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Summer event movie Jungle Cruise — inspired by the iconic Disneyland ride — opens in theaters across the globe this weekend amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant.
Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, is tracking to open in the $25 million to $30 million range domestically and $40 million-plus overseas. Jaume Collet-Serra directed the family-friendly adventure, which hopes to launch a new franchise, much as the first Pirates of the Caribbean did.
In pre-pandemic times, a $50 million-plus domestic opening would have been considered a suitable start for a Disney event title featuring one of the world’s most popular stars. However, a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in numerous locations across the globe has slowed the box office recovery.
Another major mitigating factor: Jungle Cruise is being made available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30. Disney insiders say the hybrid release strategy provides a safety net in uncertain times, considering that some consumers still aren’t comfortable returning to the cinema.
The company is expected to announce Disney+ opening weekend revenue when reporting Sunday box office grosses, similar to its approach with Black Widow earlier this month. (Black Widow collected $60 million in revenue from Disney+ Premier Access in its debut.)
In the U.S., Los Angeles and other parts of California are among various hotspots across the country that are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases due in large part to the Delta variant.
On July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that even those who are fully vaccinated wear a mask when attending indoor public events, including movie theaters, in locales experiencing a surge in cases. That was followed Wednesday by a similar recommendation from the California Department of Public Health. Days earlier, L.A. County had already reinstituted an indoor mask mandate for all citizens.
The box office recovery was always expected to be a fragile and slow process. Delta is posing further challenges although, as of now, no one in Hollywood is sure to what degree.
Jungle Cruise isn’t the only high-profile film opening this weekend in North America.
Focus Features and Participant debuts Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater, starring Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin, in roughly 2,000 theaters, while A24 will launch David Lowery’s critically acclaimed Arthurian period fantasy The Green Knight, starring Dev Patel, in roughly 2,500 locations.
Both specialty films are expected to open in the single digits.
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