John Krasinski’s imaginary friends film IF claimed the top spot at the box office this weekend, according to studio estimates.

Its 35 million dollar (£27.5 million) North American debut was also a bit lower than some projections.

Is that a disappointment? An ominous sign of the box office times? Or is the final story on IF yet to be written?

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski pose with the character Blue at the premiere of Paramount Pictures’ IF at the SVA Theatre in May in New York
Emily Blunt and John Krasinski pose with the character Blue at the premiere of Paramount Pictures’ IF at the SVA Theatre in New York (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

It is not just your imagination: in these bumpy early weeks of the 2024 summer box office season, in which nothing has been a runaway hit and every new movie has more and more pressure to succeed, IF hit a nerve.

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming and an army of A-list voices including Steve Carell, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Louis Gossett Jr, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Maya Rudolph, IF was an original idea from Krasinski, who wrote, directed and co-stars.

Paramount debuted the film, which cost a reported 110 million dollars (£86.6 million) to produce, in 4,041 locations in North America.

Internationally, it earned an estimated 20 million dollars (£15.7 million) from 56 markets, adding up to a 55 million dollar (£43.3 million) global debut.

“Families came out in force and they loved the film,” said Chris Aronson, who heads Paramount’s domestic distribution.

There are several somewhat contradictory narratives swirling around its performance as well.

With its PG rating, IF was the first major family friendly film to open in cinemas in weeks.

And unlike a front-loaded superhero or horror movie, family pics are often running a marathon not a sprint.

Last June, Pixar’s Elemental was assumed to be dead on arrival when it opened with 29.5 million dollars (£23.2 million) domestically.

But it continued earning throughout the summer and ultimately made nearly 500 million dollars (£393 million) globally.

IF got middling reviews from critics (it is currently sitting at a “rotten” 49% on Rotten Tomatoes), but, as with Elemental, audiences gave it a solid A CinemaScore this weekend.

The studio considers it a successful debut and is optimistic about its longevity as summer actually begins for school age children.

“I think it bodes well for moviegoing in general as we move into the summer movie season,” Aronson said.

“Kids are out of school starting this coming week and I couldn’t think of a better film to be in the marketplace than this one: It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s original, and it’s such a heartwarming film.”

Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes continues to be a bright spot.

In just 10 days, it surpassed 100 million dollars (£78.7 million) domestically and 237 million dollars (£186.7 million) globally.

It came in second place in its second weekend with 26 million dollars (£20.4 million) (down 55%).

But there also has not been a major movie moment akin to last year’s The Super Mario Bros Movie, Barbie or Oppenheimer in quite some time.

Last year on this weekend Fast X opened to more than 60 million dollars (£47.2 million).

“This is a very unusual summer. It got off to an unusual start without a Marvel movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore.

“The box office has been in a holding pattern 20% down from last year.”

IF was not the only new film to open this weekend either.

Lionsgate’s horror The Strangers-Chapter 1 overperformed with a 12 million dollar (£9.4 million) debut from 2,856 locations.

The innovative marketing campaign staged some viral moments by bringing the “strangers” to major events, from the Trump trial to Coachella.

This image released by Focus Features shows Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in a scene from Back To Black
Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in a scene from Back To Black (Focus Features via AP)

The Amy Winehouse biopic Back To Black opened in North America to an estimated 2.9 million dollars (£2.2 million) from 2,010 screens.

The filmed-for-IMAX documentary The Blue Angels also made 1.3 million dollars (£1 million) this weekend from 227 screens.

It is playing on the premium large format screens through May 22 before flying to Prime Video on May 23.

The summer, which for Hollywood begins in the first weekend in May, is still getting started and could rev up next weekend with the infusion of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and The Garfield Movie.

Dergarabedian noted that Memorial Day weekend is a time when moviegoers can play catch up with films they have missed and heard about.

For a film such as IF, which picked up over the weekend with word of mouth buzz, that could bode well.

Still, there is no sugar-coating the reality that the 2024 box office is not going to build on 2023.

“On almost every level this is a non-traditional summer in the line-up of films and the trajectory of the box office,” Dergarabedian said.

This image released by Amazon Prime shows a scene from the documentary The Blue Angels
A scene from the documentary The Blue Angels (Amazon Prime via AP)

“But collectively these films should have a solid Memorial weekend.”

– Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian cinemas, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.

1. IF, 35 million dollars (£27.5 million).

2. Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, 26 million dollars (£20.4 million).

3. The Strangers-Chapter 1, 12 million dollars (£9.4 million).

4. The Fall Guy, 8.5 million dollars (£6.6 million).

5. Challengers, 2.9 million dollars (£2.2 million).

6. Back To Black, 2.9 million dollars.

7. Tarot, two million dollars (£1.5 million).

8. Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, 1.7 million dollars (£1.3 million).

9. The Blue Angels, 1.3 million dollars (£1 million).

10. Unsung Hero, 1.1 million dollars (£866,785).