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It's just a sweet, sweet fantasy, baby...
Free Guy has proven that the theatrical model isn't quite dead in the age of COVID-19. With an exclusive rollout on the big screen this weekend, the video game comedy defied early box office projections with $28.4 million in North America and $50.9 million globally. Not exactly the big bucks of the pre-pandemic marketplace, but a promising sign that a highly-anticipated summer release can somewhat flourish when not forced to compete against itself in the world of streaming.
Disney, which released the movie under the 20th Century Studios banner, is so pleased with the film's performance, in fact, that the studio is already looking into a sequel. However, it should be noted that $28.4 million is only $2 million more than The Suicide Squad's domestic debut last weekend, which was widely characterized as a financial disappointment.
This is probably due to the fact that James Gunn's R-rated redo of Task Force X was also made available on HBO Max, thus taking away from potential box office returns. Moreover, The Suicide Squad — whose rating may have also deterred potential customers — was expected to make between $30-40 million domestically, while Free Guy had a much lower bar of about $18 million. Unfortunately, Amanda Waller's ragtag crew of villains-turned-heroes didn't improve in their second weekend.
After taking the top spot in North America last weekend, The Suicide Squad fell all the way into fifth place during its second frame with $7.75 million, bumping its Stateside total to around $43 million. Once again, the sequel/soft reboot fared better internationally, raking in an additional $17 million for a worldwide cume of $118 million. Gunn isn't particularly bothered by this turn of events, telling Variety that "movies last because they’re seen on television. Jaws isn’t still a classic because people are watching it in theaters. I’ve never seen Jaws in a movie theater. It’s one of my favorite movies.”
"This weekend's movie theaters offered a line-up reminiscent of a streaming service inasmuch as the depth and breadth of diverse movies that ran the gambit of genres (action, horror, biopic, family) for every possible moviegoer looking to hit the multiplex," Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "A great 'theatrical first' result for Free Guy shows that a well-reviewed, buzz-worthy, and FOMO-inspiring movie like this can indeed light a spark on opening weekend and looks to carry that forward with long-term playability as the big screen will be the only viewing option for weeks to come. With $75 million banked for the overall weekend (up around 17 percent vs. last weekend), it's indeed the movies themselves that are driving the marketplace as moviegoers are looking for the escape that only the cinema can provide."
Directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Stranger Things), Free Guy stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, 6 Underground) as a happy-go-lucky video game NPC who suddenly gains sentience. Realizing his unlimited potential, Guy starts to perform good deeds in his virtual home-world — a combination of Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite. He eventually becomes a worldwide sensation, gaining the attention of the game's developers.
"We always knew that there would be this evolution of Guy as his AI grows, as his self-awareness grows. And yet, even when he becomes the more-evolved version of Guy, from the get-go we always talked about Guy being a descendant of Will Ferrell in Elf, Tom Hanks in Big, Peter Sellers in Being There," Levy told SYFY WIRE. "It's that legacy of the innocent in a cynical world. That was very much kind of the archetype for Guy, so even when he's evolved, I always told Ryan 'This is your Canadian self. This is not Deadpool, who is so cynical and so bruised by life. I need the Canadian Ryan Reynolds. Nice! Open! Optimistic! Idealistic!' So it allowed Ryan to lean into a different part of himself than he does in Deadpool."
Jodie Comer, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, Milton "Lil Rel" Howery, Taika Waititi, Aaron W. Reed, and Camille Kostek co-star.
Sony's Don't Breathe 2 crept into second place in North America with $10.6 million (that's about $16 million less than the original Don't Breathe's domestic opening back in summer of 2016). Internationally, the sequel made $3.4 million for a global bow of $14 million. Rodo Sayagues, co-writer on the first movie, directed and co-wrote the follow-up, which finds blind antihero Norman Nordstrom (Avatar's Stephen Lang) setting off on a John Wick-esque quest of violent revenge.
“I think that he has compartmentalized a lot and locked away an awful lot of things,” Lang told us ahead of the release. “If he were capable of remorse, he would feel remorse. But at [the beginning of the movie], he is not capable of remorse because it would choke him to death… his sorrow, his regret, his self-loathing would be so great that he wouldn’t be able to breathe at all.”
Another Disney offering, Jungle Cruise, sailed into third place with an extra $9 million for a current domestic cache of $82.1 million (NOTE: the adaptation of the beloved Disneyland ride is also available to stream on Disney+ for an extra fee of $29.99). With $72 million in ticket sales across the globe, Jungle Cruise's worldwide tally is now anchored at $154.3 million.
Notable genre holdovers include:
- Universal's Old ($42 million domestically; $74 million globally)
- Universal's The Forever Purge ($44 million domestically; $71 million globally)
- Universal's F9 ($171 million domestically; $681 million globally)
- Dreamworks Animation's The Boss Baby: Family Business ($56 million domestically; $81 million globally)
- Marvel Studios' Black Widow ($178 million domestically; $367.8 million globally)
- Warner Bros.' Space Jam: A New Legacy ($66.9 million domestically; $144.9 million globally)
- Paramount's Snake Eyes ($27 million domestically; $34 million globally)
- Paramount's A Quiet Place Part II ($159 million domestically; $295 million globally)
(Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation & SYFY WIRE are all owned by NBCUniversal)
Certain financial information via Box Office Mojo