The big holdover news is also a big “opening weekend” story. Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer’s Free Guy has continued to hold up quite well worldwide. Shawn Levy’s over/under $115 million original video game-centric comedy earned another $13.5 million (-27%) in weekend three, bringing its 17-day domestic total up to $79.3 million. It has earned $155 million worldwide thus far without China (more on that in a moment), zooming past Space Jam: A New Legacy ($152 million) and The Suicide Squad ($155 million). Yes, the film is absolutely going to top $100 million domestic. With Venom: Let There Be Carnage pushed to October 15, 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy and Walt Disney’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (opening this week) will run the tables in terms of four-quadrant “event movie” offerings.
Moreover, as hoped/predicted, the film has opened quite well in China, earning a $5.3 million Friday and an $8.95 million Saturday for a $23.5 million Fri-Sun debut. Even by China standards, that’s a boffo 4.4x weekend multiplier. Word-of-mouth is solid and the film, deeply rooted in video game tropes and American pop culture, is playing like a B+ version of Ready Player One. That Steven Spielberg-helmed sci-fi spectacular earned a whopping $218 million in China from a $61.7 million opening weekend in early 2018, which helped the $175 million flick top $580 million worldwide. Without getting too apples-to-apples, a similar multiplier would push Free Guy to a terrific $83 million Chinese cume. That would be the biggest non-DC/Marvel/Fast Saga/MonsterVerse Hollywood grosser in China since Frozen II ($123 million) in late 2019.
This is a big deal precisely because even prior to the pandemic Hollywood movies outside the realm of Marvel/DC and Fast & Furious films were struggling in China both due to the increasing dominance of the aforementioned comic book superhero movies and the ever-increasing wave of local Chinese tentpoles. By early 2019, Alita: Battle Angel would “only” gross $133 million while Detective Pikachu would “only” earn $93 million as Captain Marvel ($154 million) and Avengers: Endgame ($620 million) would run the tables. Outside of the MCU, Godzilla: King of the Monsters would even top $135 million save for Hobbs & Shaw ($202 million) in all of 2019. And a year without Hollywood blockbusters (along with China opening theatrically by last August) furthered the slow-growing (since late 2014) notion that China didn’t need Hollywood flicks anymore.
Now one well-liked/well-received movie (that again debunks conventional wisdom about what Chinese moviegoers crave) that opens with a halfway decent Chinese debut weekend isn’t a trend. It’s certainly offers hope that Hollywood has a shot in hell of getting back to the 2017-2018 “glory days” when the likes of Kong: Skull Island, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Bumblebee, The Meg and xXx: Return of Xander Cage were pulling $155-$175 million Chinese totals and elevating the global gross (even with just 25% going back to the studios) right as comic book superhero movies were utterly dominating in North America. It offers “hope” that the likes of No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick, The Matrix Resurrection and/or (maybe/possibly) Dune might get an assist from the world’s biggest overseas moviegoing marketplace.
Meanwhile, Free Guy has now earned $100.3 million overseas along with its $79.3 million domestic cume, giving it a global total of $179.6 million. It’ll pass Jungle Cruise ($187 million) in a few days, which is notable because the other leggy, family-friendly Disney release cost $200 million to produce. Yes, that this film was a theatrically-exclusive release obviously helped, especially in terms of mitigating global piracy, but that the film turned out to be pretty good and offered plenty of “not in the trailers” surprises sure didn’t hurt. Barring a fluke in either direction, Free Guy may just be the third movie of the summer (after F9 and Black Widow) to top $300 million worldwide. Hell, it may even reach the $366 million cume of Chris Nolan’s Tenet. We’ll see if Shang-Chi can be the fourth.