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Disney’s Jungle Cruise rode to a better-than-expected opening of $34.2 million at the domestic box office amid renewed concerns over COVID-19 and the delta variant for a worldwide box office debut of $61.8 million.
The movie’s total global start is an OK $91.8 million when including $30 million in revenue from Disney+ Premier Access. Overseas — where a number of countries are also seeing a surge in coronavirus cases — it earned a tepid $27.6 million from 47 markets.
Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, had been tracking to open in the $25 million to $30 million range domestically. Jaume Collet-Serra directed the $200 million tentpole that’s based on the iconic Disneyland ride and which hopes to launch a new franchise, much as the first Pirates of the Caribbean did.
In North America, the comedy-adventure beat Space Jam: A New Legacy to score the top opening of the pandemic-era for a family film.
Jungle Cruise is playing in 4,310 theaters in North America, where moviegoing is still far from reaching pre-pandemic levels. Weekend revenue, for example, was down nearly 50 percent from the same frame in 2019.
In some major foreign markets, Jungle Cruise went up against James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which is opening in five countries a week ahead of its domestic bow. Suicide Squad took in $7 million, led by the U.K., where it beat Jungle Cruise with $4.7 million. Jungle Cruise, which earned a solid $3.7 million in the U.K., beat Suicide Squad in France with $1.7 million versus $1.6 million.
In pre-pandemic times, a domestic opening of $34.2 million would be considered a troubled start for a Disney event title costing at least $200 million to make before marketing and featuring one of the world’s most popular stars. Jungle Cruise can also rely, however, on Disney+ Premier Access revenue. The family-friendly adventure was made available simultaneously in the home via Premier Access for $30 because of the ongoing concerns over COVID-19. Sources say much of the Premier Access money comes from North America.
“Jungle Cruise is the perfect summer adventure film, bringing a beloved theme park attraction to both the big screen and living rooms in a way that only Disney can. We remain focused on offering consumer choice during these unprecedented times, and it is clear that fans and families value the ability to make decisions on how they prefer to enjoy Disney’s best-in-class storytelling,” the company’s distribution said in a statement.
Imax and other premium large format screens made up a huge 25 percent of the action-adventure’s box office gross.
Many box office pundits believe that such a day-and-date release threatens the future of theatrical exhibition and encourages avid moviegoers to stay home. Nor are theater owners happy about Disney’s decision to release Premier Access numbers in a move to boost a film’s opening weekend performance.
Actress Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit last week alleging the Walt Disney Co. breached her contract when deciding to do the same sort of theatrical-streaming release for Black Widow. The claim says making the Marvel superhero title available at home resulted in diminished box-office sales, which in turn hurt her compensation.
Disney shot back, saying that Johansson received $20 million in compensation and that she would have ultimately benefited from Disney+ revenue. The company declared that her claim showed “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Disney earlier this month said Black Widow earned $60 million on Disney+ during its opening weekend but hasn’t provided any updated numbers (at the box office, it debuted to $80 million domestically and $158 million globally).
Johnson has publicly endorsed a hybrid release for Jungle Cruise, saying it is the best way to provide consumer choice. And on Saturday, he tweeted that there is a “sequel meeting next week.” (He didn’t specify whether it was with producers John Davis and John Fox of Davis Entertainment, or Disney.)
Elsewhere, A24’s new Arthurian fantasy The Green Knight also came in ahead of expectations with $6.78 million from 2,790 theaters, good enough to tie with M. Night Shymalan’s Old for second place (the order will be determined Monday). Directed by David Lowery, the critically acclaimed film stars Dev Patel.
Matt Damon starrer Stillwater, directed by Tom McCarthy, debuted in fifth place with $5.1 million from 2,531 locations. The movie, about an oil rigger from Oklahoma who travels to Europe to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin) after she is charged with murder, did huge business in America’s heartland, including Oklahoma. Focus Features and Participant recently debuted the movie at the Cannes Film Festival.
Universal and M. Night Shymalan’s Old fell 60 percent in its second weekend to finish Sunday with a domestic total of $30.6 million and $48.6 million globally.
Black Widow neared $350 million at the global box office, including $167.1 million domestically and $176.5 million overseas. It placed fourth in North American with $6.4 million.
Stillwater rounded out the top five, followed by Warners’ Space Jam 2 ($4.3 million). The sequel finished Sunday with a global tally of $118.6 million. All 2021 releases from Warner Bros. are opening day and date on HBO Max and in cinemas.
Paramount’s G.I. Joe origins pic Snake Eyes, starring Henry Golding, tumbled a steep 70 percent in its second outing to $4 million for a domestic total of $22.3 million and $28.8 million globally.
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William H. Macy