Weekend Wrap Up - a look at this week’s Industry Updates

August 23, 2021

With four new releases and an amazing sophomore weekend from last week’s headliner, this weekend’s total box-office is $62.4M. That is just -41% from the same late August weekend in 2019. Despite the Delta variant’s rising case-counts, the players of the movie industry – audiences, theaters, and studios – show no signs of backpedaling. As theaters in major cities (New York, San Francisco, New Orleans) roll out “vaccine passports”, moviegoers should feel more comfortable in making the trip to the big screen. Although attendance in France took a hit when they first installed vaccine mandates, it is hard to expect the same from the U.S. when it is being done in a piece-meal fashion.

Free Guy leads the pack with $18.8M, bringing it’s 10-day total to $58.8M. The Disney/20th Century film posts the summer’s best sophomore weekend drop (-34%). Fueled by strong reviews and word-of-mouth, Free Guy’s second weekend bests the holds of Peter Rabbit 2 (-40%), Boss Baby (-45%) and Forever Purge(-43%). To emphasize how good this hold is, remember that pre-pandemic films would typically drop 50%-60% in audience every weekend. Free Guy’s staying power comes from the film’s 45-day theatrical exclusivity. Some of this year’s biggest hybrid-release films have been largely front-loaded, dropping hard in the second weekend (Black Widow dropped 68%; A Quiet Place II dropped 60%; The Suicide Squad dropped 71%). Giving moviegoers no other option but to come into the theater to see the latest blockbuster has given Free Guy a leg up over the day-and-date titles.

Following behind Free Guy is Paramount’s Paw Patrol: The Movie with a $13.0M debut. The movie for young kids overperformed expectations despite the under-12 crowd not yet being eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, despite same-day access for free on Paramount, and despite Regal Cinemas (the 2nd largest circuit) refusing to play the film. Theaters enforcing the vaccine policy are reportedly allowing kids under 12 in as long as they are wearing a mask and accompanied by a vaccinated parent/guardian. Paw Patrol takes the success of the popular Nickelodeon animated series to the big screen. The heroic pups had a strong turnout amongst families in the Midwest and South Central U.S. and surprisingly won the hearts of critics on both Rotten Tomatoes (84%) and Cinemascore(A-).

The other three new releases had a hard time cracking this past weekend’s top 10. Don’t blame the pandemic, but rather the lackluster product. The best of the bunch got seventh place: Lionsgate’s The Protégé ($2.9M weekend from 2,577 theaters, B Cinemascore), an action film exclusive to theaters starring Maggie Q, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson. Despite the exclusivity, the film’s older-male target audience was likely split with Warner Bros.’ Reminiscence($2.0M from 3,265 theaters, C+ Cinemascore). The HBO Max day-and-date title starring Hugh Jackman barely got ninth place. Even with the total lack of marketing, the Disney/Searchlight “arthouse horror” film The Night House ($2.8M from 2,240 theaters, C- Cinemascore) came ahead in eighth place.

In other news, China seems to be warming up to Hollywood releases again. Disney/Pixar’s Luca (which went straight to Disney+ in the U.S.) has become the first American film to debut in China since June. China has built a considerable backlog of films still waiting for a Chinese release date, including Black WidowSpace Jam: A New Legacy, and Jungle Cruise (although piracy will likely weaken overseas numbers at this point).

Circling back to stateside, moviegoers can enjoy the last weekend of August by going to see Candyman, only in theaters this Friday 8/27. After that, Marvel is back on 9/03 with a theatrical exclusive Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – flagged by industry analysts as one of the films likely to surpass Black Widow’s current 3-day box office lead.


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