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Say Shazam! and the movie fans will turn up in droves

Warner Bros' latest superhero adventure easily tops charts in North America, pocketing US$53m on debut

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Warner Bros and New Line spent US$80 million to produce Shazam!, proving that studios can crank out a solid superhero installment without breaking the bank.

Los Angeles

THE magic word at the box office over the weekend was Shazam! Warner Bros' latest superhero adventure easily topped charts in North America, pocketing US$53 million when it debuted in 4,217 venues.

Buoyed by positive reviews, Shazam! arrived ahead of expectations, which anticipated a start around US$40 million to US$45 million. The film also earned US$3 million in advanced screenings for a domestic haul of US$56 million.

While Shazam!'s opening weekend is on the lower side for a traditional comic-book movie, it was less expensive to make compared to other superhero films.

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That means it doesn't have to reach the same heights as entries like Aquaman and Wonder Woman to turn a profit.

Warner Bros and New Line spent US$80 million to produce Shazam!, proving that studios can crank out a solid superhero installment without breaking the bank.

Shazam! - described as "Big" set in the comic-book world - centres on Billy Baston (Asher Angel), a teenager who transforms into a bubble-gum-snapping superhero (Zachary Levi) when someone says the magic word.

Both critics and fans praised the movie for its lighter take on the genre, compared to the apocalyptic storylines in comic-book adaptations.

Males accounted for 57 per cent of opening weekend audiences, while 45 per cent of crowds were under the age of 25.

Although Shazam! led the way in North America, Paramount's horror remake Pet Sematary also had a strong start, scaring up US$25 million when it debuted in 3,585 locations.

The supernatural thriller, based on Stephen King's novel, cost US$21 million to produce.

The final newcomer this weekend was STX's Best of Enemies. It pulled in an underwhelming US$4.5 million from 1,705 screens.

Older moviegoers aren't generally a demographic that rushes out to see a movie on opening weekend, so the studio anticipates that word-of-mouth about the feel-good drama will grow in the coming weeks, leading to a long life in theatres.

Nearly 80 per cent of moviegoers were over the age of 25, and 63 per cent were female.

A number of holdovers filled out North American box office charts. In third place, Disney's re-imagining of Dumbo earned US$18 million in its sophomore outing, marking a steep 60 per cent drop from its debut. It has generated US$76 million to date.

Jordan Peele's Us, now in its third weekend of release, amassed another US$13 million for a domestic haul of US$152 million.

Rounding out the top five is Disney's Captain Marvel, adding US$12 million. Starring Brie Larson, the superhero tentpole has crossed US$1 billion in ticket sales, with US$373 million of that bounty coming from North American theatres.

Among speciality releases, Neon's Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace made US$57,353 from three theatres, averaging US$19,118 per location. The non-fiction film, which was 46 years in the making, captures the Queen of Soul as she records her wildly successful album in a Baptist church.

Elsewhere, Amazon Studio's released Peterloo, a historical drama about the deadly 1819 massacre in Manchester, in three locations. It pocketed US$30,426 for a per-screen-average of US$10,142.

The past weekend continued to prove that scares and superheroes are some of the most reliable money-makers at the box office.

Overall, ticket sales are still pacing around 16 per cent behind last year, according to Comscore. That gap is shrinking as films like Captain Marvel and Us impress audiences, and Marvel's Avengers: Endgame, the studio's epic conclusion that is expected to shatter records, could help close that margin even more. REUTERS