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By R.T. Watson
Paramount Pictures finally has something to cheer about.
On the back of its newest release, "Sonic the Hedgehog," ViacomCBS Inc.'s studio ruled Presidents Day weekend with an estimated $70 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Starring Jim Carrey and James Marsden alongside the animated blue speedster, "Sonic" tells the tale of an extraterrestrial hedgehog who joins forces with a small-town sheriff as he tries to avoid the schemings of an evil genius.
Based on the main character from the 1990s Sega videogame series, "Sonic" represents the latest attempt by Hollywood to craft a feature film narrative from source material that is in theory recognizable to both parents and children. The gamble appears to have paid off. Through Sunday the family-friendly "Sonic" had already sped into the record books by posting the highest-grossing opening weekend ever for a videogame adaptation.
AT&T Inc.'s Warner Bros. previously held the record with its 2019 release of "Pokémon Detective Pikachu," which grossed $54.4 million during its first three days in theaters, according to media-measurement company Comscore. By Sunday, "Sonic" surpassed that mark by earning an estimated $57 million in domestic ticket sales.
Paramount's faith in "Sonic" hasn't always appeared justified.
The studio originally planned to release the movie more than three months ago, but delayed the film's debut after an early trailer caught fire on social media for all the wrong reasons. Some Sonic fans were shocked by the character's big-screen transformation, especially its teeth and eyes, which looked disturbingly like a human's.
After "Sonic" director Jeff Fowler took to Twitter to vow that he and his team would fix the blue hedgehog's appearance, Paramount moved the film's release date to February from November.
Early signs suggest the time was well spent. Boasting an audience score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and an "A" rating from CinemaScore, "Sonic" has made more than $100 million world-wide.
The strong "Sonic" opening follows a string of commercial duds for Paramount stretching back into last year. According to Comscore, the studio's 2019 domestic box office total was 26% below its tally for the previous year, largely as a result of big-budget flops like "Gemini Man" and "Terminator: Dark Fate."
The studio has steadily ranked at or near the bottom of the heap among major rivals for close to a decade.
Jim Gianopulos, a veteran film executive who took charge of Paramount in 2017, has been tasked with reviving the studio's fortunes. Mr. Gianopulos's tenure has featured few commercial highlights, as he has until now had to manage the release of films produced or developed before his arrival.
The studio hopes 2020 will mark the beginning of a new era, with several highly anticipated titles in the pipeline, including "A Quiet Place Part II," "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Coming 2 America."
"His paw prints are all over this year," said Chris Aronson, Paramount's president of domestic distribution. "This is the first time Gianopulos can truly say that this is his slate of films."
Further down the long-weekend box-office rankings, comic-book adaptation "Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn" came in a distant second. Released by Warner Bros., the R-rated comic spinoff, starring Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor, couldn't be saved by decent critical reviews.
After performing poorly for a second consecutive weekend, the film has made a disappointing $62 million in the U.S. and Canada plus $83.6 million overseas, according to Comscore.
Independent label Neon had success increasing the number of screens showing its Oscar-winning film "Parasite." After becoming the first foreign-language movie ever to be awarded the Academy Award for best picture, the suspenseful South Korean drama grossed an additional $6.8 million during the long weekend, bringing its total in North America to $44.5 million.
Write to R.T. Watson at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 17, 2020 17:23 ET (22:23 GMT)
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