(Photo by © Warner Bros.)
Space Jam: A New Legacy is no Jurassic World, but never underestimate the appeal of a film that has become a generational security blanket. Twenty-five years after the release of the original Space Jam movie, the sequel has topped the box office and given some hope to a family box office market struggling to bring kids ineligible for vaccinations back to the theaters. (Not to mention that other added barrier: the convenience of family films like Space Jam: A New Legacy being available to stream at home.) This week was a more than solid opening for A New Legacy, but is it just another front-loaded event picture that will leave its studio wishing for more?
First, let’s go to the charts. Space Jam: A New Legacy opened in first this weekend with $31.7 million. That is the fifth best opening of the year – just ahead of WB’s Godzilla vs. Kong’s $31.6 million, if the estimates hold (and GvK had a two-day head start). That is also the best family-oriented opening of 2021, surpassing even Cruella’s four-day Memorial Day opening of $26.5 million. LeBron James fans may even point out that it is better than the $27.5 million start that Michael Jordan’s Space Jam kicked off with back in 1996. Though with inflation that was about a $47.6 million opening and the movie went on to make more than $156 million. (At the time of its release, that was the fifth best opening of 1996, but the movie dropped to seventh in subsequent weeks when Star Trek: First Contact and the live-action 101 Dalmatians opened bigger.)
GOAT debate aside, there was not a lot of chatter that Space Jam was going to dethrone Black Widow in its second weekend after a record-breaking pandemic opening. And yet here we are. But long term is the question now, with watchers wondering whether A New Legacy will join the exclusive company of $100 million films. So far it has taken at least a $47 million opening to achieve the ranks of $150 million. By next week we will have three films in that bracket: A Quiet Place Part II, F9, and Black Widow. Godzilla vs. Kong is still a bit of an anomaly in that it had very little competition; it was in the top 5 for six weeks and the top 10 for 10 weeks, and it still stands at just $100.5 million.
(Photo by ©2021 Disney Enterprises)
The good news for Jam is that family films, while not breaking the bank, have been pretty consistent in bringing in audiences post-opening weekend. Raya and the Last Dragon had a disappointing $8.5 million start back in March, but is now up to over $54 million (or 6.42 times its opening). Cruella and Peter Rabbit 2 were at 3.82x and 3.83x their openings entering this weekend and The Boss Baby: Family Business is approaching getting over the 3x hump. Cruella’s number, though a far cry from being a success against is budget, is interesting given its availability on Disney+ via Premier Access. The Boss Baby sequel may be a better gauge for A New Legacy, given it is also available as part of a streaming subscription (Peacock) with no extra cost. As of this weekend the film is at a 2.76 multiplier, but also opened to just a bit more than half of A New Legacy’s start. Can this be the second Warner Bros./HBO Max title to reach $100 million – after Godzilla vs. Kong? A new generation will tell.
Marvel’s Black Widow reached one high peak already during the pandemic box office, which means it had the furthest to fall too. Its 67.2% drop from its opening of $80 million down to $26.3 million this weekend was the third-highest drop of the year for a wide release after Mortal Kombat fell 73.2% and Demon Slayer fell 69% in the same weekend. The positives still outweigh the setback, though, as the film managed to gross over $105 million in its first full week and will eventually be passing both F9 and A Quiet Place Part II to become the highest-grossing film (domestically) of the pandemic so far.
But is a $200 million total now in jeopardy? The film has fallen behind the pace of Ant-Man and the Wasp already, which had $133 million after 10 days with a $29 million second weekend – it finished with $216 million. Black Widow is at $132 million and could actually become the first July release to have over $130 million in its first 10 days and not reach the $200 million milestone. Disney also chose not to report its Premier Access numbers this week.
(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)
Checking in on the films that Widow is chasing for the top spot, we have F9 making $7.6 million this weekend, driving its total to $154.8 million after 24 days of release. Last week, we put the film in line with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which had $150.5 million in the bank after an $8.9 million fourth weekend. Somewhere around that film’s total haul of $172 million still looks right and F9 continues to lead the way internationally with over $591 million to date. A Quiet Place Part II just finished a seven-week stay in the top 5 and is still holding onto a narrow lead over F9 with $155 million. In many ways this is the truest success story of the pandemic so far. An exclusive theatrical run from Memorial Day weekend through last weekend and a consistent audience that is going to drive it to over $160 million: This is the film most deserving of the “theaters are back” title.
The other sequel unleashed in theaters this week, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, grossed just $8.8 million this weekend. That is down nearly $10 million from the $18.2 million the first film did when it became a modest hit in January 2019, finishing with $57 million. The critical consensus on the Escape Room sequel is not so far off from the original, with a Tomatometer of 42% compared to the first film’s 51%. It’s worth noting that franchise horror has been going lower and lower in terms of box office pull this summer since A Quiet Place Part II opened to $47.5 million. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It did $24.1 million the week after Quiet Place opened, then The Forever Purge started with $12.5 million a month later. Lest we not forget Spiral starting with just $8.7 million in mid-May. The third Conjuring film was the only one of the bunch not exclusive to theaters upon opening. An original horror film, M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, will test the audience’s thirst this upcoming week and the genre could reclaim the number 1 slot.
(Photo by © NEON)
Opening in 927 theaters was the acclaimed but controversial documentary Roadrunner about Anthony Bourdain, which took in $1.9 million or about as much as Apollo 11 opened to in just 120 theaters in 2019. In only 552 theaters is Pig, with Nicolas Cage as a truffle hunter searching for his stolen companion. It scrounged up $945,000 for a $1,712 per-screen-average compared to Roadrunner’s $2,000. A24’s Zola is out of the top 10, but is up to $4.2 million with another $270,000 this weekend.
Next week, M. Night Shyamalan turns the Fountain of Youth – or its complete opposite – into the Beach in his latest thriller, Old. Its challenger for the week is the latest in the G.I. Joe series, an origin story for Snake Eyes with Henry Golding stepping into the role. It could make for an interesting box office battle, one that is rife with potential for both major surprise and crushing disappointment.
26% Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)
79% Black Widow (2021)
51% Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)
60% F9 The Fast Saga (2021)
46% The Boss Baby: Family Business (2021)
49% The Forever Purge (2021)
91% A Quiet Place Part II (2021)
91% Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (2021)
75% Cruella (2021)
97% Pig (2021)
Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on WGN Radio with Nick Digilio as well as on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]