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Beyoncé onstage during the Toronto, Canada stop of her Renaissance tour, July 8, 2023.THE NEW YORK TIMES/The New York Times News Service

Beyoncé ruled the box office this weekend.

Her concert picture, Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, opened in first place with US$21-million in North American ticket sales, according to estimates from AMC Theatres Sunday.

The post-Thanksgiving, early December box office is notoriously slow, but Renaissance defied the odds. Not accounting for inflation, it’s the first time a film has opened over US$20-million on this weekend in 20 years (since The Last Samurai).

Beyoncé wrote, directed and produced Renaissance, which is focused on the tour for her Grammy-winning album. It debuted in 2,539 theatres in the U.S. and Canada, as well as 94 international territories, where it earned US$6.4-million from 2,621 theatres.

“On behalf of AMC Theatres Distribution and the entire theatrical industry, we thank Beyoncé for bringing this incredible film directly to her fans,” said Elizabeth Frank, AMC Theatres executive vice-president of worldwide programming, in a statement. “To see it resonate with fans and with film critics on a weekend that many in the industry typically neglect is a testament to her immense talent, not just as a performer, but as a producer and director.”

Despite several other new releases including Godzilla Minus One, the Hindi-language Animal, Angel Studios’ sci-fi thriller The Shift, and Lionsgate’s John Woo-directed revenge pic Silent Night, it was a slow weekend overall. Films in the top 10 are expected to gross only US$85-million in total.

But it was in this traditional “lull” that AMC Theatres found a good opportunity for Renaissance to shine.

“They chose a great weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “There was competition but it was from very different kinds of movies.”

Though Renaissance did not come close to matching the US$92.8-million debut of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in October, it’s still a very good start for a concert film. No one expected Renaissance to match The Eras Tour, which is wrapping up its theatrical run soon with over US$250-million globally. Prior to Swift, the biggest concert film debuts (titles held by Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber for their 2008 and 2011 films) had not surpassed the unadjusted sum of US$32-million.

The 39-city, 56-show Renaissance tour, which kicked off in Stockholm, Sweden in May and ended in Kansas City, Missouri in the fall, made over US$500-million and attracted over 2.7 million concertgoers. Swift’s ongoing Eras Tour, with 151 dates, is expected to gross some US$1.4-billion.

Both Beyoncé and Swift chose to partner with AMC Theatres to distribute their films, as opposed to a traditional studio. Both superstars have been supportive of one another, making splashy appearances at the other’s premieres. Both had previously released films on Netflix (Miss Americana and Homecoming). And both are reported to be receiving at least 50 per cent of ticket sales.

Movie tickets to the show were more expensive than average, around $23.32 versus Swift’s $20.78, according to data firm EntTelligence.

Critics and audiences gave Renaissance glowing reviews – it’s sitting at 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and got a coveted A+ CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences who were polled. EntTelligence also estimates that the audience, around 900,000 strong, skewed a little older than Swift’s.

“To have two concert films topping the chart in a single year is pretty unprecedented,” Dergarabedian said.

But to compare them too closely would be a mistake.

“Taylor Swift was a total outlier and the result of a very specific set of circumstances,” he said. “These two films are similar in genre only. "

Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes fell to second place in its third weekend with an estimated US$14.5-million. The prequel has now earned over US$121-million domestically.

Godzilla Minus One took third place on the North American charts with US$11-million from 2,308 locations – the biggest opening for a foreign film in the U.S. this year. The well-reviewed Japanese blockbuster distributed by Toho International cost only US$15-million to produce and has already earned US$23-million in Japan. Toho’s 33rd Godzilla film is set in the aftermath of World War II, stars Ryunosuke Kamiki and was directed by Takashi Yamazaki.

“This year, we made a concentrated effort to answer the demand of the marketplace and make Godzilla globally accessible across many different platforms,” said Koji Ueda, president of Toho Global, in a statement.

Trolls Band Together landed in fourth place in its third weekend with US$7.6-million, bringing its domestic total to US$74.8-million.

Fifth place went to Disney’s Wish, which fell 62 per cent from its underwhelming first weekend, with US$7.4-million from 3,900 locations. Globally, it’s now made US$81.6-million. The studio’s other major film in theatres, The Marvels is also winding down in its fourth weekend with a disastrous global tally of US$197-million against the reported US$300-million it cost to make and market the superhero film.

In its second weekend, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon earned an estimated US$7.1-million from 3,500 locations. Produced by Apple Original Films and distributed by Sony Pictures, the film starring Joaquin Phoenix has now made US$45.7-million domestically against a US$200-million budget.

Things should pick up in the final weeks of 2023, with films like Wonka and The Color Purple yet to come. The industry is looking at a US$9-billion year – still trailing the US$11-billion prepandemic norm, but a marked improvement from the last few years. And there are still many solid options for moviegoers, as the industry’s awards season gets into full swing.

“We had a slow Thanksgiving and we’re having a pretty slow weekend this weekend, but it’s a great weekend to be a moviegoer in terms of the breadth and depth of the movies out there,” Dergarabedian said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, US$21-million.

2. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, US$14.5-million.

3. Godzilla Minus One, US$11-million.

4. Trolls Band Together, US$7.6-million.

5. Wish, US$7.4-million.

6. Napoleon, US$7.1-million.

7. Animal, US$6.1-million.

8. The Shift, US$4.4-million.

9. Silent Night, US$3-million.

10. Thanksgiving, US$2.6-million.

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