Hollywood’s over-the-top action comedy Cocaine Bear is getting high on a strong supply of opening weekend ticket sales. The ridiculous film, loosely based on a true story of a wild bear that ingests missing cocaine, may actually smash a box office record or two in its debut.
Per Deadline, the meme-turned-movie is on track to gross $21.2 million, placing it at No. 2 for the weekend just behind Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. If projections hold, Cocaine Bear‘s take will make it the best-performing R-rated comedy of the year so far. Currently, it’s pacing just ahead of Knock at the Cabin‘s $14 million; but far outstrips Plane ($10.3 million), Magic Mike’s Last Dance ($8.3 million), and House Party ($3.9 million).
In this era of theatrical uncertainty, many studios have opted to spend less on production and divert more of their attention to viral marketing campaigns. Small-budget films become like lottery tickets at some point — play enough, and you might just win. Though Universal Pictures, a major studio, distributed Cocaine Bear, a better comparison of performance is to production company Blumhouse (which operates mostly in the horror genre) as they rarely, if ever, spend more than a few million dollars on any film.
Blumhouse turned January’s surprise winner, M3GAN into a $30M+ winner on a scant budget (but it also had a PG-13 rating). Cocaine Bear’s projected numbers prove that genre films could be making a strong come back, which is great news for movie buffs that miss the arthouse productions of the pre-streaming eras.
Other upcoming 2023 movies that could overtake Cocaine Bear for opening R-rated genre pieces are Scream 6, John Wick: Chapter 4, and Evil Dead Rise — all sequels in major franchises.
Universal Pictures spent $35 million on Cocaine Bear, most of which went toward CGI
Cocaine Bear is the third directorial feature from actor Elizabeth Banks, who previously helmed Pitch Perfect 2 and Charlie’s Angels 2019. The ensemble cast of the project includes Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, and the late Ray Liotta in one of his final film roles.
Screenwriter Jimmy Warden will be especially happy with the box office news. According to Warden, he never expected any studio to actually make the film, much less release it wide.
“I never thought anybody was going to make this movie,” Warden explained. “When you have a script, you want to do anything to get people to read it. So there was never any question in my mind that the movie would be called Cocaine Bear.”
And as for the comedic violence, Warden said it’s intentional.
“I made it overly violent on purpose,” he said. “At a certain point you cross the line and [screen violence] becomes so messed up that you can’t help but laugh.”