NEW YORK (AP) — “John Wick: Chapter 4,” the fourth installment in the Keanu Reeves assassin series, debuted with a franchise-best $73.5 million at the box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Lionsgate film, starring Reeves as the reluctant-but-not-that-reluctant killer John Wick, exceeded both expectations and previous opening weekends in the R-rated franchise. Since first launching in 2014 with “John Wick” ($14 million on its opening weekend), the Chad Stahelski-directed series has steadily grown as a ticket-seller with each sequel. The 2017 follow-up opened with $30.4 million, and the 2019 third chapter, “Parabellum,” debuted with $56.8 million.
But “Chapter 4,” running two hours and 49 minutes and costing at least $100 million to produce, is the biggest film yet in the once-lean action series. Critics also said it was a franchise high point, scoring 95 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Though “John Wick” has been bigger at the box office with each new release — an enviable and rare trajectory among Hollywood franchises — “Chapter 4” brings some finality to Reeves' character. The actor hasn't entirely dismissed continuing the series, telling interviewers “never say never.” Regardless, the franchise is set to keep humming. A spin-off titled “Ballerina” starring Ana de Armas and co-starring Reeves has already been shot.
The release of “John Wick: Chapter 4,” which included a surprise premiere at SXSW, was also bittersweet. Lance Reddick, who plays the Continental Hotel concierge, Charon, in the films, unexpectedly died at the age of 60 a week before the film’s release.
But the success of “John Wick: Chapter 4” adds to a strong start in 2023 for Hollywood. After ticket sales rebounded to about 67 per cent of pre-pandemic levels last year, the release lineup is steadier and more packed this year. Sequels have led the way, including “Creed III” and “Scream VI.”
But there have been some exceptions. After its disappointing $30.5 million debut last weekend, the superhero sequel “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” slumped to second place with $9.7 million in its second weekend. The Warner Bros. release dropped steeply, tumbling 68 per cent from its launch.
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