Pokemon: Detective Pikachu hit theaters last Friday and posed the first significant challenge to Marvel's Avengers: Endgame. While Detective Pikachu fell short of taking out Endgame, the live-action Pokemon film finished at a comfortable second place and is on track to become the most successful video game movie of all time.
The question now is how high can Pokemania take Detective Pikachu in the world of box office returns? According to analysts, Detective Pikachu's position as the highest-grossing video game film of all time is all but secured. But whether that translates to further box office glory is a little more opaque.
Over the weekend, Detective Pikachu grossed $58 million, coming within $5 million of the current box office juggernaut, Avengers: Endgame. The latest Marvel film added another $63 million to its domestic gross, putting its domestic total at $723.5 million.
Internationally, Detective Pikachu did just as well, earning $103 million in international markets, including China, Japan, U.K., and nine other international markets. With a combined gross of around $161 million, Detective Pikachu is already the highest grossing opening for a video game movie adaptation of all time, beating 2001's Lara Croft Tomb Raider.
The highest grossing video game movie overall is still Angelina Jolie's 2001 Tomb Raider film. Detective Pikachu already beat Tomb Raider's opening weekend gross, and Box Office Mojo predicts a $145-$165 million domestic run, which even at its lowest will beat Tomb Raider's $131 million total domestic gross.
Initial estimates for Detective Pikachu's box office (which is an inexact science) pegged the film at reaching anywhere between $50 million - $55 million domestically, a figure Detective Pikachu beat. Future performance for Detective Pikachu hinges on strong word of mouth, which the film seems to already have. According to CinemaScore, viewers who saw Detective Pikachu awarded the film an A-, which usually indicates strong positive buzz and could affect how many viewers watch Detective Pikachu positively.
Similarly, analytics firms RelishMix told Deadline that it believes Detective Pikachu has a strong social media presence. The firm counts the Pokemon brand's total social media universe at 625.4 million. "This movie's reach far outweighs the usual family/live action film's [social media universe] of 154.9 million," says RelishMix.
All this is to say that Detective Pikachu is on track to become the most successful video game movie, a genre that hasn't had too many successes to begin with. But even with Pikachu's cultural clout, it might not be enough to reach the highs of say some of Marvel's middling films. Ant-Man, for example, earned a domestic box office gross of $180.2 million. Success abroad will no doubt contribute to Detective Pikachu's total gross, but even in Pikachu's native Japan it opened third behind a new Detective Conan anime film and Avengers: Endgame.
Although Detective Pikachu isn't ready to quite take on Marvel or Disney, the film's success has already paved the way for more Pokemon live-action films. But it remains to be seen if Detective Pikachu can break through the realm of successful video game movie and into the upper echelons of pop-culture films.