Weekend Box Office

Weekend Box Office Results: Free Guy Scores Best Pandemic Opening for Original Movie with $28.4 Million

With a sequel already announced, the Ryan Reynolds flick is leveling up the box office. Plus: the numbers for Don't Breathe 2, The Suicide Squad, and Respect on the weekend of August 13-15, 2021.

by | August 15, 2021 | Comments

The industry was holding its breath to see how this weekend’s new theatrical exclusive entries would perform. This weekend was the first time during the pandemic that three new movies were released in over 2,000 theaters without a single streaming entity making them available at home. With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, the weekend was likely going to be a barometer for studios to decide how to manage their fall and holiday releases. We’re not out of the woods yet, but one film did just enough to allow those eyeing delays on their schedules to exhale for a moment.


King of the Crop: Free Guy Passes Pandemic Test and Gives Theaters Much-Needed Hope

Everything is on notice after The Suicide Squad underperformed last week. If a high-concept, (mostly) family-friendly film like Free Guy that can only be seen in theaters could not pull in a decent number this weekend, just how willing would the folks behind No Time To Die, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Top Gun: Maverick be to gamble on reduced attendance if the COVID-19 numbers kept trending upwards?

Hope was struck on Friday morning when the numbers showed that Free Guy, which Disney took on after acquiring Fox but did not make available via Premier Access on Disney+, sold $2.2 million worth of tickets Thursday night. With those numbers in hand it was time to start predicting the weekend haul. Charting 16 PG-13 films that had previously grossed $2 million-$2.4 million in Thursday night previews, the average opening gross was $30.5 million; only three of those films went on to have weekends under $20 million, and, of the five that opened over $30 million, four of them were sequels. So between $20 million and $30 million felt right for Free Guy. Earlier in the week, many felt anything under $25 million would give industry folk pause, but when analysts began downgrading expectations to under $20 million, the film was given a solid cushion to land on. When the numbers came in on Sunday, revealing Free Guy pulled in $28.4 million for the weekend, it felt like a real triumph.

Free Guy

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

That is the seventh-best opening of the pandemic and not just better than The Suicide Squad last week, but actually the best opening for an original film. (The word “original” being used a little loosely here as one can recognize Tron, Wreck-It-Ralph, The Truman Show, and They Live amongst its influences. But, still, unlike Black Widow, F9, A Quiet Place Part II, Jungle Cruise, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Space Jam: A New Legacy, it is neither a sequel, prequel, reboot, nor based on existing IP – like a ride.)

It is too soon to call the legs on this one. No film yet that has made less than $60 million in its first 10 days during the pandemic has reached $100 million. Then again, Free Guy is likely to remain no. 1 for a second straight week, remain in the top five for its first full month, and stick around in the top 10 at least until the beginning of October. It will all depend how severe the drops are, which will likely be based on how comfortable everyone continues to be going to theaters.


Rotten Returns: The Suicide Squad May Not Finish the Mission 

The Suicide Squad

(Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/™ & © DC Comics)

Whether it’s concern over the rise of the Delta variant, the lure of staying home and catching it on HBO Max, or some lack of interest in the latest DCEU movie – despite it being Certified Fresh at 91%, among the best-reviewed movies in that universe – The Suicide Squad continues to underperform. The movie experienced a 70% drop from last weekend and fell to fifth place with $7.7 million. With just $42.9 million in its first 10 days, it is trailing what The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It had in the bank at the same time (not to mention that movie scored a $10.3 million second weekend). Looking at August releases historically, The Suicide Squad is charting a similar-looking path to the 2012 remake of Total Recall, which dropped 68.7% in its second weekend to $8 million and had $44.1 million. It finished with $58.8 million. As suggested last week, in normal times without a pandemic and without a day-and-date streaming option, The Suicide Squad would have likely had an opening weekend higher than that even with the most conservative of estimates. With those variables in place it appears it may not even top $60 million total.


The Top 10 and Beyond: Jungle Cruise On Track to be Disney’s Second Pandemic $100 Million Movie

Jungle Cruise

(Photo by courtesy of Disney. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Last week we gave Disney’s Jungle Cruise a puncher’s chance of making it to $100 million and it is definitely punching. It made $9 million this weekend, giving it $82 million after 17 days; that is a great number in that no film released in July or August to have at least $80 million in that stretch failed to eventually clear $100 million. It would be Disney’s second film with a simultaneous Disney+ Premier Access release, after Black Widow, to reach the milestone. Cruella, which had a similar release and just signed Emma Stone for a sequel, is also the sixth highest-grossing film of the pandemic with over $85 million.

