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SYFY WIRE Box Office

'Cocaine Bear' kills it at the box office, beating box office projections with $23 million opening weekend

Higher baby! Get higher baby! And don't ever come down!

By Josh Weiss
Cocaine Bear (2023)

Get higher baby! When Universal Pictures announced its intentions to release a movie called Cocaine Bear (now playing in theaters everywhere), many thought it had to be some kind of joke meant to drum up publicity. There was just no way a risky film like that could be green-lit by an entertainment industry obsessed with mining lucrative IP and building billion-dollar franchises.

Well, the joke is now on those early skeptics because the bonkers film is expected to close out its debut weekend with an impressive $23 million at the North American box office — exceeding early projections of $15 - $17 million. Internationally, it snorted up $5.3 million for a global curtain-raiser of $28.3 million. As such, Universal should have no problem turning a profit on the modest $35 million production budget. What's more: we wouldn't be at all surprised if a sequel gets announced, because folks really seem to be digging the Pablo EscoBear.

RELATED: 'Cocaine Bear' takes place in Georgia, but where was it filmed?

"As a film that may not have even been on the radar for many at the start of the year, Cocaine Bear proved to be a double take-worthy title. An outrageous concept, 'true story' origins, and lots of buzz quickly became a box office sensation," Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "The offbeat and tough-to-categorize film offered a fun, irreverent, and very R-rated movie theater experience that has to be seen to be believed. This played heavily in the film's favor as movie fans looking for an edgy, out-there (and not-for-everyone) experience got what they asked for and more. The Bear necessities indeed!"

The third feature-length effort from actor/writer/director Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2, Charlie's Angeles) nabbed officially second place on the domestic stage, while Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, stayed at the top, albeit with an astonishing 69 percent drop in its second frame (the largest decline of any Marvel Cinematic Universe film). The trilogy capper to Scott Lang's comic book-inspired adventures nabbed an additional $32 million, bringing its North American gross to $167 million. Globally, the expensive $200 million blockbuster is approaching $300 million.

Written by Jimmy Warden (The Babysitter), Cocaine Bear loosely depicts an incident from 1985, in which a butt-load of cocaine was dropped over Georgia by narcotics smuggler Andrew C. Thornton II. In reality, an American black bear came upon the cache of narcotics, ingested them, and quickly died of an overdose. The predator's cinematic counterpart not only lives to tell the tale, but also embarks on a bloody rampage against any human unfortunate enough to cross its path.

The movie features an addictive cast comprised of Keri Russell (Antlers), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Christian Convery (Sweet Tooth), Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Brooklynn Prince (The One and Only Ivan), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire), Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones), Hannah Hoekstra (Faithfully Yours), Aaron Holliday (Euphoria), Margo Martindale (BoJack Horseman), and the late Ray Liotta (GoodFellas).

Elsewhere, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish slid into fifth place domestically — just below Avatar: The Way of Water — with an extra $4 million, in spite of the fact that A) the sequel has been playing on the big screen for over two months and B) it hit VOD platforms several weeks ago. To date, the Oscar-nominated release from DreamWorks Animation has racked up $173.1 million in North America and nearly $430 million worldwide.

Rocking a fresh 71 percent on Rotten TomatoesCocaine Bear is now in theaters. Click here to purchase tickets.

Looking for more creature-based thrills in the meantime? Jordan Peele's Nope is currently streaming on Peacock.