‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ speeds away with No. 1 and $71M, Michael Bay’s ‘Ambulance’ stalls

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” sped to the top of the box office in its opening weekend, earning an impressive $71 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday. Paramount’s PG-rated sequel easily bested the weekend’s other major newcomer, Michael Bay’s “Ambulance.”

“Sonic 2,” which brings back the first film’s director, writers and cast – including James Marsden, Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz, who voices the blue video-game character – opened in 4,234 locations and actually surpassed its predecessor’s opening weekend. The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” opened over the Presidents Day’ holiday weekend in February 2020, earning $58 million in its first three days.

The normal pattern is that “sequels slide a little bit,” says Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for Paramount. “But we certainly bucked that trend.”

For a sequel to open 22% above the first, he adds, is “quite remarkable.”

“Sonic 2” received mixed to positive reviews from critics, and audiences were even more enthusiastic. They gave the CGI/live-action hybrid a strong A grade on CinemaScore.

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It’s an important weekend not just for the “Sonic” franchise, but for PG-rated family films, too. Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian says one of the big questions of the pandemic has been whether families would return to movie theaters with seemingly limitless viewing options available at home. According to exit polls, families made up 58% of the “Sonic 2” audience.

“There’s been some indication that they wanted to go back with movies like ‘Sing 2,’ but it’s moved in fits and starts,” says Dergarabedian. “This says once and for all that families want to go back. It’s a really good indicator of things to come for family films in 2022, with ‘Lightyear’ and the next ‘Minions’ movie.”

Meanwhile, “Ambulance” got off to a bumpy start. With an estimated $8.7 million, it opened in fourth place behind “Morbius,” down 74% in its second weekend (No. 2 with $10.2 million), and “The Lost City” (No. 3 with $9.2 million). Bay’s nail-biter about a botched bank robbery stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eiza González.

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Its tepid launch proved a head-scratcher for many. Reviews weren’t terrible (69% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes versus 67% for “Sonic 2”) and on paper “Ambulance” appears to be the kind of throwback, big-screen spectacle that would draw significant crowds to the theaters.

“This is a filmmaker who will forever be looked at as a blockbuster director, whether you like his movies or not. The bar is always raised for someone like that,” Dergarabedian says. “But this is a different kind of movie and I think that’s why we’re seeing these numbers. It’s not trying to be ‘Transformers.’ If Bay’s name wasn’t on it, expectations wouldn’t be as high.”

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“Sonic 2” wasn’t the only success of the weekend. Critical darling “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” starring Michelle Yeoh, expanded nationwide in its third weekend in theaters and earned $6.1 million from only 1,250 screens.

“A24 has done a spectacular job of rolling it out and building buzz,” Dergarabedian says.

Final figures will be released Monday.

Contributing: Kim Willis, USA TODAY

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