Nicolas Cage’s Pig and Roadrunner (an Anthony Bourdain documentary) both posted halfway decent limited debuts.
Meanwhile, in box office news that isn’t the big three (Black Widow, F9 and Space Jam 2), the other main newbie this weekend was Sony’s Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. The first Escape Room was a surprise artistic and commercial hit, maybe the best “schlock horror movie released on the first weekend of the new year” since Daybreakers in 2010. It earned $57 million domestic and $155 million worldwide on a $9 million budget in January of 2019. The PG-13, tension-over-gore psychological thriller which played as a kind of “Saw 4 Kidz” ended up grossing more (sans inflation) than any actual Saw movie save for Saw III. The clever and engrossing flick was an ideal “rip-off, don’t remake” example of putting an original spin on an established formula and getting your own unique franchise.
Think Insidious merely putting its own spin on Poltergeist instead of remaking Poltergeist. The third Insidious opened almost concurrently with the totally forgotten Poltergeist remake in summer 2015., In a non-Covid time, Tournament of Champions may well have been a mild breakout sequel, as pretty much everyone who discovered the first Escape Room over the last 2.5 years has enjoyed it. However, things being what they are, the $15 million, PG-13 sequel, which pits survivors of various Escape Room games alongside each other in a bigger, deadlier, etc. game of cooperation and skill, will have to settle for an $8.8 million opening weekend. That’s less than half the first film’s $18 million launch in January of 2019.
I’m hoping this one legs out because it too is damn fun and even more its own specific thing beyond the initial Saw Jr. angle. One nice thing is that both of this weekend’s new wide releases, LeBron James’ Space Jam 2 and Taylor Russell’s Escape Room 2, are fronted by Black actors. As for Escape Room 2, it’s arguably in no better shape than was Lionsgate’s $20 million Spiral: From the Book of Saw when that film opened with $8.7 million in May of this year. Once again, there’s a reason why horror movies have been put to the front of the line in this most unconventional summer. I hope Sony realizes that this one would have performed at least a little better in better times.
In other “opener” news, Morgan Neville’s Roadrunner, not a Looney Tunes flick but a documentary about Anthony Bourdain, opened in 927 theaters with $1.9 million weekend. That’s $2,050 per-theater average for the well-reviewed but now retroactively controversial (due to an admission that the director essentially faked the late Bourdain reading his words as voiceover narration) documentary. I’m guessing that won’t mean a thing to 99% of general moviegoers, but it may skew the media narrative for the otherwise much-liked documentary. It’s not getting anywhere near Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor. ($24 million in 2018) as Mister Rogers is more famous than Anthony Bourdain and a Covid summer isn’t the same as a MoviePass summer.
Pig received the biggest theatrical release for a live-action Nicolas Cage star vehicle since Left Behind in 2014. Director Michael Sarnoski’s acclaimed “former chef turned vagrant hunts for his stolen truffle pig” drama earned (justly) rave reviews and plaudits for Cage’s low-key star turn. Cue a $945,000 opening weekend, which puts Nic Cage in the top ten (as a live-action lead) for the first time since the above-mentioned religious thriller. The NEON release is a damn good movie if you don’t mind the fact that it’s not remotely a Taken or John Wick-style revenge thriller. If you still remember that Nic Cage is a good actor (who rarely phones in even the cheapest VOD vehicle), none of this will surprise you.
In holdover news, The Boss Baby: Family Business earned $4.72 million (-50%) thanks to competition from Space Jam 2. That gives Universal’s DreamWorks toon a $44.6 million 17-day domestic total. This one is also streaming for free, on Universal’s Peacock platform, so it won’t go the usual “theaters to PVOD in 21 days” thing. But, again, it dropped this weekend due to theatrical competition, not streaming availability. The Forever Purge (another Universal release, natch) earned $4.16 million (-42%) this weekend for a $35.9 million 17-day cume. That’s obviously low for a Purge flick, although the $25 million movie has earned $48 million worldwide. But we’ll see how it performs when it debuts on PVOD this coming Thursday or Friday. Meanwhile, The Croods: A New Age has $191 million worldwide.
Paramount’s A Quiet Place part II grossed $2.3 million in weekend eight for a $155 million domestic cume. It dropped just 27% despite currently being available on both EST and Paramount+ (free to stream for $10 per month). A Quiet Place part II is proof that theatrical can thrive amid shorter windows or consumers are too uninformed at the moment to know they can buy it for $20 or watch it for “free” on Paramount+. Likewise, Cruella has now earned $83.4 million domestic and $224 million worldwide, which is halfway decent for the $100 million flick which has earned (guestimate) around $20 million via Disney+ transactions. Peter Rabbit 2 has $145 million worldwide on a $45 million budget while Conjuring 3 has $189 million on a $39 million budget.