Moving over to the new titles of the week. Don’t Breathe 2‘s $10.6 million may have looked good when the best the genre was getting was The Unholy and Separation. But the pandemic has given us a mild stretch with the third Conjuring, The Forever Purge, and Old, in which fans seemed ready to make the genre something of a box office over-performer. Still, Don’t Breathe 2 looks to be more in the Spiral and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions realm, a sequel few people felt they needed, and which could underperform. That $10.6 million start (aided in part by a “hey, let’s go see it on Friday the 13th” contingent) is far less than the original’s triumphant $26.4 million start in August 2016 on its way to over $89 million. The sequel will be hopeful to end up in the $25 million-$30 million range.

The release of the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, with Jennifer Hudson, delivered something of a blow to the kind of mid-range films for adults – which could be the big box office story going forward coming out of 2021. The ceiling is not being raised for these films and the $8.8 million Respect made is more evidence that age groups outside of those typically targeted by studios are taking their time when it comes to a night out at the movies. M. Night Shyamalan’s Old breaking $43 million feels like a legit standout at this point versus all the IP making up the current theatrical cashflow. In the Heights, Wrath of Man, and Nobody all earned between $27 million and $30 million (all better than Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins), and Respect may join them, but how long will studios hold on to these kind of alternatives as theatrical exclusives (Heights notwithstanding) before day-and-date streaming helps them out sooner?


On the Vine: Action, Mystery, Thrills, and the Paw Patrol

Arguably the biggest title opening on a very crowded weekend will be Paw Patrol: The Movie. But with it streaming concurrently on Paramount+, how much of a splash will this really make? (Remember that Paramount moved Clifford the Big Red Dog off the schedule from September due to “Delta concerns” but left this one to take its chances in August.) One thing Paw Patrol has on its side? A 100% Fresh Tomatometer Score, so far. Also streaming while in theaters next week is the Hugh Jackman sci-fi tale, Reminiscence. It will be on HBO Max. That leaves a pair of R-rated thrillers to take a shot at the mid-range crowd. Lionsgate’s The Protégé, from action director Martin Campbell, stars Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson. And then there is David Bruckner’s The Night House, from Searchlight Pictures; the horror film premiered at Sundance in 2020 and currently has a Fresh Tomatometer score of 84%.


Full List of Box Office Results: August 13-15, 2021


  • $28.4 million ($28.4 million total)

  • $10.6 million ($10.6 million total)

  • $9 million ($82.1 million total)

  • $8.8 million ($8.8 million total)

  • $7.8 million ($42.9 million total)

  • $2.4 million ($43 million total)

  • $2 million ($178.2 million total)

  • $1.3 million ($12.5 million total)

  • $1.2 million ($14.7 million total)

  • $1.1 million ($68 million total)


Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.

