Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but every box office report these days comes with the important caveat that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. That means families are still a bit hesitant to turn out for blockbusters, smaller movies are facing even more dire struggles than they already were, and Disney continues to goose their box office numbers by including Disney+ Premier Access rentals. The new normal, people!
Blockbusters and the Box Office
All that said, this latest weekend saw Jungle Cruise ride a modest wave to the top of the domestic box office with what THR calls a “better-than-expected” total of $34.2 million. This more or less checks out, as pandemic-adjusted projections for the adventure flick had it coming in the range of $25 to $30 million. Directed by Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, The Shallows, The Commuter) and topping out worldwide at $61.8 million, the tentative hopes and plans for Jungle Cruise was for it to pull a Pirates of the Caribbean and spawn its own series of sequels that might even justify a new shared universe.
Are those plans still viable? Well, it’s tricky. According to THR, this past weekend’s box office bottomed out at fully half of the same revenue pulled in during the same weekend in 2019, which was the last moviegoing year unaffected by the pandemic. Stripped of context, a $34 million domestic opening tally for a $200 million-budgeted blockbuster would be a disaster (to say nothing of a Disney blockbuster, which maintains a whole other standard of performance). That’s undoubtedly why Disney keeps including its $30 Premier Access rentals from their streaming service, which apparently adds another $30 million to the Jungle Cruise numbers and evens out to a much more pleasant-looking (though still not great) worldwide haul of $91.8 million. A very confident Johnson is certainly proceeding as if a sequel is a foregone conclusion.
The added complication to all of this, of course, is Marvel star Scarlett Johansson’s ongoing lawsuit filed against Disney for breach of contract regarding their day-and-date release strategy of Black Widow. For his part, Dwayne Johnson is apparently satisfied with the hybrid theatrical/Disney+ release for Jungle Cruise and has no plans to follow suit with legal action of his own. It remains to be seen what reverberations Johansson’s extremely justified reaction will have on the rest of the industry.
All Things Indie
Another highly-anticipated film (among indie circles, at least) released this past weekend as well. David Lowery’s The Green Knight also beat projections, for a film of its size and intended demographic at least, with $6.78 million domestic. Of course, non-American film fans were disappointed when Entertainment Film Distributors pulled its upcoming UK release as a result of rising Covid cases, so all we’re left with are the domestic numbers. With a budget of around $15 million, some well-informed expectations point to the likelihood that the film will enjoy a strong post-theatrical life on streaming and video on demand when general audiences catch up to the online hype after the fact.
Elsewhere, the M. Night Shyamalan-directed horror movie Old is neck-and-neck with The Green Knight for second or third place. Both finished ahead of Black Widow, which tallied an addition $6.4 million and now approaches $350 million worldwide. Stillwater, directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Matt Damon, finishes off the top 5 with a $5.1 million debut.
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