- Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within box office: José Padilha’s political drama/thriller is now officially the biggest blockbuster ever in Brazil, having earned more cash (in U.S. dollar figures) than James Cameron’s futuristic 3D extravaganza Avatar.
- But … a) What about inflation/currency fluctuations (re: U.S. dollar-based box office grosses)? b) How far back does “ever” go?
- One thing is all but unquestionable: When it comes to Brazilian productions, Elite Squad 2 is the no. 1 title in number of ticket sales, having surpassed Bruno Barreto’s 1976 sex comedy Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.
Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within box office: José Padilha’s politically flavored cop thriller becomes Brazil’s biggest blockbuster ‘ever’
Featuring a melange of underhanded politics and forthright gunfire, José Padilha’s Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within / Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora É Outro, the violent sequel to the also violent (and controversial) 2007 Golden Bear winner Elite Squad, is now officially the biggest blockbuster ever at the Brazilian box office. At least in U.S. dollar figures.
Perhaps assisted by real-life events – e.g., special forces storming Rio de Janeiro slums as Brazil tries to clean up its image and streets prior to both the World Cup and the Olympics – the $9 million budget Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within has grossed a record-setting $60.5 million at the Brazilian box office since its mid-October debut, as per figures found on the movie industry website Filme B.
With $60.4 million, James Cameron’s futuristic 3D blockbuster Avatar had been the previous record-holder.
What about Titanic?
Now, that’s the Hollywood way of doing things.
In countries like France and Brazil, however, ticket sales figures – the most reliable barometer of a film’s popularity – are generally used to illustrate the success (or failure) of big-screen releases in these markets.
So here’s the dish:
To date, Elite Squad 2 has sold more than 11 million tickets in Brazil vs. Avatar’s 9 million. In other words, José Padilha’s cop thriller has been seen by many more Brazilians than Cameron’s fantasy (which was screened at pricier 3D theaters).
Having said that, James Cameron’s other blockbuster, Titanic, sold 16 million tickets in Brazil. Wouldn’t that make the late 1997–98 disaster epic/romantic melodrama that country’s biggest box office hit … ever?
What about Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, et al.?
Why the question mark?
Well, the answer to the question further up should logically be a resounding Yes! when comparing Titanic to both Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within and Avatar, as inflation and currency fluctuations don’t play a role in ticket sales figures.
… One must remember that Brazilian attendance figures for decades-old blockbusters – e.g., Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, The Robe, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments – in case they do exist, aren’t readily available.
Titanic could well be the most widely seen movie in Brazil. But one can’t know for sure until figures for these and other pre-1975 hits are made available.
Brazilian-made box office queen dethroned
What about Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within’s place among Brazilian productions?
When the field is narrowed to Brazilian productions only, Elite Squad 2 is all but unquestionably the most popular movie ever.
Relatively speaking, prior to 1950 Brazilian cinema was quite small. In the two ensuing decades, despite hits like Lima Barreto’s The Bandit / O Cangaceiro and Roberto Farias’ O Assalto ao Trem Pagador (“The Pay-Train Robbery,” weirdly translated online as Assault on the Pay Train), it’s unlikely that any local production achieved the popularity of Bruno Barreto’s (no connection to Lima B.) Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands / Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos.
Starring Sonia Braga, José Wilker, and Mauro Mendonça as the three titular characters (two living, one dead), the 1976 (Blithe Spirit-inspired?) sex comedy sold 10.73 million tickets.
Lastly, Elite Squad 2 will have its international premiere at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.
Elite Squad 2 cast
Set eight years after the original film, Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within follows a special police unit as it fights drug traffickers and paramilitary militias in Rio’s slums – in addition to self-serving politicians and a dogged human rights activist.
Besides bringing back Wagner Moura as Lt. Col. Roberto Nascimento – now upgraded to the post of Rio’s Deputy Secretary of Public Safety – the cast includes Irandhir Santos (as the human rights activist), André Ramiro, Milhem Cortaz, Tainá Müller, André Mattos, Sandro Rocha, Maria Ribeiro, Pedro Van-Held, Rod Carvalho, Adriano Garib, and City of God actor/singer Seu Jorge.
José Padilha and Bráulio Mantovani cowrote the Elite Squad 2 screenplay, from a screen story by Padilha, Mantovani, and Rodrigo Pimentel (co-author of the book that served as the basis for the original Elite Squad).
Short reign as top Brazilian box office hit
Update: Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within ultimately sold 11.1 million tickets in Brazil.
For comparison’s sake: According to Filme B, Fábio Barreto’s $9.7 million budget Lula, the Son of Brazil – that country’s controversial submission for the 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar – sold a total of 835,000 tickets.
In U.S. dollars, Elite Squad 2’s domestic (Brazil) gross was $62.9 million. Internationally, however, José Padilha’s political cop thriller bombed, collecting a measly $690,000 – including $359,000 in Portugal (which has a significant number of Brazilian expats) and $100,000 in the U.S. and Canada.
Something else worth noting: Elite Squad 2’s reign at the Brazilian box office lasted less than six years. As found on Filme B, the widely derided Fundamentalist Christian-geared Moses and the Ten Commandments: The Movie / Os Dez Mandamentos – O Filme, sold 11.2 million tickets in 2016.
In the case of foreign releases, Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War sold 14.6 million tickets in 2018, while the following year the Russo brothers’ Avengers: End Game and Jon Favreau’s The Lion King sold, respectively, 19.7 million and 16.3 million tickets.
Lastly, in 2021–22 Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: No Way Home sold 17.2 million tickets.
“Elite Squad 2: Brazilian Blockbuster” notes
 According to box office trackers Filme B and Rentrak, on its opening weekend, Oct. 8–10, Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within was seen by 1.25 million moviegoers, thus dethroning the year’s previous record-holder, David Slade’s international blockbuster The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (1.18 million tickets on its first three days out).
A number of anti-piracy precautions were reportedly taken before Elite Squad 2 opened on Brazilian screens, as the original Elite Squad – if piracy estimates are to be believed – was seen by around 11 million people prior to its commercial debut (180,000 tickets sold on its first weekend out and 2.4 million throughout its run).
 In 1982, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands was remade in the U.S. as Kiss Me Goodbye, with Sally Field, James Caan, and Jeff Bridges as the leads, plus Paul Dooley, and veterans Claire Trevor (Oscar winner for Key Largo, 1948) and Mildred Natwick (Oscar nominee for Barefoot in the Park, 1967) in supporting roles.
Oscar-nominated veteran Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962) directed.
Despite its stellar cast and director, Kiss Me Goodbye was not a success, grossing a disappointing $15.8 million (around $45 million in 2010) domestically.
“Elite Squad 2 Box Office” endnotes
Unless otherwise noted, “Elite Squad 2 Box Office: Biggest Brazilian Blockbuster Ever” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Unless otherwise noted, Brazilian attendance figures via Filme B. Budget info – which should usually be taken with a grain of salt – via various sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about Elite Squad 2 and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses, and worldwide gross.
Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).
Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.
Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office take at top-priced venues.
Wagner Moura Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within movie images: Bento Marzo | Zazen Produções | RioFilme.
“Elite Squad 2 Box Office: Biggest Brazilian Blockbuster Ever” last updated in October 2022.