[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

concert cars Netflix Christmas movies ViacomCBS The Purge GLAAD YouTube spinoff Heroines Esquire YouTube Red new york Summer 72 Emmy Awards strong female leads zero dark thirty marvel comics docuseries spider-verse Legendary spain Universal Pictures 20th Century Fox hidden camera suspense documentaries sitcom Hallmark die hard Thanksgiving Disney+ Disney Plus talk show Trophy Talk romantic comedy ESPN psycho cancelled natural history transformers anime Chernobyl trailers Rock Arrowverse vs. werewolf sports versus DirecTV aliens Vudu joker National Geographic Pet Sematary Spike high school The Walking Dead History Travel Channel Biopics OneApp Grammys mutant movie Spring TV screen actors guild OWN Rocketman E3 FX X-Men PaleyFest toy story comic book movies Emmys Stephen King nfl Alien space USA Network Black Mirror ITV GIFs medical drama satire Ghostbusters foreign cooking critic resources miniseries comic books streaming movies king arthur First Reviews Marvel Television worst SundanceTV finale Fox News ghosts Certified Fresh dceu Neflix Adult Swim Avengers Sci-Fi video San Diego Comic-Con classics Endgame diversity Academy Awards ID dogs TV Winter TV Britbox indiana jones Film Women's History Month legend cults venice latino news Tokyo Olympics parents anthology live event Family Paramount Oscars Polls and Games Universal rom-coms crime Tomatazos hollywood documentary Epix robots mob discovery Spectrum Originals Shudder elevated horror Mudbound Cannes asian-american royal family archives unscripted true crime Video Games TCA 2017 Marvel Studios Food Network HBO Go australia golden globe awards mockumentary spy thriller composers south america Shondaland politics nature boxoffice Tubi LGBT Elton John halloween tv Syfy Red Carpet zombies Reality Ellie Kemper universal monsters VICE rt labs Fox Searchlight First Look rotten movies we love Apple TV Plus 007 Western cancelled TV shows crime thriller aapi toronto screenings Apple festival Animation award winner jurassic park LGBTQ The Academy all-time Awards mission: impossible IFC Watching Series Schedule fresh VH1 Baby Yoda dexter worst movies Drama french CBS All Access adenture king kong President comics Superheroe rt labs critics edition DGA thriller TCA Awards popular Film Festival Crunchyroll Disney streaming service 21st Century Fox criterion Turner Classic Movies Music comedies The Arrangement Amazon Prime Winners Mystery Pop TV FOX indie olympics basketball Masterpiece Amazon free movies Nickelodeon Logo 2016 AMC Plus Nat Geo HBO stand-up comedy Rom-Com Warner Bros. sequel saw Ovation 2017 Discovery Channel 2020 BET book adaptation Apple TV+ critics james bond Mary poppins pirates of the caribbean Best and Worst Paramount Plus vampires YouTube Premium Trailer adaptation Showtime comic book movie Election Nominations Mary Poppins Returns Walt Disney Pictures TV movies zombie jamie lee curtis 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Comic-Con@Home 2021 Photos The CW 2021 superhero Brie Larson boxing crossover IFC Films sopranos PBS live action political drama new zealand cats comiccon sag awards batman police drama Pop Peacock Netflix 24 frames Amazon Studios rt archives BBC America Sundance Now Christmas dc Valentine's Day serial killer Set visit 99% NBA Horror YA kong El Rey ratings romance Premiere Dates Box Office Year in Review binge sequels psychological thriller Marathons reboot black comedy Teen Exclusive Video DC streaming service chucky AMC revenge halloween Lifetime Christmas movies MTV child's play 93rd Oscars Funimation name the review WGN BET Awards TIFF stop motion VOD Super Bowl Acorn TV prank game of thrones Lifetime deadpool emmy awards festivals Comedy ABC Signature blockbusters Fall TV Country dragons MCU American Society of Cinematographers scary CBS cops Character Guide HBO Max Disney Channel biopic canceled children's TV renewed TV shows know your critic twilight directors remakes Lucasfilm Holiday cartoon golden globes Classic Film SXSW japan Hallmark Christmas movies laika 1990s APB Fantasy women 2015 scary movies ABC Extras Marvel Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt heist movie casting docudrama best TV One 73rd Emmy Awards posters Disney witnail Podcast TCM MSNBC SDCC based on movie stoner monster movies Black History Month Song of Ice and Fire CMT Broadway justice league Rocky wonder woman Opinion PlayStation films CW Seed Turner godzilla gangster Countdown Pixar spanish language teaser Cosplay WarnerMedia quibi Pacific Islander period drama TCA Winter 2020 Image Comics Reality Competition kaiju 2019 Dark Horse Comics a nightmare on elm street travel international Action BBC One cancelled TV series young adult movies dark Amazon Prime Video Quiz Emmy Nominations Pride Month franchise IMDb TV 90s Tumblr action-comedy Sneak Peek reviews Infographic Pirates Hulu TCA Creative Arts Emmys debate NYCC singing competition Writers Guild of America marvel cinematic universe telelvision hispanic heritage month Television Academy genre rotten book richard e. Grant Comedy Central FXX animated Martial Arts science fiction cinemax Sundance TV Hear Us Out biography Musicals new star wars movies Columbia Pictures BBC christmas movies ABC Family New York Comic Con Sony Pictures Kids & Family war spider-man hispanic facebook supernatural football doctor who dreamworks television japanese CNN obituary DC Comics Captain marvel DC Universe Superheroes slasher razzies See It Skip It RT History scene in color 2018 cancelled television black Paramount Network Television Critics Association theme song Freeform Interview Binge Guide streaming TLC comic tv talk RT21 Musical slashers italian TruTV GoT Instagram Live 4/20 dramedy Comic Book The Walt Disney Company fast and furious harry potter Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Star Trek Starz blaxploitation game show art house technology superman Crackle social media 71st Emmy Awards TNT independent TBS 45 Disney Plus disaster mcc Mary Tyler Moore canceled TV shows NBC crime drama Anna Paquin TV renewals hist E! Tarantino Trivia TV Land The Witch kids Star Wars target Wes Anderson video on demand Holidays spanish Sundance FX on Hulu Comics on TV Bravo green book blockbuster historical drama what to watch USA A&E Cartoon Network Mindy Kaling lord of the rings BAFTA Calendar series breaking bad nbcuniversal adventure scorecard Awards Tour Toys A24 feel good Lionsgate