LOS ANGELES • Escape Room, a horror thriller from Sony, opened as the first big movie release of this year and landed in second place, behind the Warner Bros superhero movie Aquaman, now in its third week.
The Sony Pictures film about six strangers who get mysterious invitations to a new, immersive escape room collected US$18 million (S$24.4 million) in its debut, according to Sunday estimates from Comscore.
That beat Box Office Pro's projection of US$13.6 million. The movie cost just US$9 million to make, according to data from Box Office Mojo, and about half of critics recommended it on Rotten Tomatoes.
January is historically a slow month for theatres and a time when smaller distributors can get exposure for their releases.
Entertainment Studios, STX Entertainment, Aviron and LD Entertainment have new movies slotted for theatres this month. Of the major studios, only Sony, Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox have new pictures on the schedule.
That gives Christmas holdovers a chance to rake in a few more dollars. Aquaman easily retained its No. 1 spot, pulling in a solid US$30 million for a domestic haul of US$259 million.
The DC superhero adventure directed by James Wan and starring Jason Momoa has now crossed US$940 million worldwide, making it Warner Bros' biggest comic-book title since The Dark Knight Rises amassed more than US$1 billion globally in 2012. If Aquaman continues at this pace, Arthur Curry could give Batman a run for his money.
Aquaman generated another US$56.2 million in foreign markets over the weekend, bringing its international total to US$681 million.
The Atlantean blockbuster has nabbed the distinction as DC's highest-grossing title overseas, surpassing the record set by The Dark Knight Rises with US$636 million.
Disney's Mary Poppins Returns was neck and neck with Escape Room for the No. 2 slot, though Sunday estimates show Mary Poppins Returns coming in third with US$15.8 million during its third weekend of release.
The sequel to the 1964 classic has earned US$138 million at the domestic box office. The movie starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda has been a slow burn in theatres, which is to be expected for a movie-musical.
Mary Poppins Returns has collected US$119 million internationally and more than US$250 million globally, though it will need to keep chugging along at multiplexes to justify its US$130-million price tag.
Elsewhere in moviegoing, Paramount's Bumblebee and Sony's Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse are in a close race for fourth and fifth place. Both titles pulled in roughly US$13 million over the three-day frame, according to estimates.
Hailee Steinfeld stars in Bumblebee, the Transformers origin story that has made US$97 million since debuting just before Christmas.
Meanwhile, the domestic haul of Spider-Verse, an animated flick from Sony's arsenal of Marvel characters, sits at a robust US$133.8 million.
Sony's Holmes & Watson, a Christmas Day release, continues to struggle. Despite featuring the comedic duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, the movie made US$3.4 million over the three-day stretch for a tepid North American total of US$28.4 million.
Overseas, the buddy comedy based on the famed detective and his trustee sidekick has made a dismal US$7 million, bringing its worldwide bounty to US$35 million.
It holds an 8 per cent average on Rotten Tomatoes, so it might not be a mystery if Holmes & Watson fails to recoup its US$40-million budget.