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411 Box Office Report: Free Guy Starts Well With $28.4 Million, Claims #1

August 15, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Free Guy

Ryan Reynolds is king of the box office this weekend, as Free Guy took the top spot with a near-$30 million start. The video game-inspired adventure-comedy film claimed #1 with $28.4 million, nicely overperforming the low-to-mid $20 million opening that was expected coming into the weekend. It’s a very solid opening for an original IP — in fact, it’s the best for an original movie during the pandemic — continuing to speak to the power of Reynolds’ box office value and sparking life to a box office dealing with the uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Free Guy did not go use the same day-and-date release strategy of theatrical and Disney+ Premier Access that other big Disney-owned films have done, in no small part because the studio was contractually obliged not to. This is because the film was originally produced by Fox and was part of Disney’s acquisition of that studio, which is now under the Disney umbrella as 20th Century Studios. 20th Century’s streaming deal (which ends next year) stipulates that its films go to HBO Max as a first streaming option which meant Disney couldn’t put it on Hulu or Disney+ first. (Note: this is also why New Mutants was delayed for a theatrical release instead of going to Hulu or Disney+.)

All of that is to say that Free Guy had to hit theaters first for Disney to make its money and this benefited the film, as did strong reviews and word of mouth. Critics have largely liked the film, which has an 82% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes. The fan reaction has been great too, with an A CinemaScore that paid off as the film leapt from Friday to Saturday instead of dropping off as films often do. The movie added $22.5 million in 41 overseas markets for a $50.9 million worldwide start. Free Guy has a ways to go for profit as it cost about $100 million, but it’s well on the way and absent any surprises should be able to get there. The domestic total looks to be in the $85 million or more range, and it should to quite well overseas as well.

Coming in at #2 was Don’t Breathe 2, which also had a solid opening with $10.6 million. The sequel to the surprise 2016 horror hit performed right about in line with expectations. While this opening is well below the $26.4 million start of the first film, that was a very different time at the box office and even without the pandemic, Don’t Breathe 2 was never expected to match its predecessor. This marks a very workable start for an inexpensive studio horror film, which cost about $14 million in the production budget.

Don’t Breathe 2 performed well despite some factors working against it. The decision to make the Blind Man a protagonist in this movie has been fairly controversial due to some of his actions in the first film, and the less positive reviews (52% on RT vs. 88% for the first) and weaker word of mouth (a B CinemaScore vs. a B+) probably didn’t help. That said, this is another successful outing for Sony’s Screen Gems. Even if Don’t Breathe 2 drops like a standard horror film, it’s going to be a profitable movie for the studio and should be able to finish its domestic run in the $25 million range or more. It’s added $3.4 million thus far overseas for a $14 million worldwide total.

As a counter to those who will argue that Free Guy’s success doesn’t speak well for Disney+ Premier Access, Jungle Cruise is continuing to perform well despite its day-and-date release strategy. The adventure flick brought in $9 million in its third weekend, down a decent 43%. The Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt movie now stands at $82.1 million domestically and $154.3 million worldwide, with additional revenue via the digital release strategy. The film is on track to be profitable even with its $200 million budget once all those revenue streams are factored in. In the US, it is still well on course for a total box office over the $100 million mark, perhaps as high as $110 million.

The Aretha Franklin biopic Respect delivered exactly as expected, opening with $8.8 million. That was the high end of the expectation window for this Jennifer Hudson-starring film, which managed to bring out the older audiences to see it. Films that target an older audience have been the most hurt by the pandemic, but the solid reviews (64%) and the great word of mouth (A CinemaScore) were enough to get people out for this one. Respect is a film that is going to have to wait until home video to be considered a profit; its $55 million budget means that it would need to have truly amazing resilience in successive weeks to post a profit purely off theatrical, and this isn’t likely to do too much overseas (It starts overseas in Australia next weekend). Still, MGM isn’t sweating this one.

The Suicide Squad saw a big drop as most predicted, falling 70% in its second weekend to $7.5 million. That’s not ideal for the DCEU movie, but also not the end of the world because again everyone (including the studio) knew it would happen. The ensemble action film now stands at $42.6 million domestically and $117.8 million worldwide and while it won’t be profitable off theatrical revenue, the studio should be able to count it as a success due to the HBO Max subscription numbers.

Old was down 42% in its fourth weekend, bringing in another $2.4 million. The M. Night Shyamalan thriller is up to $43 million domestically and $74.6 million worldwide, making it a profitable venture against its $18 million budget. By the end of its run, it’s looking likely for close to $50 million in the US.

Black Widow slipped 49% in its sixth weekend with $2 million. That brings the MCU film to $178.2 million domestically and $355.6 million worldwide. The film is already profitable even against a $200 budget thanks in part to its Disney+ revenue, and should finish off at around $185 million by the end of its run domestically.

Focus Features’ Stillwater dipped 51% in its third weekend, tallying up another $1.3 million. The Matt Damon-starring crime drama is now at $12.5 million domestically and $13.2 million worldwide against its $20 million budget, and is looking like it will get close to $20 million once it closes out its run.

The Green Knight dropped 54% to $1.2 million in its third weekend. The A24 fantasy film currently sits at $14.7 million domestically and is looking to be in okay shape against its $15 million budget. From where it’s at, the Dev Patel starrer should be able to end its run somewhere around the $20 million range and it’s one that will perform quite well when it hits digital.

Space Jam: A New Legacy closed out the top 10 with 1.1 million in its fifth weekend, down 54%. The live-action/CGI hybrid sequel has in its last weekend on HBO Max and has totalled $68.1 million domestically and $145 million worldwide. This is not going to be a profit in theaters, having cost $150 million to produce, but is certainly making Warner Bros. some merchandising scratch. It should end off its run around $72 million.

Next weekend is an off weekend, which will benefit this weekend’s new releases. The biggest performance should be from Reminiscence, the Hugh Jackman-starring thriller from Westworld’s Lisa Joy. That film (which is also hitting HBO Max) should target $8 to $12 million. Paramount’s PAW Patrol: The Movie and Lionsgate’s action-thriller The Protege should both be in the mid-high single digits, while Searchlight’s horror flick The Night House will be in the low single digits. Free Guy should be able to reign a second frame.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Free Guy – $28.4 million ($28.4 million total)
2. Don’t Breathe 2 – $10.6 million ($10.6 million total)
3. Jungle Cruise – $9 million ($82.1 million total)
4. Respect – $8.8 million ($8.8 million total)
5. The Suicide Squad – $7.5 million ($42.6 million total)
6. Old – $2.4 million ($43 million total)
7. Black Widow – $2 million ($178.2 million total)
8. Stillwater – $1.2 million ($14.7 million total)
9. The Green Knight – $1.2 million ($14.7 million total)
10. Space Jam: A New Legacy – $1.1 million ($68.1 million total)