gone

Good thing Paramount decided to appease the fans with a character design redo.
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on February 16th, 2020

Paramount’s gamble paid off. Following negative buzz from the first trailer, they delayed the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, spent millions to rework the title character’s look, and in the end, the movie is a success. Sonic drew in an estimated 6.2 million people to see the video game adaptation in North American theaters over the weekend, which is impressive for any release of its kind, let alone one with production woes. Following the similar opening last year for Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Hollywood can be optimistic about movies based on at least cartoony video games now. The industry can also trust that bad buzz can be overturned with enough time and money.

Despite what some are saying about its opening, Sonic is not the video game movie champion. Yes, its debut domestic gross is the highest without considering inflation. But the record for most ticket sales still belongs to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which hit theaters in June 2001. Even so, Sonic is way up there in the ranks, and its domination over recent examples such as Detective Pikachu and the recent Tomb Raider reboot is a big deal. Those are both getting sequels, so don’t be surprised if Paramount quickly announces a follow-up for Sonic. What a relief since the new movie has two end-credits stingers teasing what we can expect in a Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Here’s where Sonic fits with other video game movie openings in terms of audience size:

1. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001): 8.4 million
2. Pokemon: The First Movie (1998): 6.6 million
3. Sonic the Hedgehog (2020): 6.2 million
4. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019): 5.9 million
5. Mortal Kombat (1995): 5.4 million
6. The Angry Birds Movie (2016): 4.4 million
7. Rampage (2018): 3.9 million
8. Pokemon: The Movie 2000 (1999): 3.85 million
9. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010): 3.8 million
10. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004): 3.7 million
11. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997): 3.65 million
12. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003): 3.6 million
13. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010): 3.4 million
14. Silent Hill (2007): 3.08 million
15. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007): 3.06 million
16. Resident Evil (2002): 3 million
17. Warcraft (2016): 2.8
18. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012): 2.65
19. Tomb Raider (2018): 2.6 million
20. Max Payne (2008): 2.5 million
21. Doom (2005): 2.4 million
22. Need for Speed (2017): 2.2 million
23. Super Mario Bros. (1993): 2.1 million
24. Hitman (2007): 1.9 million
25. Street Fighter (1994): 1.6 million

Back in December, more than a month after Paramount was originally set to release Sonic with the old character design and more than a month after the studio revealed the revamped look with a new trailer, Box Office Pro reported its forecast opening weekend figure at $26 million with a possible over and under range of $20-30 million. That’s less than half of the $58 million the movie did gross in its domestic debut. Last week, the site released its final prediction for just $48.5 million, which is still $8.5 million short of the reality, with an over and under range of $45-55 million. Box Office Pro also provided a holiday weekend range of $55-66 million, which it will definitely surpass.

As is more often the case than not, quality speaks, and Sonic boasted mostly positive reviews going into its opening weekend. The movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 63%, which isn’t amazing but it’s relatively high for a video game movie. In fact, of the 47 titles Rotten Tomatoes features in its Tomatometer-based ranking (not yet updated with Sonic), only two other video game adaptations have fresh scores, Detective Pikachu (69%) and The Angry Birds Movie 2 (73%), the latter of which tanked at the box office despite the good critical buzz. Sonic currently has a better audience score on the site, too, with a 95. And its A grade from moviegoers polled on opening night by Cinemascore is also better than those and any other ever.

In other box office news, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (now also retitled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey) is still struggling compared to most DC Comics adaptations with a second-weekend ticket sales figure of only 1.8 million (fewer than such duds as Constantine and Green Lantern, but its decrease from its disappointing opening is also one of the smallest for its brand. The DC Extended Universe spinoff dropped just 47.6 percent, which is only worse than, in order, Aquaman (23.2 percent), Joker (41.9 percent), Wonder Woman (43.3 percent), and Batman Begins (43.4 percent). So it started off slow but it might have okay legs. Maybe the new name has helped, or maybe word of mouth has finally kicked in.

Then there’s Downhill, which didn’t quite prove to be an essential production. Sure, it made more in its opening weekend than Force Majeure, the Scandinavian film it remade, did in its entire North American run, but it barely debuted in the top 10. The comedy, which was confusingly marketed and poorly reviewed, gave Will Ferrell his lowest opening ever for a starring role in wide release ($4.6 million), and we don’t even have to adjust for inflation to make such a determination. The issue isn’t just that the audience didn’t show up, either. Downhill earned a D grade from opening-night moviegoers via Cinemascore polling, which is uncommon and terrible. The Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes is 12%, and that’s voted on by confirmed ticket buyers. Wipeout.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.