(Photo by courtesy of Disney. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
Another week, another opportunity to examine the effect of Premier Access on a same-day streaming-and-theatrical release. Standards have been set this summer by Disney, Universal, and Paramount while Warner Brothers has given the term “front-loaded” further meaning showing the effects of those that choose a trip to their couches for HBO Max over a trip to theaters. Disney’s flirtation with their home accessibility for an additional price on their streaming service Disney+ continued this weekend. We don’t know the full extent of their couch success aside from a couple of lofty debuts, so what can we glean from their box office numbers this weekend?
Disney certainly got one headline they were hoping for this weekend. Jungle Cruise’s no. 1 opening was not a shocker, but getting to $34.2 million put it ahead of Space Jam: A New Legacy’s start of $31 million. That number is also good enough for the fourth-best opening of the pandemic, better than even Godzilla vs. Kong’s $31.6 million first weekend (and that film had a two-day head start as well that helped its long-term prospects of eventually reaching $100 million). Jungle Cruise faces an uphill river going forward just based on the two biggest obstacles impeding nine-digit totals – family-oriented titles struggle to get there right now and day-and-date streaming options.
Last week, Space Jam: A New Legacy, streaming for those with an HBO Max subscription, fell 69.1% in its second weekend and looks to still top out around $70 million total. The week before, Disney’s Black Widow, available for $29.99 via Premier Access on Disney+, fell 67.8%. As the front-loaded grosses go up, the subsequent drops go higher as well. Second viewings in theaters are likely way down in this atmosphere and any good word-of-mouth may bring people more to the couch than the lounge seat in the theater. Disney may choose to point to Cruella (also a Premier Access title) having the best multiple (3.94) for a film opening to over $20 million, but it is certainly an outlier. Only A Quiet Place Part II and Godzilla vs. Kong have made more than three times their opening weekend in that group of movies to open with more than $20 million. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the only other title to get over 2.5x its start.
Then again, it’s debatable if Jungle Cruise getting to $100 million without some serious international and streaming numbers is a victory for a film budgeted at $200 million. F9 is the only film right now that has made enough theatrical revenue to cover that price tag, grossing over $641 million worldwide. No other film has crossed half-a-billion since 2019. Jungle Cruise reportedly grossed another $27.6 million internationally and “over $30 million” from its Premier Access – or half of what Black Widow made in its debut. At present, Disney is not going to be releasing Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to Premier Access on September 3 – it will be available exclusively in theaters.
A24 had a momentous weekend. For just the fifth time in its eight-year history, the indie darling opened a film in over 2,000 theaters. And it made some headlines. David Lowery’s The Green Knight – one of the best-reviewed wide releases of the year, Certified Fresh at 90% on the Tomatometer – opened to $6.7 million. While that may not seem like a big chunk of change, let’s look a little closer. That is higher than both Midsommar and It Comes At Night, making it the third-highest opening in A24’s history. This is also the first time a film of theirs ranked as high as second place on the weekend box office chart. Even if the estimates fall and Old barely bests it, A24 has never had a third place finish either; both The Witch and Hereditary opened in fourth in their respective weekends in 2016 and 2018. Surely the film was helped by a lackluster marketplace and big drops from last week’s films. Who knows how those grosses would have been altered (or boosted overall at home) with a streaming option, but the studio which has practically become its own brand at this point got a win this weekend by betting on cinephiles’ desire to see a touted masterpiece and its scope on a big screen.
(Photo by Jessica Forde / Focus Features)
The numbers for director Tom McCarthy and Matt Damon’s American-abroad thriller Stillwater are not great. That said, they look good for Focus Features given their output since theaters began opening up. Instead of instituting a move to increase volume on their titles with instant streaming access, the studio has taken a full-steam-ahead theatrical approach to their releases going back to last September. The result has been a top opening weekend for Let Him Go ($4 million), a top final gross by Come Play ($10.4 million) – both from 2020 – and of their seven releases in 2021 so far, not one of them have matched either of those 2020 markers.
