Let's be blunt: this past weekend was a serious bummer for the box office. James Gunn's The Suicide Squad is the best blockbuster we've seen released this summer, replete with a fantastic adventure and phenomenal ensemble of characters, and buzz has been building up for weeks – but now that the numbers are in, they disappointing. The DC film did manage to become the latest feature to earn the title "Number One Movie In North America," but the ticket sales don't properly represent the quality of the movie, and there is now a lot of rumination going on in the industry figuring out why that is. Check out the full Top 10 below, and join me after for analysis.
Given that The Suicide Squad was made for a reported budget of $185 million, according to Variety, these results are obviously not ideal – and not to beat a dead horse, but they look particularly bad compared to what David Ayer's Suicide Squad did back in 2016 (the critically reject and subsequently disowned film made $133.7 million in its first three days). Of course, there are a number of factors that the new release had to deal with that its predecessor didn't, both externally and as part of the studio's distribution strategy.
The big and unignorable element in play is the on-going pandemic. COVID-19 numbers were going down a month ago, allowing for record-breaking hits like Justin Lin's F9 and Cate Shortland's Black Widow, but the surge of the Delta variant has changed the national outlook and is making a bigger impact on our daily lives. It's little surprise that movie-going activity would be affected, and it seems to be represented in the box office figures for The Suicide Squad.
That external, uncontrollable influence very much intersects with the other major one in play: the film's availability via streaming. Like all of the other titles on Warner Bros.' slate in 2021, The Suicide Squad has been released in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, with the film hitting the subscription service for a 31 day engagement starting at 7:00pm PST last Thursday. As has been discussed at length in previous installments of this box office column, the allure of that format's convenience is always going to be powerful – even with blockbusters best seen on the biggest screen possible – but that convenience is only more appealing as the country's issues with COVID continue.
Unfortunately, we don't have a clear sense of precisely what kind of draw The Suicide Squad had digitally because Warner Bros. has not released the numbers – which isn't exactly atypical. In the last few weeks, Disney has publicly released the opening weekend Disney+ earnings for Black Widow and Jaume Collet-Serra's Jungle Cruise, but those titles were available for a premium price (Premier Access on the service costs $29.99). The new releases on HBO Max are free for subscribers, so success would have to be quantified by number of streams and/or the number of new subscribers lured to the service, and the studio has not announced either. Having them, especially in context of some of their other titles released this year, would help us get a much better perspective on the performance of the James Gunn movie, but we're just left guessing instead.
The Hollywood Reporter has a statement from HBO Max chief Andy Forssell, who says that The Suicide Squad is the "second most viewed film over an opening weekend on HBO Max" in 2021, but we don't really know what that means by itself. According to the trade, Simon McQuoid's Mortal Kombat is the number one title in that specific category, and it earned slightly less than the DC film in its first three days, with a total of $23.3 million.
In modestly better news, Jungle Cruise – now in its second week – managed to do something that F9, Black Widow, and Malcolm D. Lee's Space Jam: A New Legacy couldn't do: avoid a 60 percent weekend-to-weekend plummet. All three of those movies saw a crazy drop of 67 percent or more in their respective sophomore Friday-to-Sundays, but the adventure film starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt successfully fared better (it still fell a not-super-great 55 percent, but a smaller drop is a smaller drop). Exactly why it was able to pull off this feat, especially while being available via Disney+ and being just as family friendly as the Space Jam sequel, is unclear, but the performance will have us closely watching it throughout August to see what kind of legs it is able to grow.
What's a solid angle for Jungle Cruise in this box office report, however, does not look great for David Lowery's The Green Knight. The new film from A24 received laudatory reviews, and it had a solid opening that saw it earn $6.8 million (one of the best among releases from the studio), but it fell a few rungs down the ladder in terms of rank in the Top 10 and 62 percent weekend-to-weekend. With a reported budget of $15 million, it still has a distance to go before it becomes profitable on paper, so we'll see if it can hold on through August before eventually going to digital.
Last thing of note is that this may be our last weekend seeing F9 in the domestic Top 10, the blockbuster having now fallen from eighth place to tenth place. It's still earning nine figures in ticket sales, and has more than $170 million thus far in North America. Worldwide it has made $661.4 million, making it the fifth highest grossing title in the Fast and Furious franchise, having the $630.2 million made by Justin Lin's Fast Five in 2011.
Looking ahead to next week, theaters will be seeing three new wide releases arriving, including Shawn Levy's Free Guy with Ryan Reynolds, Rodo Sayagues' horror sequel Don't Breathe 2, and Liesl Thomas' Aretha Franklin biopic Respect. Next Sunday I'll be back analyzing the performance of all three as well as the rest of the Top 10, so be sure to head back here to CinemaBlend then.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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