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'Mortal Kombat,' 'Demon Slayer' lead improving box office

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Mortal Kombat" was No. 1

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Mortal Kombat" was No. 1 at the weekend box office with $22.5 million. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

The weekend at movie theaters featured something not seen for a while: a genuine box-office battle.

Warner Bros.' "Mortal Kombat" reboot and the Japanese animé film "Demon Slayer: Mugen Train" both vied for the top spot at the North American box office, with "Mortal Kombat" narrowly edging "Demon Slayer." The R-rated "Mortal Kombat" earned an estimated $22.5 million, according to studio estimates, while Funimation's "Demon Slayer" grossed $19.5 million.

The two releases fueled the best weekend for movie theaters during the pandemic, with an estimated $54.2 million in ticket sales overall, according to data firm comScore. "Mortal Kombat," which like other 2021 Warner Bros. films debuted simultaneously on HBO Max, sold more tickets in the United States than any movie besides the studio's own "Godzilla vs. Kong" — which on Sunday crossed $400 million worldwide. In March, "Godzilla vs. Kong" set a pandemic-best debut with a five-day, $48.5 million opening.

The performance of "Demon Slayer — Kimetsu No Yaiba — the Movie: Mugen Train" was more surprising. The animated film, which played dubbed and with subtitles, is a continuation of the "Demon Slayer" TV series, which itself comes from a popular manga (comics) series. It has already been a massive hit internationally. In Japan, it's the highest-grossing movie ever with more than $350 million in estimated ticket sales.

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