The third installment in the "Magic Mike" series danced its way to the top of the box office charts this weekend with a James Cameron doubleheader, "Avatar: The Way of Water" and "Titanic" (yes, that "Titanic"), looming close behind.
"Magic Mike's Last Dance" earned $8.2 million in its first weekend in North American theaters, according to studio estimates on Sunday. Cameron's "Avatar" sequel brought in an additional $6.9 million while the 25th anniversary rerelease of "Titanic" took in $6.4 million from Friday to Sunday.
North American moviegoing tends to come to a halt on Super Bowl Sunday and studios react strategically, often releasing films that are more "female-targeted." Star Channing Tatum has also had several films perform well in the Super Bowl/Valentine's Day corridor, including "The Vow," "Dear John" and "Dog."
"This is not known as a spike the football weekend for theaters. But there are people who want to go to theaters, even on Super Bowl weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for comScore. "And this is perfect counterprogramming."
"Magic Mike's Last Dance," which brought Steven Soderbergh back to the director's chair, was given a modest theatrical release in only 1,500 theaters. The film starring Tatum as the lovable male stripper and introducing a wealthy benefactor played by Salma Hayek, was made to go straight to HBO Max. But like the "House Party" reboot from several weeks ago, Warner Bros. pivoted and decided to go theatrical first with both in a company effort to refocus on the theatrical experience and give fresh fare to exhibitors.
The "Magic Mike" franchise has been a profitable one. In 2012, the first film opened to some $39.1 million from just under 4,000 theaters, on its way to earning $167.3 million globally (against a $7 million production budget). The second, "XXL," was made for slightly more ($14 million) and took in slightly less ($122.5 million) in 2015. The success of the films also spawned a Las Vegas stage show that has since expanded to Miami and London — in the lead-up to the release of "Last Dance," ticket sales for "Magic Mike Live" spiked too.
This latest installment reportedly carried a much bigger production budget, around $40 million, according to entertainment trades.
"Avatar: The Way of Water" in its ninth weekend added $25.8 million globally, bringing its total earnings to $2.2 billion, holding its spot as the 4th biggest movie release ever but closing in on "Titanic."
"Titanic" was rereleased in 2,464 domestic locations this weekend, with Paramount handling the North American release and The Walt Disney Co. on the international rollout in 51 territories. All told the film earned $22.3 million globally, with $2 million of that from IMAX screens. "Titanic" has now earned an estimated $2.2 billion globally, maintaining its title as the third biggest movie of all time.
In fourth place Sunday was the Super Bowl-themed "80 for Brady," in its second weekend, with $6 million. The Paramount release has made just under $25 million so far. M. Night Shyamalan's "Knock at the Cabin," a Universal release, rounded out the top five with $5.5 million.
"Super Bowl weekend is typically slow for theaters, and this one is no exception, but help is on the way with 'Ant-Man,' " Dergarabedian said. "It'll start a chain reaction that should carry throughout the whole year."
The Marvel/Disney film "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" opens in theaters on Feb. 17.