Box Office: Blue Beetle Barely Buzzing Past Barbie After $10 Million Opening Day, Strays Looking Hangdog

After four weekends of pink, the box office is going blue. Despite a muted opening, DC Studios’ “Blue Beetle” looks to dethrone fellow Warner Bros. release “Barbie” after the hot-pink comedy spent nearly a month atop domestic charts.

Debuting in 3,871 locations, the Ángel Manuel Soto-directed “Blue Beetle” earned $10 million on its opening day, a figure that includes $3.3 million from previews. It’s not a dazzling figure for the superhero entry, which had forecast a touchdown between $25 million and $33 million heading into the weekend. The film’s debut looks to fall behind that of this year’s earlier DC entry “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which debuted to $30.1 million before collapsing for a $57.6 million finish.

The “Shazam!” sequel was universally regarded as a disappointment — mediocre reviews, plus a final gross totaling roughly one third of the original’s — and it marked an inauspicious start for the last slate of DC Studios titles before the comic book banner reboots its continuity with James Gunn’s “Superman: Legacy.” While “Fury of the Gods” isn’t exactly a flattering comparison for “Blue Beetle,” its own box office performance comes with some unique caveats. It’s not a sequel for one, instead a feature debut for a new character. More notably, though the film cost about $104 million to produce, it was also originally commissioned for a streaming debut on Max (née HBO Max). By pivoting to a theatrical run, “Blue Beetle” is already selling more tickets than it would’ve through an immediate digital release.

Buzz is also stronger for “Blue Beetle,” compared to this year’s DC disappointments “Shazam! 2” and “The Flash.” The superhero entry holds a 70% approval rating from top critics on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, with praise highlighting star Xolo Maridueña and the film’s focus on Latino characters. Audiences who did roll out are leaning positive, with research firm Cinema Score assigning a “B+” grade after surveying the first round of moviegoers. “Blue Beetle” isn’t playing like a box office success out of the gate, but the dog days of summer blockbuster season have certainly yielded more dire narratives before.

Speaking of dog days, Universal’s raunchy “Strays” is headed for a muted debut with around $9.5 million — enough for fourth place on domestic charts. Opening in 3,223 theaters, the canine comedy, directed by Josh Greenbaum, is faring slightly better than recent genre disappointments like “The Machine” and “Joy Ride,” but pacing behind breakout titles like “No Hard Feelings” and “Cocaine Bear.”

With a production budget of $46 million, “Strays” will hope to sit and stay and not play dead in theaters to prove itself a worthwhile investment. Reviews have been middling, with a 53% from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but audience opinion seems to be higher (a “B+” grade on Cinema Score).

After four weekends as box office queen, Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” looks to finally fall to runner-up status in its fifth outing. The Greta Gerwig-directed comedy is looking fabulous after grossing $6 million on Friday, only 40% down from last week. The total domestic gross has now pushed beyond $550 million, with plenty of fuel left in the tank as the summer winds down. Within the next few days, “Barbie” should surpass “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($574 million) to become the top-earning North American release of the year.

Universal’s “Oppenheimer” is also putting up a strong hold, despite “Blue Beetle” snagging a large number of Imax auditoriums, which have been a massive boon for business for Christopher Nolan’s epic-length biopic. The feature is expected to fall 42% in its fifth weekend of release, pushing its domestic haul to $285 million. Soon enough, the grim, talky R-rated drama will pass “The Little Mermaid” ($297 million) to become one of the top five highest-earning domestic releases of the year.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is rounding out the top five, projecting a modest 43% drop for an $8.7 million haul in its third weekend. The animated feature continues to show staying power, looking to push its domestic total to $88 million through Sunday.

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