Space Jam A New Legacy
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Credit: Warner Bros.

Box office: 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' dunks on 'Black Widow' with $31.6 million debut

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Jul 18, 2021, 1:17 PM EDT

The North American box office continued to strengthen its atrophied muscles this weekend with an impressive $31.65 million debut by way of Space Jam: A New Legacy. This was enough to knock Marvel Studios' Black Widow into second place (the Phase 4 flick dropped 67 percent to $26.3 million in its sophomore outing after a record-breaking $80 million domestic opening last weekend).

Variety notes that this is the biggest opening for any family release of the pandemic era, trumping previous titles like The Croods: A New Age, Tom & Jerry, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, The Boss Baby: Family Business, and Spirited Untamed.

'It kind of feels like a 'normal' summer at the box-office marketplace with audiences jumping from one blockbuster to the next (Black Widow dominated last weekend and Space Jam on top this weekend)," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "However, what isn't 'normal' is the fact that we had two hybrid releases vying for the top spot and this tests not only the success of the release strategies for Space Jam and Black Widow, but also audience preferences in Week 1 and then Week 2 as to how they want to view these films. We may see a bit of front-loaded theatrical box-office for some of these day-and-date films as consumers adapt to the various ways that studios are presenting their blockbusters on the big screen and the small screen, but only time and — (and more examples — will tell."

Helmed by comedy veteran Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip, Night School), A New Legacy serves as a long-awaited sequel to the 1996 cult classic starring Michael Jordan. LeBron James now steps into the central role as a heightened version of himself, who must win a game of basketball with the Looney Tunes in order to rescue his son, Dom (Cedric Joe).

Despite middling reviews from critics — it currently holds a 31 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — the film has clearly resonated with mainstream audiences. For comparison, the original Space Jam (directed by Joe Pytka) only managed to bring in $27.5 million during its weekend debut in November of '96.

A New Legacy's performance is even more noteworthy when you consider the fact that the movie is also available to stream on HBO Max at no extra cost to subscribers. Internationally, the sequel dribbled its way toward $23 million from 64 markets abroad for a global opening of $54.6 million. While strong, that figure is not nearly big enough to yet justify the movie's $150 million price tag.

"It’s really not the same film," Jeff Bergman, who provides the voice of Bugs Bunny in the follow-up, recently told SYFY WIRE. "It’s a really different film. This has a really great personal story that is really LeBron’s story, which is so different than Michael Jordan’s. So, from that perspective, I was really excited because it’s a standalone."

Credit: Warner Bros. 

As mentioned above, Black Widow fell into second place, but still managed to hit $132 million in North America and $264 million worldwide. Disney helped boost the initial numbers last weekend by releasing the metrics for both box office and Premier Access sales. Together, the two revenue streams raked in a record-breaking $215 million globally.

The National Association of Theatre Owners was not pleased with the 67 percent drop in North American ticket sales, describing the development as a "stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues" (per Variety). 

The orginization railed against hybrid rollouts and emphasized the importance of exclusive theatrical windows in the following statement: “Despite assertions that this pandemic-era improvised release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie’s life."

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

Columbia and Sony Pictures came in third place with Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, which debuted to $8.8 million domestically. It'll have a much easier time recouping its production budget, as it only cost $15 million to make — $6 million more than the first movie. That said, the original still did $10 million more in ticket sales when it hit the big screen in winter of 2019. Tournament of Champions clawed its way to $4.5 million internationally for a worldwide opening of $13.3 million.

Catching up with Entertainment Weekly, director Adam Robitel said the creative team behind the Saw-like franchise has "a treasure trove of ideas" for a third movie. "It's really going to be up to the fans,” he added. “But, look, there's a lot of ways to skin the cat, there's a lot of different ways to continue to play with the audience's expectations. Yeah, we'd be really excited to do that.”

Click here to watch an exclusive clip from Tournament of Champions.

Now playing in its third domestic weekend, Universal's F9 parked in the fourth slot with $28.6 million for a North American cume of $154.8 million. Globally, the ninth chapter in the 20-year-old Fast Saga is speeding towards a worldwide tally of $600 million.

DreamWorks' The Boss Baby: Family Business crawled into the fifth spot with $4.72 million domestically. To date, the animated sequel has made just over $44 million in North America. With international sales now at $3.7 million, the film has made $48.3 million worldwide.

Other holdovers include: Warner Bros.' The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It ($189.1 million globally), Pixar's Luca ($23.7 million globally), Paramount's A Quiet Place Part II (creeping up on $300 million globally), Universal's The Forever Purge ($48.4 million globally), and Warner Bros' Godzilla vs. Kong ($463.2 million globally). 

Compared with the first A Quiet Place, Part II is doing extremely well on North American shores, considering the unprecedented circumstances. After nearly two months in theaters, the silent sequel has more than $150 million domestically — about $30 million less than the first movie had at this same milestone. Part II still has plenty of box office life left in it, especially with 11 markets that have yet to debut the film, including Brazil on July 22.

(Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation & SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal)