John Wick: Chapter 4 comes out blazing on opening weekend

John Wick: Chapter 4, the fourth installment in the Keanu Reeves assassin series, debuted with a franchise-best US$73.5 million at the US box office, according to studio estimates on Sunday (Mar 26).

The film also made US$64 million at the international box office, bringing in US$137.5 million globally. 

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 (US$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 US$30.4 million, and the 2019 third chapter, Parabellum, debuted with US$56.8 million.

But Chapter 4, running two hours and 49 minutes and costing at least US$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 US$30.5 million debut last weekend, the superhero sequel Shazam! Fury Of The Gods slumped to second place with US$9.7 million in its second weekend. The Warner Bros release dropped steeply, tumbling 68 per cent from its launch.

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