Liu Kang and Kung Lao stand back to back in Mortal Kombat

Following a very off and unexpected year, the ecosystem of Hollywood is slowly returning to a semblance of normalcy. You may remember that before March 2020 we lived in a world that saw the release of a massive movie practically every couple of weeks, and now it seems like that pattern is returning. After all, it was only at the end of last month that Adam Wingard's Godzilla vs. Kong made a big splash on its five-day opening weekend, and now Simon McQuiod's Mortal Kombat is getting all of the big blockbuster attention. The new video game movie has taken over the top spot at the box office – though what makes the news a tad stranger than expected is that the film had some serious competition from a surprising new title.

This weekend (and while also being available to HBO Max subscribers), Mortal Kombat earned $22.5 million from domestic ticket sales, which is solid, but not quite a match for the dominating figures put up by Godzilla vs. Kong a few weeks ago (the MonsterVerse movie made $32.2 million if you only count from Friday to Sunday). That number is bigger than the total earned by Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman 1984 when it came out last Christmas, and further proof that people are excited to go to their local movie theater to see a new release, even when that same title is available to watch at home at the same time.

In the wake of its debut at number one, it will be interesting to see what kind of legs Mortal Kombat has, and if it will prove to be more frontloaded than some of the other big films we've seen come out in the last couple of months. The critical reception for movies like Walt Disney Pictures Animation's Raya And The Last Dragon, Ilya Naishuller's Nobody, and Godzilla vs. Kong was much more positive, and while there are a lot of metrics involved, it's believable that word of mouth had a sizable impact (especially for Raya, which got off to a slow start domestically, but now has quintupled its opening numbers). It will be curious to see the weight that buzz has on the blood-heavy action flick by the time it is done with its theatrical run.

What further complicates the situation is that nobody saw Mortal Kombat in a legitimate fight for the top spot this weekend – as the Haruo Sotozaki-directed animated film Demon Slayer did some shockingly good business. According to Variety, the anime release is estimated to make a total of $19.5 million from this past weekend, and that is despite playing in only about half the number of locations as the big studio blockbuster. While the movie only came out in North America this past weekend, it has been a massive international hit since it first debuted in Japan last fall, and to date it has grossed over $400 million, easily making it one of the biggest theatrical success stories of the pandemic.

Sadly we're still not at a point where we are seeing more than six movies hit seven figures at the box office domestically, as Tim Story's Tom And Jerry fellow below $1 million earned for the first time since it was released in February (though it has done really well overall, making $102.3 million globally to date). Still hanging on in that particular club, however, are Godzilla vs. Kong (which made and additional $4.2 million), Nobody ($1.8 million), and Raya And The Last Dragon ($1.7 million). Also still hanging on is Evan Spiliotopoulos' The Unholy, which dropped from third place in the Top 10 to sixth place.

Next week will see a mix of things arrive on the big screen, including Rodrigo Garcia's Four Good Days starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis, and a re-release of Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. We probably won't see much of a shake-up as a result, but they will be interesting figures to watch nonetheless. and I'll be back next Sunday to report on how it all shakes out.

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