Weekend Box Office: ‘Rocketman’ Soars With $25 Million Debut As ‘Ma’ Nabs $18 Million

Paramount’s Rocketman provided a much-needed win for the Viacom-owned studio, beginning what everyone hopes will be a long and leggy summer run with $25 million in its debut weekend. The Dexter Fletcher-directed Elton John flick puts the “musical” in “musical biopic,” retelling the (give-or-take) first half of the famous singer’s life in a way that plays out like a jukebox musical. The reviews have been solid, the fan interest was there and credit was given for allowing the movie to go out as an R-rated flick that doesn’t shy away from (gay) sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.

If it needs to be said, this one was never going to be as big as Bohemian Rhapsody, both because of the R-rating and because the still very much alive Elton John obviously doesn’t quite have the mystique of the long-since-passed Freddie Mercury. The unending pre-release controversies over Bryan Singer’s Queen biopic, including Singer being fired by Fox and replaced by Dexter Fletcher, resulted in oodles of free publicity and helped create a true “event movie” status. As we again learned with Aladdin last weekend, as long as the movie delivers what is promised, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Still, we’re talking about a $41 million movie that has earned $56 million worldwide thus far. The film earned $9.2 million on opening day, including Fandango sneak previews from two weeks’ back. Like A Star Is Born (which earned $17 million on its opening day which also included some pre-release sneaks), this one earned a solid 2.725x weekend multiplier. That’s actually leggier than Straight Outta Compton ($60 million from a $24 million Friday in 2015), A Star Is Born ($44 million/$17 million in 2018) and Bohemian Rhapsody ($51 million/$18.8 million in 2018).

The film received a decent-enough A- from Cinemascore, and there is little reason not to presume that this one, which is rated R but just barely so, won’t be at least somewhat leggy over the first half of the summer. Almost by default, it is positioning itself as the big “event movie for grown-ups” over the next two months until Quintin Taranto’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood opens from Sony on July 26. Even legs like Straight Outta Compton ($161 million from a $60 million debut) gets Rocketman to $67 million domestic.

Comparisons are challenging because most of the big musical biopics/big musicals (Bohemian RhapsodyMary Poppins Returns, The Greatest Showman, Walk the LineWalk Hard, Ray, etc.) opened during and/or benefited from the Oscar season. Legs like A Star is Born (4.9x a $44 million debut) or Walk the Line ($117 million from a $23 million debut in 2005) gets this one past $125 million. Legs like Bohemian Rhapsody gets it to $106 million and legs like Ray ($75 million from a $20 million debut in 2004) or Jersey Boys (3.5x its $13.319 million launch in the summer of 2014) gets this one to $87 million-$94 million.