20th Century Fox’s R-rated Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds, broke box office records during its opening weekend. The movie earned about $135 million over the Valentine’s Day weekend at North American theaters. Previous estimates of expected ticket sales hovered around $70 million. The results mean that Deadpool had the biggest domestic opening on record for an R-rated movie.
The new record displaced “The Matrix Reloaded,” which took in $118.3 million in May 2003 (after adjusting for inflation). Deadpool could realistically take in another $20 million on Monday, since many Americans are off work for Presidents’ Day. Mr. Reynolds stars as the title character of the movie, a red-suited Marvel Comics superhero with self-healing powers. The movie has been described by reviewers as comedic, violent and sexually charged.
Deadpool was finished for a relatively inexpensive $58 million. To compare, Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” cost $130 million to make, but took in only $57.2 million in ticket sales during its opening weekend in July. Deadpool was released in a traditional format, instead of relying on the higher prices of Imax theaters and extra-large screens known as Premium Large Format to increase ticket sales.
An unusual advertising campaign powered Deadpool to record breaking victory. Fox’s president of domestic marketing, Marc Weinstock, released campaign that included provocative billboards, stunts tied to the Super Bowl, and a raunchy online trailer. Mr. Weinstock’s billboards using an emoji for excrement were placed in fewer than 10 locations, yet trended across social networks and generated coverage from hundreds of websites, including generating more mentions on Twitter than any movie other than ‘Star Wars’ over the past few months.
Fox also had the second place movie for the weekend with Kung Fu Panda 3, which took in $19.7 million, for a three-week domestic total of $93.9 million. Third place went to romantic comedy How to Be Single, released by New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which took in about $18.8 million. Ben Stiller’s Zoolander 2, released by Paramount Pictures, took fourth place, earning about $15.6 million.