August 22, 2021

Behind the Weekend Box Office – 8.22.2021


It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to look at box office together, and the period has been a busy one, with the return of Hollywood blockbusters like A Quiet Place Part II, F9, The Suicide Squad and Black Widow to theaters (some exclusively, others shared with various forms of home availability).  What have we learned?  Not all that much, too be honest.  We know the box office is still far from its pre-pandemic levels, and it’s now official that the new standard for theatrical exclusivity will be a maximum of 45 days, half the old period.  But the critical questions, like whether audiences will ever fully return to theaters, and how many films will actually be released without a home component, are still TBD.  This weekend’s results didn’t provide many new insights.

OPENINGS:  Despite the concerns over unvaccinated children, there continues to be an audience for family movies, and PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE (Nickelodeon/Spin Master/Paramount, also on Paramount+) exceeded its low expectations with a $13M weekend that could allow it to reach $50M in US theaters.  It’s also earned $21.5M overseas after a $12.8M weekend in 39 markets.

The other arrivals were various shades of awful.  Action thriller THE PROTEGE (Lionsgate) claimed to eke out a victory over horror thriller THE NIGHT HOUSE (Searchlight/Disney) with $2.94M compared to $2.87M, but both will struggle to get past $10M in the US.  At least both had relatively modest budgets, but Searchlight is unlikely even to recoup the $12M it paid at Sundance (prior to the studio being acquired by Disney) for the rights.

REMINISCENCE (Warners, also on HBO Max) was a flat-out disaster, with $2M in the US (and not much better at $3M in 48 overseas territories), against costs that exceeded $100M including marketing.  The limited information we have about simultaneous streaming release suggests that films tend to have about the same level of popularity at home as they do in theaters, so this release isn’t likely to be doing much for HBO Max, either.

HOLDOVERS:  The lack of any meaningful competition was great for FREE GUY (20th/Disney), which also benefited from strong word-of-mouth, resulting in a terrific 34% dip to $18.8M in its 2nd weekend.  Free Guy also has no challengers next weekend, although after that the ride will come to an end with the arrival of Shang-ChiFree Guy wasn’t inexpensive, but a US total over $100M will certainly help, and it’s doing well overseas too, at $53.1M after a $17.1M weekend in 46 territories and a China opening still on the way.

JUNGLE CRUISE (Disney, also VOD on Disney+) dropped 32% to $6.2M in its 4th weekend at US theaters, apparently little damaged by home availability (down 55%/42%/32% per weekend thus far), which in this case includes significant additional on-demand revenue for Disney.  However, Jungle Cruise was extremely pricey, and $110M in US theaters, even with the home component, is still a path to limited success.  Overseas, it’s at a mild $81.2M after a $4.1M weekend in 49 markets, and no China opening scheduled yet.

DON’T BREATHE 2 (Columbia/Sony) fell 53% from last week’s opening to $5.1M, headed for around $35M in the US, far below the first movie’s $89.2M.  It also has $7.5M overseas.

Older audiences are particularly absent from theaters in the present circumstances, and that was probably a blow to RESPECT (MGM), which fell 57% to $3.8M in its 2nd weekend and may not see $30M in the US.  So far it’s had a negligible international release.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (DC/Warners, also on HBO Max) wasn’t able to capitalize on its strong reviews, and it’s on its way to $60M in US theaters (compared to $325.1M for the 2016 original), with $91.5M overseas (compared to $421.7M) after an $8.7M weekend in 73 territories.

BLACK WIDOW (Marvel/Disney), currently the subject of Hollywood’s most-scrutinized litigation, is at the tail end of its theatrical run, stretching toward $185M in US theaters after a $1.2M weekend (down 40% from last week), and with $189.6M overseas (no China release date set).  In addition, Disney’s legal papers report that the film has earned $125M in worldwide streaming/VOD revenue.

LIMITED RELEASE:  FLAG DAY (UA/MGM) attempted a traditional-style awards-season platform run, with openings at 24 theaters in 10 cities, but those strategies are aimed at older audiences, and the film’s solid reviews out of Cannes didn’t convince them to attend.  The result was a $31K weekend, translating into a per-theater weekend average of just $1700.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The only wide opening is the horror reboot CANDYMAN (Universal).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."