If Americans are suffering from a bad case of superhero fatigue, they have a funny way of showing it. The first half of 2018 has been marked by a succession of massively successful superhero tentpoles, each one breaking a record set by the one before, to the extent that breaking box-office records doesn’t really mean much of anything anymore. And what better film to step into this fray than Deadpool 2, a franchise that revels in taking the self-important superhero genre down a peg?
It’s certainly accomplished that in respect to Avengers: Infinity War, whose reign atop the domestic box office has ended after three weeks at No. 1. (It’s still sitting comfortably at No. 2 with a $28.6 million weekend, however.) It was eclipsed by—what else?—Deadpool 2, which made $301.3 million worldwide in its opening weekend. $176.3 million of that came from the 81 international markets (not including China, where the original Deadpool just debuted last month), a new studio record for an overseas debut. But there’s one adversary Ryan Reynolds’ Merc with a Mouth hasn’t been able to defeat: Himself. Although Deadpool 2 ($125 million domestic) was able to inch ahead of Stephen King’s IT ($123.4 million domestic) and score the second-largest domestic opening of all time for an R-rated film, it still came up short compared to the original Deadpool’s record-setting $132.4 million domestic debut, which got executives all over Hollywood buzzing about the possibilities for R-rated superheroes back in the spring of 2016.
We still haven’t seen much of that happening in superhero movies outside of the Deadpool franchise itself, of course. Nor the hackneyed sex jokes of Book Club, featuring a different sort of superhero team in Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen; even though the premise involves infamous erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey, the film’s not-quite-filthy humor landed Book Club a PG-13 rating. Usually, studios shoot for that rating in an attempt to increase attendance among teenagers (See: Blumhouse’s Truth Or Dare). But with 88 percent of Book Club’s opening-day audience over the age of 35, that wasn’t really a factor here. Still, the film did pretty well as Deadpool 2 counter-programming, making $12.5 million and landing at No. 3.
The rest of the week’s major new releases both catered to a more sensitive audience, albeit one split into two distinct groups: Adults who disapprove of swear words had the option of seeing Wim Wenders’ documentary Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word, which came in at No. 16 with a $480,000 weekend—which isn’t great, but not bad for only playing on 346 screens. Meanwhile, nearly ten times as many theaters screened this week’s kid-friendly new release, Show Dogs, which, as was noted in The A.V. Club’s review, is about the best you can ask for when it comes to a talking-dog movie. That one came in at No. 6 with a $6 million debut, which sounds good at first, but gets kind of ruff (sorry) when you start breaking it down into per-theater averages.
That last metric is, as always, most useful when discussing the week’s limited releases, which can never compete with wide release films opening on thousands of screens in terms of sheer weekend gross. But two films, both of which opened on a mere four screens, did well enough on their per-theater averages to compete with Deadpool 2: There’s Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke as a clinically depressed reverend hiding an explosive secret, which pulled in a respectable $25,068 on each of its four screens over the weekend, just short of Deadpool 2's $28,742 per screen. A new re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey did even better, however, with by far the week’s best per-theater average at $50,000 on each of its four screens.