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Box Office: ‘Bob Marley’ Biopic Beats Expectations With $51 Million Holiday Debut, ‘Madame Web’ Collapses

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Paramount’s musical biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” ruled in its box office debut, beating expectations with $27.7 million over the traditional weekend and $51 million during the six-day holiday stretch.

It was initially projected to generate $30 million to $35 million between Valentine’s Day on Wednesday and Presidents’ Day on Monday. But it experienced an uptick because audiences dug “One Love,” which landed an encouraging “A” CinemaScore from moviegoers. Critics weren’t as fond of the by-the-numbers retelling of Marley’s life and music career as evidenced by the film’s 43% rotten average on Rotten Tomatoes. Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) directed and co-wrote the PG-13 “Bob Marley: One Love,” starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as the iconic reggae singer and Lashana Lynch as his wife Rita.

“My family and I are honored with the amazing response to ‘Bob Marley: One Love’,” the songwriter’s son Ziggy Marley said in a statement. “Like my father’s music, this movie is meant for the people and his message of peace, love, and unity is clearly connecting with audiences around the world. We thank the people for embracing this film and in so doing helping to highlight the message of one love.”

Overseas, “One Love” added $29 million from 47 territories, bringing its initial global tally to an impressive $80 million. The biopic cost $70 million to produce, and since theater owners get to keep half of the ticket sales, it’ll need to keep singing on the big screen to justify its price tag.

“We’ve blown through expectations, and I think we’re going to continue to do so,” says Paramount’s president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson. “It speaks volumes about the appeal of the story and Bob Marley’s music.

Ticket sales for “One Love” easily led in North America over fellow newcomer “Madame Web.” Sony’s superhero suspense thriller, starring Dakota Johnson as a paramedic with psychic abilities and an association to Spider-Man, opened in second place with $17.6 million over the traditional weekend and $25.8 million during the same six-day period. The film launched internationally with $25.7 million from 61 markets.

Those are disappointing figures considering “Madame Web” cost $80 million to produce and tens of millions more to promote and put in theaters. It’s the latest entry in the studio’s hit-and-miss universe of Spider-Man characters, anchored by the commercially successful “Venom” and the less-embraced “Morbius.” And even the critically derided “Morbius” managed to sink its teeth into $39.1 million in its three-day debut.

With a dismal “C+” CinemaScore and grim 13% Rotten Tomatoes average, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to predict that “Madame Web” ticket sales won’t rebound in theaters. Though the story has only a tenuous connection to Marvel Comics, the film continues a terrible time for superhero adaptations, continuing the ignominious streak of “The Marvels,” “The Flash,” “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” and many other 2023 misfires.

“Once upon a time, you could pluck a character out of a popular superhero movie and make a hit film about them,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “That was more than five years ago.” However, the once-Teflon genre is expected to experience a resurgence with this year’s blockbuster hopefuls “Deadpool & Wolverine” (July 26) and “Joker: Folie á Deux” (Oct. 4).

Despite the presence of two new releases, this is shaping up to be the worst Presidents’ Day weekend in modern history (other than the pandemic-battered 2021). Overall domestic revenues tapped out at roughly $75 million for three days and $89 million for four days, the lowest collective gross since 1995. By comparison, last year’s holiday — led by Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” — brought in a combined $168 million, while pre-COVID periods brought in $182 million (2017) in a good year and $278 million (2016) to $346 million (2019) in a great year.

“Thankfully, ‘Bob Marley: One Love’ was able to generate solid numbers,” says senior Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “But ‘Dune: Part Two’ can’t get here soon enough,” he added, referring to Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi sequel which opens on March 1.

In a distant third place, Matthew Vaughn’s spy thriller “Argylle” collected $4.72 million over the three-day weekend and an estimated $5.55 million through the holiday on Monday. After three weeks of release (two of which were spent at No. 1), Apple’s $200 million-budgeted caper has grossed a tragic $37.2 million in North America and $76 million globally.

Universal and Illumination’s animated comedy “Migration” moved up to No. 4 with $3.75 million over the weekend and an estimated $5 million through Monday. After nine weeks of release, the family film has grossed $116 million at the domestic box office and $254 million worldwide.

“Wonka,” starring Timothee Chalamet as the fictional chocolatier Willy Wonka, rounded out the top five and remained at the top of box office charts for the 10th consecutive weekend. The Warner Bros. film added $3.49 million over the weekend and $4.4 million through President’s Day. The $125 million movie has become a financial success with $210 million in North America and $604 million worldwide.

Elsewhere, the faith-based TV series “The Chosen” brought in $3.5 million over the traditional weekend and $4.1 million through Monday. Fathom Events is rolling out the show’s Season 4 exclusively in cinemas with two-week runs of episodes. This weekend’s run included episodes four through six. Ticket sales steeply declined from episodes one through three, which generated $6 million in its opening and $14 million during its run. Episodes seven and eight will screen in theaters at the end of the month.

“While Season 4 is starting to show some wear,” says Gross, “it’s still impressive.”