Little Lionsgate Soars to the Top With John Wick Ticket Sales


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A small Hollywood studio, one that has struggled to remain relevant in a fast-changing film business, delivered a master class in movie franchise management over the weekend.

The studio, Lionsgate, roared back to life at the box office with the blood-soaked “John Wick: Chapter 4,” which took in roughly $73.5 million at North American theaters, easily enough for first place. Film series almost always fall apart by their fourth installments, if they even make it that far. But the “John Wick” franchise, built around a weary assassin played by Keanu Reeves, has now shown dramatic growth with each consecutive sequel, something no action-thriller property has done before, according to analysts. (The “Fast and Furious” franchise stumbled with chapter three, leading to a creative overhaul.)

“This character is so well-established and well-liked now it could continue indefinitely, if treated right,” said David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on box office numbers.

The first “John Wick” arrived to $14 million in ticket sales in 2014 and ended its domestic run with $43 million. In 2017, “John Wick: Chapter 2” sold $30 million over its first three days and went on to generate $92 million. “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” arrived to $57 million in 2019 and grossed $171 million.

The “John Wick” series now outranks the “Die Hard” and Lethal Weapon” franchises in terms of chapter-to-chapter growth. Both of those 1980s-era properties crescendoed over four films, with initial ticket sales for each new offering exceeding the last. But neither soared in popularity from sequel to sequel to the same degree as “John Wick.”

Chad Stahelski has directed all four “John Wick” movies (he previously served as a stunt double for Reeves), backed by a producing team led by Basil Iwanyk. They have expertly guided the series to bigger budgets — the latest chapter cost $90 million to produce, up from $20 million for the first — while managing to maintain heart; each installment has charmed critics.

“John Wick: Chapter 4,” as with its predecessors, was powered by male moviegoers. Lionsgate estimated that 69 percent of ticket buyers were male, with 48 percent of those over the age of 25. (The film took in an additional $64 million in release overseas.)

In second place for the weekend, “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” (Warner Bros.) collected about $9.7 million, for a lukewarm two-week total of $46 million. “Scream VI” (Paramount) sold roughly $8.4 million in tickets, for a three-week total of about $90 million.

In 2021 and 2022, Lionsgate released a total of four films in theaters. Two were colossal flops. In 2020, Lionsgate found a hit with “Knives Out” — only to have Netflix scoop up the expensive sequel, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” In some ways, Lionsgate had become an industry afterthought, discussed most frequently in Hollywood as the next studio to fall victim to a consolidating entertainment industry.

But a turnaround effort led by Joe Drake, Lionsgate’s movie chairman, may be starting to show results. “Jesus Revolution,” released by Lionsgate last month, has sold almost $50 million in tickets. (It cost $15 million to make.) In November, Lionsgate will revive its “Hunger Games” franchise with a prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” The studio also has “Saw” and “Expendables” sequels on the way, along with an adaptation of Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

There is also, of course, much more “John Wick” in the works, including a film spinoff, “Ballerina,” staring Ana de Armas, and a TV series, “The Continental,” coming to Peacock and Prime Video.

On a conference call with analysts, Jon Feltheimer, Lionsgate’s chief executive, recently described the studio’s coming film projects as “the strongest slate we’ve had for many, many, many years.”


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