‘Challengers’ Ranks as Top Player at Box Office With $15 Million Debut

Zendaya stars in CHALLENGERS, An Amazon MGM Studios film Photo credit: Niko Tavernise/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Moviegoers served tennis drama Challengers a win this weekend at the box office.

The sexy sports drama starring Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor debuted in the top spot after ringing up $15 million in ticket sales, box office tracking company Comscore reported Sunday.

The film from Italian director Luca Guadagnino played in 3,477 locations across the U.S. and Canada, for a per theater average of $4,317 — on a slow weekend in theaters.

The drama centers on Tashi (Zendaya), a tennis player-turned-coach who takes her husband Art (Mike Faist) from a mediocre player to a grand slam champion. To jolt him out of a losing streak, she makes him play a “Challenger” event — close to the lowest level of tournament on the pro tour — where he finds himself challenging Patrick (Josh O’Connor), his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend, causing tensions to run high on and off the court.

“With one of the most notable stars in the world, Zendaya, great reviews and a world class director, Challengers was able to top the box office with a perfectly timed release just ahead of the summer blockbuster season,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told Urban Hollywood 411 on Sunday.

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The audience was 58 percent female, with 41 percent of moviegoers between the ages of 18 and 24, tracking data shows. Ticket buyers were 43 percent Caucasian, 27 percent Hispanic, 17 percent African American and 9 percent Asian.

Moviegoers gave the film a “B+” CinemaScore, while critics handed it a positive 87 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Amazon Studios and MGM release marked Zendaya’s first leading role in a #1 feature, following her supporting turns in the blockbuster Spider-Man and Dune movies.

The actress frequently made headlines during Challengers’ press tour with her fashion forward tennis-themed red carpet looks.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 16: Zendaya attends the Los Angeles Premiere of "Challengers" at Regency Village Theatre on April 16, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Amazon MGM Studios)
Zendaya attends the Los Angeles Premiere of “Challengers” on April 16, 2024. (Credit Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Amazon MGM Studios)

The film cost a reported $55 million to produce, plus marketing costs. To date, it has earned $10.0 million outside North America for a worldwide total of $25 million, Comscore reported Sunday.

“With $25 million banked globally, the film will rely on a worldwide audience to recoup its budget over the long haul,” Dergarabedian said.

The drama is unlikely to turn a profit during its theatrical run. Still, Kevin Wilson — head of Amazon Studios and MGM’s theatrical distribution department — told the Associated Press the film’s box office performance isn’t the only measure of success.

“I’ve always believed that theatrical is the best way to launch some of these films,” Wilson said. “When this thing gets to Prime Video, it’s obviously going to perform at a level that would be much greater than had it just gone directly to the platform. Theatrical is only a piece of it.”

Challengers will face increased competition in May, when the summer movie season kicks off.

Next weekend romantic action comedy, The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt (actors from last year’s blockbusters Barbie and Oppenheimer) hits theaters.

It will be followed by Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes on May 10. Also opening that weekend will be the parody comedy Not Another Church Movie starring Mickey Rourke, Jamie Foxx, Vivica A. Fox, Jasmine Guy, Tisha Campbell, and Kyla Pratt.

This weekend in theaters, the No. 2 position went to Lionsgate’s faith-based drama Unsung Hero.

The film debuted with $7.7 million. The drama about Christian recording artists with dreams of making it big in Nashville, cost a reported $6 million to produce and has already made back its budget. The film marks the latest collaboration from Kingdom Story Company and Lionsgate, following last year’s hit Jesus Revolution.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire was third with $7.2 million in its fifth week in theaters, bringing its domestic total to $182 million.

Civil War slipped to fourth place with $7 million after spending its first two weekends in the top spot. To date, the film has earned $56.1 million domestically.

rounded out the top five with $5.2 million in its second week and a two-week total of $18.7 million.

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