Their eighth release of the year, Stillwater, did manage to break their opening ceiling with $5.1 million, giving it the likely odds to outgross Come Play as well. It has already bested Focus’s top release of 2021 in Boogie ($4.17 million). Note, however, that Stillwater‘s per-theater-average of $2,000 is less than that for the opening weekend of their Anthony Bourdain documentary, Roadrunner ($2,145), and that is just their fourth film since the pandemic to have a PTA over $1,000.
What kind of revenue are they missing out on by not offering these films at home for a $20 price tag? When you consider the films actually making theatrical revenue during the 2021 period of the pandemic, the only titles geared towards adults that are not a sequel, a prequel, or a reboot and which have grossed over $20 million are Old, In the Heights, Wrath of Man, and Nobody. And only Old is cracking $30 million. Pre-Stillwater’s opening, Focus’s seven films this year have grossed a total of less than $10 million. Stillwater will finally get them over $20 million for the year.
(Photo by Phobymo /© Universal Pictures)
Last week’s no. 1 film, Old, fell back to third place this weekend with just $6.7 million. The 60.3% fall is the worst drop for M. Night Shyamalan since The Happening fell 65.7% after a $30.5 million opening in 2008. When looking at the drops of 15 historical July openers that began between $15.5 million and $17.7 million, there are two standouts: Old now joins the ranks of Catwoman (-61.5%) and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (-62.6%) in their second weekends. Those films finished with $40.2 million and $41.1 million, respectively, and it appears Old is headed into the same territory. If so, it could finish with less than Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water’s $42.2 million in 2006.
Marvel’s Black Widow, meanwhile, is now the subject of a potential precedent-setting lawsuit by star Scarlett Johansson over diminished profits stemming from its hybrid release in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access. While we have not heard anything about the streaming numbers beyond its $60 million debut on the service, its theatrical total rose to over $167 million this weekend. That puts it at around the totals of Men In Black II and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs after 24 days, though it made around $1.5 million-to-$2 million less than both of those films on its fourth weekend. The best hope for Black Widow is that the film can stretch to get into the $190 million range, which is where both those films ended up, but it is still likely headed to between $180 million-$190 million as suggested last week. Still, unless James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad can break the HBO Max ceiling, Black Widow should end up being the domestic victor of the summer.
(Photo by Ed Araquel/Paramount Pictures)
Elsewhere, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins fell 70% from last week to just $4 million. That’s the worst drop for a film exclusively in theaters this year and now ranks amongst the 10 worst drops for a film opening between $10 million and $15 million. We’re talking out of over 700 films, too: Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (-77.40%), The Photograph (-77.10%), The Bye Bye Man (-74.60%), Land of the Dead (-73.40%), Endless Love (2014) (-70.20%), Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (70.0%), Skyline (-69.50%), The Grudge (2020) (-69.20%), Elektra (-69.00%), Child’s Play (2019) (-68.60%).
Though the studio behind Snake Eyes is citing concerns over the Delta variant spreading among the unvaccinated for its recent decision to pull Clifford the Big Red Dog from its September 17 release, could it be the action flick’s underperformance – as well as the general underperformance of family titles – that spooked them? The film is still scheduled to premiere at next month’s Toronto Film Festival and Paramount’s Paw Patrol is still on the schedule for August 20. Could Paramount+ or a move to Amazon be on the table next for either of them?
Finally, Sony Classics’ Nine Days had one of the best limited launches of the year earning $18,455 in just four theaters for a $4,614 per-screen-average. The only limited releases to start better were the Vietnamese film, Bo Gia, which made $350,000 in 20 theaters ($17,500 PTA) and Neon’s Ailey making $15,091 in two theaters ($7,546 PTA).
One of the last attempts for a potential blockbuster of the summer arrives with James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. If Warner Brothers is feeling confident, they have reason: Early reviews have the movie already Certified Fresh at 96% on the Tomatometer (which is a big jump from the Rotten 26% Tomatometer score for the original). But can it overcome people’s desire to stay at home and watch it on HBO Max? We will find out next weekend…
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]