Director Shawn Levy’s new action-comedy Free Guy — starring Ryan Reynolds — is coming in well ahead of expectations at the domestic box office, where the recovery has been otherwise hampered by the delta variant.
Free Guy grossed an estimated $10.5 million on Friday from 4,165 theaters for a projected weekend of $25 million-plus for 20th Century and Disney, which are giving the movie an exclusive theatrical release.
Heading into the weekend, box office analysts were targeting a debut in the high-teens to $20 million range. Instead, Free Guy — which hopes to launch a family friendly, PG-13 franchise — may come close to or match the opening of last weekend’s The Suicide Squad ($26.2 million) in a surprise twist.
The film received a glowing A CinemaScore after being delayed no fewer than for times because of the COVID-19 crisis, posing numerous marketing challenges for Disney and the filmmakers. Free Guy appears to be beating the video-game adaptation curse and is also a testament to the growing partnership between Levy and Reynolds, as well as Reynolds’ star power.
In the film, Reynolds plays a bank teller who discovers he is actually a non-player character in a video game. He’s determined to become the hero and save his friends from getting deleted by the game’s creator. Taika Waititi, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Joe Keery also star.
Aretha Franklin biopic Respect is also opening this weekend. The MGM and United Artists Releasing movie, starring Jennifer Hudson as the iconic singer, is doing respectable business for a title relying on older audiences who are the most reluctant to return to theaters.
Respect, likewise earning an A CinemaScore, grossed $3.6 million on Friday for a projected debut in the $9 million range.
The weekend’s third new offering is Sony’s home-invasion horror pic Don’t Breathe 2, which grossed an estimated $4.4 million on Friday for a solid debut of $10 million, good enough for a second-place finish behind Free Guy.
The sequel was helmed by Rodo Sayagues in his directorial debut. Stephen Lang reprises his role as Norman Nordstrom/The Blind Man. Brendan Sexton III and Madelyn Grace also star.
Respect is slotted to finish in third place, followed by Jungle Cruise with an estimated $8.8 million in its third weekend.
Rounding out the top five is Warner Bros. and DC’s The Suicide Squad, which could fall as much as 70 percent in its second weekend. Directed by James Gunn, the antihero pic is also available on HBO Max.