‘King Richard’ Served Up Crushing Defeat at Box Office

King Richard (Credit: Warner Bros.)

The box office numbers are in and King Richard suffered a devastating loss to Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The Warner Bros. tennis drama is produced by and stars Will Smith as Venus and Serena Williams’ father and coach, Richard Williams. The biopic opened in fourth place with an estimated $5.7 million from 3,302 locations, according to box office tracking company Comscore. That added up to a per theater average of $1,726.

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King Richard drew a diverse audience, with African Americans accounting for 28 percent of ticket buyers and Caucasians making up 51 percent, according to PostTrak. The drama targeted mature audiences and more than 40 percent of ticket buyers were over age 45.

The highly-anticipated film debuted simultaneously on streaming platform HBO Max, which may have kept moviegoers with concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic at home.

“The availability of King Richard at home on HBO Max put the film right in the sweet spot for mature audiences who may still be more reticent to venture out to the multiplex,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, told Urban Hollywood 411 on Sunday. “That said, the movie has gotten high marks from critics and could enjoy a boost during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.”

Other factors that likely contributed to the film’s disappointing debut were the near-constant headlines in recent weeks about Smith’s memoir as well as his new YouTube series. Instead of focusing on the movie, the majority of articles centered on issues surrounding the superstar actor’s nontraditional marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith, and the challenges he said he faced growing up with an abusive father.

King Richard‘s poor box office performance can perhaps be somewhat attributed to Will Smith spending more time promoting his book rather than the movie,” said Shawn Edwards, a leading film critic and award-winning journalist for FOX 4 News in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Industry analysts had expected the movie to open in the $7 million to $10 million range. Edwards believes the film’s title may have left some moviegoers confused.

“I’m not a huge fan of the title, which provides little explanation of what the movie is actually about,” he said.

King Richard has been making the film festival circuit, and was timed for an awards season release.

The drama follows Richard Williams’ meticulous training to help Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) rise from humble beginnings in Compton to become two of the world’s top tennis players. Aunjanue Ellis, Tony Goldwyn and Jon Bernthal also star. Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men) directed the film from a script written by Zach Baylin.

Elsewhere at the box office, Sony’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife topped the chart with an impressive $44 million debut. The sequel to 1984 fantasy comedy Ghostbusters was directed by Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who helmed the original film. The new movie premiered in 4,315 locations for a per theater average of $10, 197.

The sequel stars a slew of Hollywood heavyweights, including Paul Rudd, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Carrie Coon, Ernie Hudson, Finn Wolfhard, Annie Potts, Bokeem Woodbine, Mckenna Grace, Marlon Kazadi, Sydney Mae Diaz a nd Logan Kim.

Marvel’s Eternals came in second place with $10.8 million in its third weekend of release. That brings the film’s three-week domestic total to $135.8 million.

Paramount’s Clifford the Big Red Dog was third with $8.1 million in its second weekend. Since it opened domestically last week, the family film has earned $33.5 million.

As mentioned earlier, King Richard was fourth with $5.7 million. Dune rounds out the top five with $3 million in its fifth weekend of release. Since its domestic debut on Oct. 22, the Warner Bros. sci-fi epic has earned $98.1 million in the U.S. and Canada, contributing to a $367.1 million worldwide total.

Check out this weekend’s box office chart from Comscore below.

Box Office Chart for Nov. 21. (Credit: Comscore)

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