Free Guy has spawned a new Hollywood studio franchise after opening well ahead of expectations despite the precarious state of the box office recovery.
The action-comedy — starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Shawn Levy — grossed $28.4 million from 4,165 North American theaters to easily top the chart. Overseas, it took in $22.5 million for a global start of $51 million.
The domestic performance of the family-friendly, PG-13 film is a much-needed boost for Hollywood as consumer confidence dips again amid the Delta variant and a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Headed into the weekend, Disney and 20th Century predicted an opening in the mid-teens to $20 million. Others were more bullish, but even they didn’t think to predict more than $22 million.
Free Guy bested the domestic launch of The Suicide Squad a week ago. One difference — Levy’s film is receiving a 45-day exclusive theatrical release in theaters before going to Disney. From Warner Bros., Suicide Squad was made available simultaneously on HBO Max.
Video-game adaptations are never an easy sell and have a decidedly mixed track record at the box office. Plus, Free Guy was delayed no fewer than four times because of the COVID-19 crisis, posing numerous marketing challenges for Disney and the filmmakers.
Free Guy, buoyed by strong word-of-mouth and an A CinemaScore, underscores Reynolds’ star power, as well as the growing partnership between he and Levy. On Saturday, Disney officially asked for a sequel, according to a tweet from Reynolds.
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.
Sony and Stage 6’s home-invasion horror pic Don’t Breathe 2 debuted in second place with $10.6 million and was also aided by a diverse audience.
The sequel, earning a B CinemaScore, was helmed by Rodo Sayagues in his feature directorial debut. Stephen Lang reprises his role as Norman Nordstrom/The Blind Man. Brendan Sexton III and Madelyn Grace also star.
Aretha Franklin biopic Respect opened in third place with $8.8 million. The MGM and United Artists Releasing movie, starring Jennifer Hudson as the iconic singer, did okay for a title relying on older audiences — and particularly older females — who are the most reluctant to return to theaters.
Respect likewise earning an A CinemaScore and played to an ethnically diverse audience. More than 45 percent of the audience was Black.
Disney holdover Jungle Cruise came in fourth in its third weekend. The Dwayne Johnson-Emily Blunt movie received a simultaneous release in cinemas and on Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30.
Warner Bros. and DC’s Suicide Squad fell a steep 70 percent to $7.8 million in its second weekend for a 10-day domestic total of $42.9 million. Directed by James Gunn, the antihero pic rounded out the top five.
Both Disney and Warners maintain that flexible release models are needed because of the pandemic.
More to come…