‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ opens with $73.5 million

“John Wick: Chapter 4,” the fourth installment in Keanu Reeves’ assassin series, opened with a franchise-high $73.5 million at the box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Lionsgate film, which stars Reeves as the reluctant but not-so-reluctant assassin John Wick, exceeded expectations and previous opening weekends in the R-rated franchise. Since its first release in 2014 with “John Wick” ($14 million in its opening weekend), the Chad Stahelski-directed series has grown steadily as a ticket seller with each sequel. The 2017 follow-up opened with $30.4 million, and 2019’s third installment, “Parabellum,” opened with $56.8 million.

But “Chapter 4,” at two hours and 49 minutes long and costing at least $100 million to produce, is the biggest movie yet in the once-scarce action series. Critics also said it was a highlight of the franchise, scoring 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The film, which drew a 69% male audience, grossed $64 million overseas. It is Lionsgate’s biggest hit in the pandemic era.

“When you do a fourth in an action franchise, you have to expect it to go down. That’s the nature of these franchises,” said Joe Drake, president of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. “But we continue to see signs and it was wonderful to see the film that they presented. We saw the audience wanting more.”

Though “John Wick” has been bigger at the box office with each new release, an enviable and rare track record among Hollywood franchises, “Chapter 4” brings some finality to Reeves’ character. The actor hasn’t completely ruled out continuing the series, telling interviewers to “never say never.”

Regardless, the franchise is ready to keep humming along. A spin-off titled “Ballerina” starring Ana de Armas and co-starring Reeves has already been filmed. The miniseries “The Continental,” with Mel Gibson, will premiere on Peacock.

“Chad and Keanu have created this world and that world continues to expand. I still don’t know what all the edges of that world are,” Drake said. “To the best of their ability, they’re going to keep trying to seduce Keanu into coming back and doing things. They beat him up on these shows. He really does. And at the end he says: ‘I won’t do it anymore’. Then you see him sit in the theater and feel that audience.”

“So we’re going to keep looking for ways to meet that demand.”

The release of “John Wick: Chapter 4,” which included a surprise premiere at SXSW, was also bittersweet. Lance Reddick, who plays Continental Hotel concierge Charon in the films, died unexpectedly at the age of 60 a week before the film’s release.

But the success of “John Wick: Chapter 4” adds up to a strong start to 2023 for Hollywood. After ticket sales recovered to around 67% of pre-pandemic levels last year, the opening slate is more stable and packed this year. Sequels have led the way, including “Creed III” and “Scream VI.” Ticket sales increased 28% over last year, according to data firm Comscore.

But there have been some exceptions. After its disappointing $30.5 million debut last weekend, the superhero sequel “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” dropped to second place with $9.7 million in its second weekend. The Warner Bros. release fell sharply, dropping 68% from its release.

“Scream VI” took third place with $8.4 million in its third weekend, bringing its total so far to $90.4 million domestically and $139.3 million globally. “Creed III” followed in fourth place with $8.4 million. The Michael B. Jordan sequel is up to $140.9 million domestically.

The other news of the weekend were more modest.

Zach Braff’s “A Good Person,” starring Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman, opened in 530 theaters. The MGM release grossed $834,000. IFC Films’ “The Lost King,” with Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan, opened to $575,000 at 753 locations.

Estimated ticket sales Friday through Sunday at theaters in the US and Canada, according to Comscore. The final national figures will be released on Monday.

1. “John Wick: Chapter 4,” $73.5 million.

2. “Shazam! The Fury of the Gods”, 9.7 million dollars.

3. “Scream VI,” $8.4 million.

4. “Creed III,” $8.4 million.

5. “65,” $3.3 million.

6. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” $2.4 million.

7. “Cocaine Bear,” $2.1 million.

8. “Jesus Revolution,” $2 million.

9. “Champions,” $1.5 million.

10. “Avatar: El Camino del Agua,” $1.4 million.