It was supposed to be a layup for Black Widow. Instead, it was a slam dunk for Space Jam 2.
Despite being available at no additional cost on HBO Max, Space Jam: A New Legacy held court at the top of the box office with a surprising $31.6 million debut. That’s well over the estimated $20 million range that the live action / animated hybrid sequel was expected to earn. Led by NBA superstar LeBron James, the Looney Tunes adventure was well-received by family audiences, earning an A- Cinemascore from theatergoers.
By contrast, last week’s big blockbuster Black Widow dropped a steep 67% percent in its second weekend, mustering only $26.3 million (despite a mid-30s projection). That marks the steepest second weekend decline ever for a Marvel movie, going lower than the 62% of Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Black Widow’s 10-day total of $131 million domestic and $264 globally is still impressive for the pandemic era (especially considering that it has yet to receive a release in China), but theater operators were nevertheless vocally upset about the plummet.
The National Association of Theatre Owners released a lengthy statement publicly chastising Disney, specifically blaming the film’s slide on being available at home (for a $30 fee) on streamer Disney Plus. The net result, they argued, severely diminished the normal potential of a highly anticipated Marvel tentpole. NATO titled their press release “Theatrical Exclusivity is the Way Forward.”
Other newcomers included YA thriller Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, which finished a distant third at $8.8 million, and the Anthony Bourdain documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain; it surprised at eighth place with $1.9 million. That is the best opening for a documentary in the pandemic era.
The other notable debut was the indie drama Pig, starring Nicholas Cage in an uncharacteristically understated performance that instantly received Oscar buzz. Cage plays an off-the-grid recluse who must trek back into Portland to find out who stole his beloved truffle pig.
Cage’s critically-praised drama (from first time director Michael Sarnoski) snuck it at No. 10 with $954,000, all from a scant 552 venues across the country. (By comparison, the top films played on anywhere from over 2800 screens to just under 4000.)
Pig co-star Alex Wolff (Hereditary) will be in a more high profile effort next weekend as part of the ensemble of M. Night Shyamalan‘s new creepy thriller Old.